- They do Seaplane ratings - one of the big things I wanted to do with my license
- Their chief VFR Instructor was highly recommended to us
- Assuming I enjoy flying as much as I expect to, I will be wanting to get my Multi/IFR rating eventually as well. (Which happens to be their speciality...)
Overall their operation looked organized, dispatch was orderly, the airplane was clean and in good repair, and it was easy to book a plane when we wanted it. Our intro instructor was competent, pleasant and confident.
There was one hiccup though; when booking the flight they had somebody helpfully answering the phone while the regular dispatch people were occupied. Unfortunately, when he booked our Fam flight with the Chief VFR instructor, he didn't know that the instructor wasn't able to fly today. However, the instructor arranged for someone else to take us on the flight at the time we'd booked and left us a voice mail with his cell number to call and confirm that that was alright.
The flight itself was simultaneously enjoyable and nerve-wracking. As both of us were doing Fam flights and we'd booked a Cessna 172 (a 4-seater) so both of us could be on both flights, the instructor decided one of us would fly from Boundary Bay (CZBB) to Pitt Meadows (CYPK). We'd land and swap pilots at CYPK and the other of us would fly back to CZBB. Slightly more interesting than the usual "take off, fly around a bit, land" Fam flight :-)
janra requested I go first, as she wanted to watch how things worked first and I'd had some experience in small planes before. We checked out a plane from dispatch and walked out for the walk-around, where our instructor pointed out all the important things on the plane to check before flying. He went through the entire checklist, demonstrating everything as he went.
Once we were all belted in (with me in the left seat!), had done the run-up on the engine and had taxi clearance he gave me control over the aircraft and I got to taxi to and hold short of Runway 12. Once we got takeoff clearance, I taxied forward and centred the aircraft on the runway. He instructed me to shove the throttle all the way in and we started hurtling down the runway. Sooner than I expected, he was telling me to pull back slightly on the controls and seconds after that we were airborne.
Wow! It was that easy!
We climb for a short while and he guides me to the correct pitch. He then took control of the aircraft and properly trimmed it for a climb. Returning control to me, he instructed me to steer left and we headed east towards White Rock until we were out of the control area. After taking control to re-trim for cruise at 1400', he pointed out Pitt Lake to me and said "head that way". Our en-route time was ~ 9 minutes; while we were on our way, I got to play around with maneuvering the 172, banking left and right, pitching up and down, playing with the rudders and discovering they don't do much on their own.
As we close in on CYPK he takes control and slows the aircraft, lowers the flaps and trims for descent. He returns control to me and I feel the sloppy handling at 70 knots vs. the 110 we were cruising at previously. It's much trickier to fly. We cross the Fraser River and make the turn to line up for final approach on 26L.
Now we're getting to the most nerve-wracking part for me. At this point I'm fighting the aircraft too much, it's slopping around and I don't know what to correct for and what will be corrected for by the aircraft automatically. (It wants to fly, and frankly does a better job of it than I do!) He says to throttle the plane right down and we descend startlingly fast. At one point I feel like the nose is pointing ~20° to the right of the runway, but I can plainly see we're heading in the correct direction. I aim for the numbers as he directs and once we're down to ~ 5' above the ground I aim for the end of the runway. I don't think quite quickly enough as we seem (to me) to land a little hard. He takes control for the latter part of the takeoff roll and I get the feeling I took a little longer to get on the ground than usual and haven't slowed as much as expected by the time we get to the taxi way he wants. The tires squeal a little as he makes the turn onto the taxiway. Once we get down to a reasonable speed he returns control to me and directs me to a parking spot off the taxiway.
Now, I've gotta say something here. Steering an aircraft on the ground is much, much different from steering a car. You know that yoke thing in front of you, the one that looks tantalizingly like a steering wheel? Ignore it. See those pedals your feet are on? Use those instead. oh, and by the way, the pedals control both the steering and the brakes. Sliding them back and forth steers, pressing the tops down like an accelerator pedal in a car applies the brakes. Also you have two brake pedals, one for each foot. If you press down harder on one (like, say, the right one) you will start to veer in that direction. This takes a lot of getting used to; I practically had to sit on my hands to stop myself from trying to steer the aircraft with the yoke instead of the foot pedals.
I manage to guide the plane into a tie-down spot without incident and the instructor shuts the plane down. We quickly hop out and swap places, do an abbreviated run through the check-list (as the plane was functional 2 minutes previously, it's not like much has changed since then...)
With janra at the controls and me folded into the back-seat, we go through the entire procedure again. We're cleared for taxi to Runway 36, then cleared for take off. janra opens up the throttle all the way and shortly we're airborne. I'm more relaxed this time as I don't feel like I need to correct for every twitch the plane makes and I take the time to enjoy the view and try and pick out some of the other traffic in the area. janra gets the same run-down that I did, and has her chance to play with the aircraft. Shortly, she's being told to line us up with Hwy 99 and we have clearance to land at runway 12 at CZBB again. We're buffeted by some turbulence as we go over some dark patches of ground that have been heated nicely by the sun. She lines us up and executes a much nicer landing than mine (IMHO); again the instructor takes control and navigates us to the taxiway and allows janra to pilot us back to near our starting point. He parks the aircraft, we shut down the engine, hop out, tie down, grab our gear and walk back to the dispatch centre. After checking in and returning the headsets and aircraft logs, we thank the instructor and talk to the dispatcher to settle the bill for our flights.
All-in-all, despite the nerves, we had a blast! We've booked some real lessons in a couple of weeks, and picked up the "Flight Training Manual" from Transport Canada for a little light reading :-)
Oh, and this would be the first time in my life that I've been in a small airplane without floats...
|< what. a. coincidence. | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >|