Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Finally, First Flight Instruction Given was today!

Its 5 weeks shy of 3 years since the first time I set foot in an airplane, and today was the first time that I was acting in the role of instructor, on an instructional flight.

Russ called me about noon and asked what I was doing today. I said that I had class from 12:30 to 3:00, but was free after that. "So you can get to the airport by 3:30 or so?" "Sure," I said. I was told that they were very busy in the maintenance shop today, and they wanted me to fly with a student. The preference is for someone to fly with the students when it is convenient for them. Anyway, I said that I'd want to. Russ told me he would call the guy and have him call me if he wanted to fly with me.

About 2:40, I got a phone call in class. I couldn't answer it, but I was pretty sure who it was. When I could, I called back, and the student said he'd love to fly today, and 3:30 was OK, so we agreed to meet at the airport.

I was afraid I'd be late, but I got there about 3:35, and was the first one there. The sky was completely clear, temp was about 17 or 18 Celsius (63-65 F), and wind was about 8 knots straight down the runway. I looked around, and my student came in pretty soon after I did. Since Russ is his main instructor, I didn't really want to introduce anything new, so I asked him what his most recent lesson had consisted of. "Slow flight, steep turns, and power off stalls," he said.

We went out to N-7640G, a 1970 model Cessna 172, and while the student was doing the pre-flight inspections, I updated my briefing with Flight Service to check for flight restrictions (TFRs). While I watched him preflight, I made a plan for the lesson. We would go out and practice straight and level flight, normal turns, and regular climbs and descents so he could get warmed up in the plane (it had been a week or two since the last lesson the student had taken). Then we would do slow flight in various configurations, transition to a power-off stall, do a second one, then do a steep turn or two at the end of the session. I reasoned that this would put the tasks, roughly, from least aggressive to most, and should take around an hour.

We talked through the startup and taxi, took off, and went out to the practice area. Since the purpose of this blog isn't to parade each student's performance before the world, I won't, but the student was doing very well in my opinion. We moved on to slow flight, then a beautiful power-off stall. We changed our heading to take us back to the airport, about 40 minutes after we started the engine. "Right on time, this is working perfectly." I thought to myself.

I asked if he wanted to do a steep turn or two on the way back in, and was given an affirmative answer. I asked if he remembered how to do them, or if I should demonstrate one real quick. I was asked to demo one. OK, I showed a steep turn to the left, talked through it, and was rolling out when I heard "do you have a bag?" I wasn't sure what was meant at first. I quickly realized the student meant a sick-sack, to vomit in, so I started searching for one. There was no bag in the plane (which is not normal), so I opened the window and slowed the plane up as much as possible so that 120mph wind wasn't hitting the poor guy in the face. I immediately started maneuvering back toward the airport, in the calmest and least aggressive manor possible.

He started to feel better after a minute, and seemed to be alert and asking questions, so I asked if he wanted to take the controls on the way back to the airport. I did this because I have read many times that taking the controls is one of the things you can let someone do to help alleviate motion sickness.

We came around the traffic pattern - crosswind, downwind, but by this point it was obvious that he was feeling queasy again, and I was asked to take the controls, which I did. I tried to touch down as smoothly as possible, and parked the plane in its spot, then shut it down.

As the student went to the bathroom to clean up and I went in search of some cleaner, the owner of the flight school pulled up. I was afraid I'd have people mad at me for making a student sick. Instead, they said that it happens from time to time, and to just deal with it. I went and helped clean up the plane (really not much of a mess at all, glad I opened the window).

We de-briefed the flight, discussing what had been good and what needs worked on. I'm glad my student was a younger guy, and has a good attitude, he didn't seem phased too much. The flight was mostly "fun," and he even asked if I'd like to fly with him again next Tuesday. I definitely would, and was glad he asked. I filled out his logbook, signed my name, certificate number, and expiration date for the first time ever into someone's logbook (I had tried hard to memorize my certificate number, but forgot it and had to look it up). I asked if he had felt a little sick before we started the steep turns, and he said yes, and I asked if he had eaten anything recently, and he said no. I advised him, before the next lesson, to eat about 1.5 or 2 hours before - not a lot and not something hard to digest like Mexican food, but something on the stomach will help. I also said that, next time he feels sick, to let someone know. It never gets better until you land and rest, and that nobody has to continue flying or continue the lesson if they don't feel up to par - simple as that.

When I got home, I called the student's regular instructor. I was still concerned that he'd be upset with me, but he wasn't at all, and thinks I'll probably be flying with more students in the near future. I'm certainly up for anything that comes my way.

Overall, I think it was a good day, but I'm not 100% sure. We both learned, I think, and hopefully it will go better next time. I felt really bad, but I'm not sure what I could have done differently (other than carrying a sick bag or 2 in my flight bag, which is definitely going to happen before my time time up).

In other news, I'm flying a Piper Cherokee 6 to Jackson, MI with my old instructor this coming Thursday to demo it to a prospective buyer. We will fly home Friday morning after earning a couple hundred bucks each as well as a hotel and dinner/breakfast, which will be compensated. Wish I had a job like that 2 or 3 times a week, I'd be set.


  1. Congratulations!!! We're proud of you!
    Love, Mimi & Papaw

  2. I just found your blog via the AOPA Forums and am making my way through all the posts. Congrats on all to date and especially your first instructional flight!

    While I haven't had a passenger (I'm just a PP-ASEL) get sick yet myself, I bought a few Sic-Sacs and carry them in my flight bag. They're pretty cheap, only like $6 for 10 at PilotMall.