My First Lesson: The Effects Of Basic Controls

After months of build-up, days of reading, and hours of researching, I was ready to begin. With my 30th birthday looming, it seemed the perfect time to start! So with North Weald Airfield being my preference, and many an email going back and forth with their Head of Training, I thought I’d better get myself down there to introduce myself and take a look around. Throughout my life, I’ve always believed that rapport was incredibly important to any learning experience. So it was very important that I met with some of the team before I committed anything! Something I would recommend to anyone considering pilot training (or any other training for that matter!). Ask questions, pay visits, be curious. If people are passionate about what they do, they will be only too happy to help. And that’s exactly the response I got from the team at North Weald…

It was a Sunday afternoon and the day of North Weald Airfield’s 100 year anniversary. It was a big celebration with planes and cars from a number of generations. I took myself down there to have a little look around and meet some more of the team at the flight training school.

After wandering around, I suddenly thought, why not start right now? I knew I wanted to fly there, I’d pestered the team for long enough without ever handing over a penny, it was a beautiful day, it was the 100 year anniversary at the airfield and I wanted nothing more than to get up in the air. So, I took myself over to the offices and managed to get myself booked in. I was unbelievably excited.

I had pondered on the idea of doing my training in a low-wing PA28, purely from personal preference. But it is considerably more expensive to hire and would raise my overall course costs significantly. So, under guidance from the team, I decided to go with the Cessna 152, the standard training aircraft for all early pilots.

The PPL requires a minimum of 45 hours of flying time in order to qualify for the license. So the team wanted to pair me up with an instructor who would likely be available through my training. I got introduced to Andrew Raven, my new instructor. Andrew came across as a great guy, not much older than me, with a passion for instruction and a similar path in aviation that I planned on taking. So we went off for a brief…

We went over what we would be doing in my first lesson; basic flight controls. Andrew explained exactly what he expected from me and the goals he wanted me to achieve today. Namely rolling, yawing, climbing, and descending. We would also look at the secondary effects of these basic flight controls and counteracting them when necessary.

Now it was time to meet the aircraft; G-LOMN. I fell in love. I’ve never had any draw to the high-wing Cessna aircraft, but seeing her for the first time and knowing I would get the opportunity to fly her changed everything for me. We followed the pre-flight checks and went over the aircraft in fine detail. Andrew gave me a full run-through of the aircraft, following the checks exactly and going into further detail where necessary (these can be purchased and are aircraft specific).

Once we climbed into the aircraft, we strapped ourselves in and began our final checks before starting the engine. With a loud shout of ‘CLEAR PROP’, she fired up with a huge shudder. A sweet moment.

We began to taxi towards runway 20, the active runway for today operating on a right circuit. It’s not seen as the ‘norm’ for a right circuit but I was told that it’s because of the housing in the local area is to the left of runway 20.

We stopped, did our final checks after coming to a stop facing into the wing. We gained clearance for departure, and with a slide of the throttle, she began to accelerate down the runway.

At around 55 knots, the little plane began to take off…

We climbed up to around 800 feet before making a right-hand turn out of the circuit. Andrew then explained where we would be heading and the exercises we would be doing today:

  • The effects of using the ailerons
  • The effects of using the elevator
  • The effects of using the rudder
  • The secondary effects of using these flight controls
  • Slipstream

1. Ailerons and roll

This exercise was to demonstrate the way an aircraft rolls when influenced by aileron control. Turning the controls to the left raises the port  (left) aileron and lowers the starboard (right). This creates more lift on the starboard wing, and subsequently less on the port, rolling the aircraft to the left. Similarly, turning the controls to the right raises the starboard aileron and lowers the port aileron, creating more lift on the port wing and rolls the aircraft to the right.

2. Elevator and pitch

The next exercise demonstrated how the elevator affects the pitch of the aircraft. Moving the yoke back (towards you) raises the trailing end of the elevator, which decreases the lift generated by the back of the plane. This causes the tail to lower in relation to the body of the plane pitching the nose up. When moving the yoke forward (away from you) lowers the trailing end of the elevator, increasing lift, and raises the tail in relation to the body of the aircraft. This is pitching the nose down.

3. Rudder and yaw

The next part of the lesson aimed to demonstrate the movement of the rudder and the yaw effect on the aircraft. Pressing the right rudder pedal moves the rudder to the right and causes the aircraft to yaw to the right. Same scenario with the left pedal.

4. Secondary effects of flight controls

Essentially, there are two things to consider here:

  • Rolling the aircraft can also cause yaw
  • Yawing the aircraft can also cause rolling

5. Slipstream

Slipstream, in a nutshell, is the effect the movement of the propeller has on the air moving across the aircraft. Because the slipstream doesn’t reach out to the ailerons, its effect can only be felt on the elevator and rudder.

High slipstream, or a higher rpm, makes the flight controls incredibly responsive. Low slipstream, lower rpm, makes the flight controls very sloppy.

Unfortunately, this is all we had time for. So we started heading back to North Weald where we entered the circuit at around 1,000 feet off the QFE. It would usually be a little higher but we have Stansted controlled space at >1,500 above the airfield, so things tend to happen a little lower than normal here. We turned on to the right downwind, keeping an eye out for traffic, turned right on to base, right again on to final and made our approach.

After landing, Andrew let me have a quick go at controlling the taxi, something I was incredibly nervous about! Let’s also say it’s something I’m definitely going to need to practice!

We parked her up, pulled the mixture back to fully lean, and shut down the engine. My first lesson was over. After a quick debriefs, we discussed the next lesson, filled out my pilot logbook, and walked away high as a kite.

This first blog includes a lot of ‘personal’ build-up to my first lesson, just to give an insight into my journey that day. My blogs from now on will be much more focused on the actual lesson content so it can all be made relevant to yourselves. It will also allow you to get realistic expectations on time frames and progression rates (highly dependent on ability). However, if you want more personal content, please feel free to ask!

Thanks for taking the time to read my first blog. I sincerely apologize for my style of writing… English was never my strong point in school! Can’t wait for the next one!