While I was in Pittsburgh earlier this year I was able to do many aviation related activities, but by far the most exciting thing I did was take a 3 hour flight lesson in a Cessna 172!
Although I have been obsessed with aviation for 10+ years and have been doing flight simulation since 2014, before this I had never experienced any real life flight training let alone flown in an aircraft smaller than a CRJ-200. My family was aware of how much I wanted to do something like this, and, it turned out that one of my grandpa’s neighbors was a flight instructor. He had been and A-10 pilot in the Air Force and then a pilot for Southwest Airlines, but retired in 2016 and picked up a job as a flight instructor at a flying club in Zelienople, Pennsylvania. We talked to him and planned to a 3 hour introductory flight lesson on September 3rd.
We started at KPJC (the flying club’s base), flew to downtown Pittsburgh and did a figure 8 there, did a touch and go at KUCP, and then headed back to PJC for a few patterns. In total I logged 1 hour of ground training, 2 hours of flight time, and 3 landings. The instructor was very laid back and let me do quite a bit of the taxiing, taking off, and flying, with some assistance on the landings.
(Yes, I was bad at maintaining speed and altitude)
Our aircraft was N684SP, a 1998 Cessna 172S. Copying from the club site: “It has a white fuselage with red trim, four seats, a 180 HP four-cylinder Lycoming fuel-injected engine, and VFR/IFR night equipment. It is equipped with a KMA-28 Stereo Audio Panel with intercom, an IFR approved Garmin GNS 430W WAAS enabled GPS/Nav/Comm, KX-155 Nav/Comm, single-axis KAP-140 autopilot with nav coupling, and dual push-to-talk switches. It carries a maximum cabin load of about 500 pounds when filled to its 53 gallon fuel capacity.” Although I don’t have anything to compare it to outside of simulation, it handled everything we put it though perfectly and was surprisingly easy to fly.
684SP in the hangar. The ground training included a full walk around, testing all of the systems and flat surfaces of the aircraft.
Our plane was equipped with the classic 172 steam gauge cockpit. I learned how to start up from a check list and use all of the instruments. I can’t wait to try them out in IF’s updated 172!
My first few seconds in the air! It was a beautiful day for flying. Calm winds and good visibility made for a relatively easily first take off.
The Pittsburgh skyline as seen from the air. The Instructor was at the controls at this point because we were in PIT airspace and were in contact with radar.
Flying low over beautiful Lake Arthur.
On downwind to KUCP for a touch and go on runway 23. This was our first landing of the day, so I just watched.
On final for our last landing at PJC, which I was actually able to do most of!
Fueling up after an amazing morning of flying. Another thing that the instructor let me help with!
And finally, taxing back to the hangar with the beautiful Pennsylvanian hills behind us.
Overall, this was an incredible experience and one that I will never forget. It definitely made it clear to me that I want to be either a commercial or private pilot later in life. It also showed me that, contrary to popular belief, Infinite Flight really does help you learn to fly in real life. Not only did many of the flight rules and procedures that I’ve learned in the sim carry over, but there were several time that I really felt like I was flying in the sim. Certain instincts that I’ve developed overtime helped me to handle winds, taxi, and maintain speed and altitude better than I ever thought I could. My Instructor said that I caught onto things a lot quicker and most other students do.
Thanks for reading, and have a great rest of your day!