First Flight, 13th May 2001

The following pictures (click to enlarge) were taken during my first flying lesson at Old Sarum Airfield, Salisbury, on the afternoon of the 13th May 2001. This was a gratefully received leaving gift from my former collegues and friends at Quadrics Supercomuters, Bristol, who were more than generous and thoughtful in their choice, as flying has long been an ambition of mine.

The flying experience was for a forty minute flight, but I was unsure just how much I would be allowed to control the aircraft. Before the flight, at the briefing with my instructor, I was asked about my interest in aviation (much), and experience (none), and he suggested we get up there and let me have a go.

Old Sarum Airfield

Me and a Cessna 152

After an external inspection, I was strapped in, in the pilot's side of the aircraft, and my instructor got in the first officers side---a good start I thought. I read out the pre-flight checks, and the engine was started. Throttle up, and the instructor cleared us of the surrounding aircraft, and then I got to control it on the ground with the rudder pedals (which also steer the nose wheel) and the throttle. Final checks and call to tower, and my instructor informs me that I'm going to get the aircraft airborne (smeg!). He'll control rudders, to keep us on the runway (nice!), and then call 'rotate', when I'll pull back on the stick. So, we're lined up on the runway, and the throttle is opened up to maximum. After a few bumps---'rotate', and up we go.

Getting Strapped in

Ready for Taxi

We climb to around 1500ft or so, and the instructor takes control to 'trim' the aircraft. Then I get to try turns, descents and climbs (use the throttle, not the yoke). The weather is not ideal, with poor visibility. Trying to line the aircraft up with the horizon is near impossible, so had to use the instruments a little more than is usual. I'm then asked to do a series of manoeuvres in sequence---do this heading, descend to this height, fly that heading and climb to that height. I will now, in a shameless display of immodesty, say that the instructor then asked me if I was sure I had never flown before (wicked!). All those hours on Flight Simulator '98 were not wasted after all.

Me Touching Down

Taxiing back

We pass stonehenge, which we can see through the mist, and head back toward the airfield, in what seems like only a few minutes, but is actually half an hour. I'm asked to start a slow descent as we near the airfield, which is hard to see, but I finally pick it up. We call in on the radio, and get clearance, and the instructor takes control as we pass over the airfield and start a downwind leg. Then I have control once more and start to bring her in (tense!). The runway is then upon us, and I'm told to raise the nose. I feel the instructor just pull the yoke back a little more than I have done, and then we're down---I've just about landed the aircraft on my own. I give control back to the instructor, and we taxi back to where Amanda is waiting for me, and shut down the plane.

Shutting down the aircraft

Me in the Cockpit

So ends the most thrilling half an hour of my life (yeh, yeh---first kiss, my wedding, blah, blah, blah---try flying before you make a judgement). So, now I ask my instructor for all the bumph about training for a Private Pilot's Licence---it's gonna cost five grand plus. This could turn out to be the most expensive gift I've ever received---fantastic!

Simon Southwell

19th May 2001
(c) 2001 Simon and Amanda Southwell. All rights reserved.