TRIAL LESSONS IN LIGHT AIRCRAFT
Just about all flying in the UK, commercial and amateur, is controlled by the
CAA, and ALL flying
which involves untrained people going aloft as passengers or students is very, very tightly controlled indeed.
This means that you will be as safe as possible by ensuring that the aircraft is maintained to the highest
possible standards, that your pilot will be highly trained, his or her health will be closely monitored,
and that the organisation has the correct (expensive) licences.
As an example, the CAA draw a big distinction between pleasure flights and trial lessons
to operate pleasure flights an organisation needs a far higher level of certification. As another example,
if your instructor should notice - as part of the pre-flight checks - that a tyre is looking a little flat, the
allowed to put some air into the tyre is a registered, CAA certificated, aero engineer.
So although your aircraft may be several decades old (most of the light aircraft fleet in the UK are) you
can be sure that every 50 hours of flying it is mechanically checked, every year it is grounded for a few days
for a more thorough check, and every three years just about every piece of it is unbolted, and cleaned and
inspected before being reassembled.
Bringing friends along for the ride
Many training aircraft are two seaters, but some are four seaters and it may be possible to take other
family members on your trial lesson - you should ask the flight training organisation before setting off to
Preparations for your flight
trial lesson, some (hardly any) organisations require you to complete a medical self-certification form
and/or an insurance waiver form. Then you'll meet your instructor and they'll take you through what is going to
happen. This might involve the use of a little aircraft to demonstrate the controls in the three axes
(pitch, roll, and yaw), because the first lesson is all about the simple matter of steering the aeroplane
and in a few minutes YOU'LL BE DOING IT. At this stage, if you have particular places you'd like to fly
over, such as your house, you should mention it to allow it to be planned for.
So, off to the aircraft, to go flying!! As part of the lesson, your instructor may take time to do the
pre-flight inspection with you. If they do not, don't be alarmed, as it will have been done earlier, and
checked after any earlier flights.
Strapping in is very important. It is unlikely that you will be going for your first flight on a very
turbulent day but your instructor will still make sure that you are properly attached, and most aircraft
now use inertia-reel systems just like on a family car. Many people ask "where's the parachute?" at this
stage, but it is extremely unlikely that you will wear one on this sort of flight - among other things,
not many of us even know how to use one.
Handling the controls
There are an awful lot of dials in a little piston engined aeroplane, and a fair few switches, but the
good news is that you probably won't have to worry about any of them. When you will be given the controls
you will be high enough, and straight and level, and the emphasis at this stage of the training is to get a
feel for things and to get used to looking out of the window - there is no radar in a little aeroplane and the
way we see other aeroplanes, and the way we navigate, is with the Mark One Eyeball.
Your instructor will then work the radio, and
start taxiing for departure - trying to understand what
is meant by all the jargon on the radio is probably too ambitious at this stage. The instructor will
do a very important set of checks just before takeoff, ensuring the engine will give full power when it is
needed, and after a few more words of gibberish into the radio, and after checking with you that you are
happy, full power will be applied, it'll get a lot noisier, and after a couple of hundred yards the ground
will fall away and you will be flying!!!
Surprisingly soon after takeoff the aircraft will be settled into the cruise and your instructor will utter
the immortal words: "you have control". This is the cool bit, pressing any of the controls gently will have
the aircraft turning and banking, climbing and descending, and anytime you want to stop you simply say
"you have control" and the instructor will take over while perhaps you take a few photos or
take a really good look at places on the ground which you've never seen from this angle.
All too soon the time will come to rejoin the circuit - to go back to the airport to land.
Depending how easy you have found it to manoeuvre the aircraft, and depending how busy the airport is,
you might get to fly the aircraft a long way down the approach path - but the instructor will normally
be the one to actually land the aircraft for you!!!
After taxiing back to the parking area, the instructor will shut the engine down and everything will
get much quieter, with just the gentle winding down of the gyroscopic instruments, and you will walk back
to the flying school - probably with loads of questions and comments for the instructor.
Recording your special day
Most flying schools then present you with a certificate to mark the occasion, and some also give you a
blank pilot's log book and show you how to fill it in - you've just had a genuine flying lesson,
the time can count toward the issue of your licence, and you could also visit
e-logbooks where you can store
the flight details on-line.
Now you'll have just two burning questions:
- Can I afford the time and commitment to get my own licence?
- When can I go again?
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a pilot, a great place to start is
with the CAA's large but comprehensive Licencing,
Administration and Standardisation Operating Requirements and Standards (LASOR) document
(section C1 for light aircraft).
Search for light aircraft trial lessons
See also: microlighting and gliding.