Not just her first flight in a small plane, it was her first flight in a plane of any kind…
Every now and then I have a friend that will say something like “If you ever need someone to go fly with you let me know,” or this one “Saw your recent post on Facebook soliciting flying buddies, sign me up!”
I postponed an AZ trip because I still had some things to do to finish up the oil change and maintenance I was doing earlier in the week, do a ground run, check for leaks, put the cowling back on, and then take a short post maintenance flight to check everything else out. I told one of these friends that if he was free Saturday I was going to be staying in town and would be doing a little flying around after finishing up on the plane. If he wanted to join me he was welcome to come along. When I talked to him Friday evening he asked if he could bring his daughter along and I told him “sure.” I said that once I was done and everything looked good I would let him know and they could head out and meet me.
Saturday morning was beautiful with clear skies, calm winds, and the temperature just right (although it would warm up to about 90° F later). I arrived at the hangar and finished up adding water to the battery, and a couple other things before pulling the plane out and starting it up. Oil pressure normally comes up right away but after an oil change it takes a couple seconds longer as the oil is being pumped through the engine so there is that brief moment after the engine starts where it reads zero pressure and you are waiting for it to kick in. I watched the oil pressure come up to normal and then continued to monitor it as I let it run for about 10 minutes. After shutting down I pushed it back into the hangar and looked it over for leaks. Finding none, I put the cowling back on and then took her for a short flight.
Satisfied that all was in working order I put her back in the hangar to wait for my friend and his daughter and spent time tidying up the hangar and cleaning the bugs off the leading edges. My hangar neighbor stopped by and commented that now that there’s more “stuff” in it it was looking like a real hangar…
I like to make sure passengers know what to expect so when they got there I started asking some questions. I knew that he had flown a lot commercially and had been up in small planes a few times, however that was when I learned that not only had his daughter not flown in a small plane before, but had never flown in a plane of any kind, just a hot air balloon once. This was going to be fun!
We spent some time talking about the basics of flight, what makes the plane stay in the air, how it turns, climbs, descends, etc… I moved the yoke and had her watch the ailerons and elevator and talked about how that affects the flight. I talked about how air moves and that even though we can’t see it, the air is like a river or stream moving along. Because the air is moving, just like when a stream goes over rocks, when the air flows over and around things it will cause bumps which in a small plane can make it feel a little like a truck going down a bumpy dirt road. However, there was nothing to worry about because even if we hit some of those bumps we aren’t going to fall out of the sky. We also talked about the safety features that are part of the structure of the Mooney, the strength of the wings, and the steel cage around the cabin to protect the passengers.
Although I had already done pre-flight on the plane before they arrived I took the time to go through it again step-by-step explaining what we were looking for and why we were checking the different things. Satisfied that all was in order I pulled the plane out for the third time of the morning and everyone climbed in. After startup we taxied down the hangar row and then had to wait for three planes to taxi past before entering the taxiway. As I said earlier, it was a beautiful day and there were quite a few others taking advantage of the great weather.
It hadn’t been long since my earlier flight but we went through a full run-up to give the chance to explain more about the plane and the safety provided by the redundancy in the ignition system (two spark plugs in each cylinder, magnetos supply power to the spark plugs and continue to supply power even if the electrical in the plane fails, each mag provides power to half the plugs so if one mag fails then each cylinder would still have one spark plug operating).
Our flight plan was to take a coastal tour, heading over the hills down to Dana Point, north to San Pedro, then back south down the coast and up over the hills for lunch in French Valley. After lunch we would put my friend in the backseat and his daughter in the right seat and then spend some time over Lake Matthews on the way back to Corona so she could do some flying.
It was a little hazy but smooth as we flew along the coast at 1,000′ and he pointed out different places to his daughter. We saw the Queen Mary and the USS Iowa in the Port of Long Beach and a blimp over San Pedro. There were a few planes in the practice area off the coast and we watched one practicing stalls as we went past them. On the way back down the coast he asked if he could take the yoke. I told him sure so he flew us the rest of the way until we got close to the French Valley airport.
As we went over the hills west of Temecula we started bouncing around a little. Her dad told her that was the effect of the air going over the hills like a stream going over rocks like I had been talking about earlier. She was loving every bit of it, even the bumps and bouncing around. As we got close to French Valley I took the yoke back and we entered a busy traffic pattern. On short final we hit an updraft that ballooned us up about 30′ but it is a long runway and we touched down at the 1,000′ mark. (Ok, we were just a touch fast, touched down, back up about a foot off the runway, and then settled back down. I told them they could have credit for two landings…)
Lunch was excellent. Everyone had the Travelaire Sandwich which was amazing. It showed up and his daughter looked at the size and said there was no way she could eat it all. She ended up eating all but the last bite and almost didn’t even touch her fries even though according to dad she loves fries so much she can make a meal out of them, that’s how good the sandwich was.
After lunch we headed back to the plane and she took a photo op standing on the wing walk. I climbed in first, her dad climbed in the back seat and commented that yes, it is much easier to get into the back seat of a Mooney than the right front, and then she climbed into the right seat. As I was getting situated she said “Dad, you have to get pictures with my phone, my friends are never going to believe I got to drive, I mean fly a plane!”
We took off and climbed to 4,000′ heading northwest towards Corona and Lake Matthews. Just south of the lake I turned the plane over to her and she did a great job flying us around the lake a few times. Eventually I took the yoke back and we headed to Corona settling in on runway 25.
They both said they enjoyed the flight and I had a blast. If there are any pilots out there that are getting bored flying (does that happen?) find someone who hasn’t been in a small plane before, or if you are lucky find someone that has never flown before and take them up for a ride, you will love it.