First Trial Flight

Sunday 28 July 1985, 9.20am in Cessna 150 Aerobat G-BAII.

Weather: Clear and sunny.

Yesterday the torrential rain made me sure that flying would be cancelled, but this morning when I got up at 8am the sky was a cloudless blue and there was no wind at all.

I had time for a quick shower and a plate of cereal before Malcolm arrived at half-eight to collect me. With him was his very good-looking and lively sister, Evelyn, who is herself learning to fly.

At Dyce I was introduced to some of the instructors and pupils, and I was then the first up in the air. The Aerobat looks like the newest of their planes, so I was lucky to get it.

John showed me how to adjust the seat and strap myself in before giving me the check list. He said that since I was interested (Malcolm must have put in a good word) he would take me through all the checks. There were pre-starting checks, starting procedures, pre-taxiiing and pre-take off checks, all of which must be read from the card (not memorised!). I think John was hurrying me through the checks because unknown to me another aircraft [actually a Sikorsky S-61N helicopter] was waiting behind.

Take-off was surprisingly quick. At 500 feet it seems to be good form to glance behind and check that the aircraft is in line with the runway. We could see nothing but sky out the front, of course.

We climbed at around 70 knots to 1500 feet and then levelled off, changed the trim and reduced the throttle. John then handed the controls to me and told me to head for the Girdle Ness lighthouse.

It took me a while to take in the immensity of the view below. The sea was a burnished silver, with the horizon distant and hazy. A couple of supply boats and a fishing boat were dotted on it, apparently stationary. To the right, every detail of Aberdeen could be seen clearly, and beyond the city were the fields, with small villages and towns, and beyond the foothills of the Cairngorms, sharp and blue. Above us there were light strands of altostratus (which proved very useful in keeping the aircraft level!) while below us were lines of small, puffy cumulus, just enough to be tasteful.

John had me first do a gentle turn to the left, followed by one to the right. These turns were using the ailerons only. He deliberately didn't say too much, leaving me to find out that the way to turn seemed to be to turn the control column until the nose was at maybe 25-30° from the horizontal, and then to apply opposite aileron to stabilise the turn. Without elevator the nose dropped, so I pulled back just enough to keep the higher side of the nose level with the horizon. This kept the aircraft at more or less the same altitude (+/- 100 feet). John said afterwards that most students gained or lost up to 1000 feet, so was well-pleased.

I then tried a shallow dive, and a shallow climb. Again, the technique was to tip the aircraft, and then apply opposite elevator. In this respect it is quite different to driving a car. Finally he asked me to try the rudder pedals. When I pushed the left pedal the aircraft yawed and banked to the left. Since I never used the rudder to turn, I'm a bit vague about what it's for, apart from steering on the ground, but John seemed to use it on landing.

Our time up there didn't seem long before John radioed in that we were returning, but I felt no disappointment because I'd been given plenty to think about. As we turned towards Dyce I looked below and noticed the sharp dividing line between the muddy colour of the water flowing in from the River Dee and the clear blue-grey of the sea.

We headed for Ben a Hee (how do you spell it?) first, then turned right towards Newmachar, losing height until we were at 1000 feet. John took it for the landing, but told me to keep my hands and feet lightly on the controls so I could feel what was happening. As with take off, the emphasis was on keeping your eyes on the far end of the runway to gauge the aircraft attitude, and to glance below to judge the height. We touched down at about 60 knots, and John asked me to taxi back in. I forgot to mention I taxiied out, and found it very confusing. The control column does nothing, even though it feels like a steering wheel - it's all done through the rudder pedals. Brakes are at the top of the pedals.

Afterwards there was the painful experience of parting with £19, but the anticipation of further flying. Money's the only real problem (as always) and one way of helping this is going to be finding cheaper accommodation. For instance, if I can pay thirty pounds less a month, that's half an hour's flying.

So here goes to work out the finances.

[next lesson was over twenty years later...]

Introductory flight 28/7/85
Cessna 150 Aerobat G-BAII
Instructor: John Allan
Up at 9.20am, down at 9.50am
Exercises: 3 - Introduction
           4 - Use of controls
           5 - Taxiing

P.S. G-BAII on No pictures though.

P.S. G-BAII had a little bingle in Cornwall on 9 September 2001.