A Trial Flight With Tiger Airways

The thrill of flying an aeroplane for the first time

Posted by Owain Abraham-Williams on Saturday 4th July 2009

I have dreamed about flying an aeroplane all my life and today that became a reality as my parents had given me a 1 hour flying lesson for my birthday. My lesson was to be with Tiger Airways at Gloucestershire Airport (EGBJ). It is not your average commercial airport, there’s no terminal building, no metal detectors, no baggage belts and no car hire desks. It’s just a set of aeroplane hangars, buildings and runways. It felt quite strange driving past businesses and offices located on an airfield, my only other experiences of airports were when going on holiday.

After being asked to watch a YouTube video about the fundamentals of flight we made our way over to the plane, a yellow Mudry CAP 10 (I’d never heard of one of those before. It turns out it’s an acrobatic plane) with the registration G-BKIF. We had to add some fuel before climbing into the tiny cockpit. It only looked big enough for one, so I was quite surprised when my instructor climbed in next to me!

I donned the headset and was amazed at how much outside noise was blocked out. Through the headset I could hear the almost unintelligible chatter of the control tower along with my instructor. He made a radio call, started up the engines and off we went towards the runway. To steer a plane when on the ground you use foot-pedals which control the front nose wheel, right pedal for right, left for left. I was tasked with keeping us on the taxiway centre line, it was quite odd controlling a vehicle with your feet not hands.

After another radio call (again, much of which I couldn’t understand) we entered the runway and lined up for takeoff. He told me I’d be taking us up into the air. Wow, my very first time in the pilot’s seat of an aeroplane and I was allowed to takeoff! Full power was set, we accelerated down the runway and when instructed I pulled back on the stick and we were airborne. My instructor took over then and flew us away from the airfield. I took the opportunity to admire the view on this lovely Saturday afternoon in July.

Next it was my turn to fly. I first had to keep the plane straight and level, that wasn’t too difficult. Then turns using the ailerons (which just means moving the stick left or right depending on which way you want to bank the aircraft), then turns using the rudder (which are controlled with the foot pedals), then climbs and descents using the elevators (the stick again, this time moving it forwards and backwards). I was also shown how to trim the aircraft, this keeps the aeroplane in the same attitude, whether that be straight, descending or climbing, without keeping hold of the stick, it’s controlled by moving a wheel forward or backwards until you no longer need to pull or push on the stick. Finally, my instructor misconfigured the plane (started a turn and climb while not setting the trim correctly) and asked me to recover to straight and level flight.

He then asked me if I’d like to continue learning to fly, or if I’d like to do some acrobatics. I didn’t have enough money to continue with lessons, so opted for the acrobatics. We checked there were no other planes nearby and our harnesses were secure, then he began with a loop-the-loop. That was a great sensation, upside down, looking up from my seat and seeing the ground! Then he did a stall turn, where he flies vertical until the plane almost stalls, it snaps round turning 180 degrees and points towards the ground. It was all very thrilling stuff. After that we headed back to the airfield and landed.

That was a great hour in the air. A fantastic birthday present and a wonderful experience. However, I have left wondering how I could afford to continue with flying lessons. It’s not something I can contemplate now, but hopefully one day I’ll be able to return and train for my Private Pilot Licence. For now though, the closest I’m going to get to the pilot’s seat is in Microsoft Flight Simulator.