Today is my first real lesson and not just an “Intro Flight”. I got a log book and a headset of my very own. What more could a girl ask for? I was so excited and ready for this adventure to take flight.
I was scheduled for a mid-afternoon take-off and it was a hot day for sure but I barely noticed because my enthusiasm was camoflaging anything else that might distract me.
I’m flying the Piper Cherokee and the first thing you do everytime you fly is pre-flight your aircraft. There is a checklist to use so you don’t miss anything important.
It starts inside the cabin, making sure the proper documents are on board. Turn the master switch on and check the instrument panel for anything unusual, extend the flaps and make sure the control yoke is free to move.
Outside starts with the right wing, checking the flaps and feeling the ailerons. I run my hands down the wing feeling the skin and checking for any damage. I love the feel of the airplane under my fingertips; it feels strong and powerful. I continue down to the wingtip and brush the edge gently checking the light at the end of the wing. I move to the front still running my hand along the top of the wing carefully assessing it for any damage or structural issues that might show up unexpectedly.
I check the gas tank for proper fuel level and then I lean under the wing and untie the rope tethering it in place. I check the tire for proper inflation and the shock for any leaking. I sump the gas and check for any water in the tank and make sure the proper fuel is on board. I continue below the wing checking the underbelly for anything loose or damaged. As I come up, again I place my hand on the fuselage this time running my fingers over the cowling and inspecting the body. I open the cover and check the engine, the oil, the spark plugs and wires, looking for anything loose or unusual.
Airplanes in the air are constantly in motion, vibrating and humming as the engine and the propeller pull you through the air while producing thrust. This constant motion makes for regular maintenance and therefore pre-flighting is of utmost importance to verify the integrity of the plane before each flight.
I’m still in awe everytime I look at a plane, the beauty of their aerodynamic shape makes my heart race a little faster. The power in their engines, the breadth of their wings to produce lift and the rudder and tail standing tall make it look like a force to be reckoned with. All of these pieces working together to produce one beautiful thing – Flight!
Where was I? Oh yeah, back to the checklist…I close the right side cowling and bend down to check the front wheel and shock. I come up the side and move to the front to check the propeller and its belt along with the landing light. I move to the left side and open the cowling to check the other side of the engine. I check the break fluid, the back up electric fuel pump, spark plugs and wires and ensure that everything looks tight. I close the cowling and make my way down to the left wing checking the same things on this side of the plane as the other. As I make my way around the full length of the wing, I come back to the fuselage and check the antennas on the top of the plane to make sure none are loose or missing. I make my way down the fuselage to the stabilator and rudder making sure they look intact. As I come back around to the right side of the plane, the outside checklist is complete and it’s time to load up and check the instruments and systems in the plane prior to takeoff.
Every time I touch a plane, it feels like the first time I ever laid eyes on one and felt it against my fingertips. That feeling hasn’t gone away yet and I’m still amazed at how it looks and feels; the way it sounds when you start the engine, the hum and vibration you feel behind the controls is something to behold. The power that is in my hands is truly a remarkable thing. Everytime I taxi, start down the runway pushing the throttle full forward, pulling gently back on the control, pressing the rudder and raising the nose, I get the most amazing sensation because I just put an airplane in the air by myself and that, is an awesome thing!