Get the most from your intro flight!

by | Intro to Flight School

how-to-become-a-pilotLearn everything you need to know about intro and discovery flights, whether you’ve been dreaming about learning to fly since you were a child or only recently thought about getting your license. An intro flight gives you the opportunity to find out what it’s like to fly an airplane. To get the most from your intro flight you’ll need to know what to expect and how to tailor it for you.

At its simplest an intro flight, sometimes called a discovery flight, is a short flight in a training aircraft designed to give prospective students an affordable way to find out if learning to fly is for them. While it is effectively a condensed flying lesson, the real goal of a well-designed intro flight is simply to share the joy and wonder of flying. Hopefully after you land, your dreams of learning to fly will be stronger than ever! 

Before you schedule your intro flight

This will probably be your first time in a small airplane and your first tine at the controls of an airplane. What do you need to know to get the most from your intro flight?

When it comes to choosing a school look for the one closest to your home. If your nearest airport has multiple flight schools (lucky you!) then choose the one with the nicest facilities and the newest best maintained aircraft.

Many schools have a standard intro flight route they offer customers that gives them some control of the length of the flight. But most flight schools are flexible. If there is something specific you want to do during your intro flight, such as flying over your house or a local landmark, let the school know so they can tailor the flight to your needs.

Preparing for your intro flight

At this point there is no more you need to do until you show up at the airport. But you want to get the most from your intro flight, right? The world of aviation and flying is one that most people are not familiar with. If your pilot is like most, they will happily share their knowledge with you. But flight schools are busy, especially at weekends, and you may not have as much time to go into detail as you’d like. Instead, you might want to learn some basics before you go, so you can ask more detailed questions during your intro flight. There is a lot of information to read and videos to watch available online. Here are things you might want to think about and read up on:

 Armed with the right information, you’ll not be able to get the most from your intro flight!

Making sure you’re ready on the day

When the day finally arrives you’ll want to make sure you get the most from your intro flight. The first thing to do is to make some coffee and call the school to check the weather. It may look like a perfect day where you’re having breakfast, but your pilot will also want to make sure you have a good experience during your flight.

If the weather is cloudy, you won’t be able to enjoy the experience of flying and seeing the sights below. The school will also know if it’s windy at the airport, which may make the flight uncomfortable for a new pilot, or what the forecasts are saying about the weather and if will change by the time of your flight. If the weather isn’t suitable, your flight will be rescheduled.

Small general aviation airports can be hard to find if you aren’t used to them. Leave extra time for your trip so you have time to find the airport as well the school. Airports by their nature are large, flat expanses of land separated by a runway. Many airports have buildings and offices on both sides of the runway and driving around the perimeter of an airport to get from one side to another can take time if you’re not prepared. 

Flight schools make money by keeping their airplanes flying. They have to fit tight schedules of both the instructor pilots and the aircraft, so if you’re late you may need to reschedule your flight for another day. Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to get comfortable and relax, so you can enjoy and get the most from your intro flight. If you think you’re going to be late, call the school so they can reschedule your flight for another time.

Getting the most from your intro flight

While the flight school offering your intro flight may have a template they follow, everyone’s expectations are different. To get the most from your intro flight you’ll want to tell your pilot what you hope to get. 

Some people are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience flying a small plane to celebrate a birthday or other milestone. Others may be thinking about becoming a pilot as a career and are taking an intro flight as the first step towards earning their pilot license. Some people want to get a different perspective and see their neighborhood from the air and take photos.

A few flight schools differentiate these flights and offer scenic and sunset flights for passengers who want to see where they live from above. Your pilot won’t know what you’re looking for unless you tell them. If you already have something in mind, let your pilot when you meet so you can plan an experience that works best for you.

Be alert and relaxed to get the most from your intro flight

As you walk into the flight school you’ll probably see other students and pilots planning flights and chatting about the weather. The atmosphere will be casual and friendly. Depending on the size of the school, you’ll be greeted by your instructor or a dispatcher who releases the aircraft and takes care of the paperwork.

Pilots love talking about flying and airports are tight-knit communities of aviators. Don’t be shy about striking up a conversation with an instructor or a student who will love to share their passion for flying with someone new!

What to expect during your briefing

The FAA requires a briefing before every flight no matter how familiar the passengers and crew are with flying. Now you know why flight attendants deliver a safety briefing pointing out the emergency exits and how to put on a lifejacket as the airliner taxis for takeoff.

Your pilot will also begin your intro flight with a briefing. You’ll be shown how to open and latch the doors, how to get in and out of the airplane, and how to fasten the seat belt. You’ll also be told to stay away from propellers and look out for any aircraft with a flashing beacon, which may indicate it is about to start up. You’ll also be shown the how the controls work. 

Your briefing may take place at a desk or next to the plane. Depending on your school, you may also learn about the local airport, the aircraft traffic pattern, and how airplanes fly. If that’s not what you’re looking for, be sure to tell your pilot. Also, tell them if there is something you want to to learn more about so you get the most from your intro flight. Your pilot is passionate about flying and wants to make sure you enjoy it.

You will be flying a small airplane

Intro fights are typically flown in a small single-engined training aircraft. Most flight schools use Cessna 172s or Piper Warriors, both proven designs that are safe, reliable and affordable. Most typical training aircraft have four-cylinder engines that produce about 180hp and cruise at about 150 mph.

Some airplanes have high wings, above the fuselage, while others have low wings, with the fuselage on top. Like all student pilots, you’ll be sitting in the left hand seat, traditionally the “captain’s seat” while the instructor takes the right hand seat. If you’re flying a low wing airplane, you’ll have to climb onto the right wing, and slide through the door into the left seat. Don’t worry, both seats have a full set of flight controls, and the entire flight can be flown from either seat.

Don’t be surprised if your instructor props the door open while you’re taxing to the runway. This is normal since many small airplanes don’t typically have windows that can be opened, and your instructor will close and latch it before you take off!

Wearing a headset will help you get the most from your intro flight

Small aircraft can be noisy, without a lot of the heavy sound deadening material we have grown used to in cars. In order to communicate, pilots wear headsets. A lot of technology goes into modern headset designs to make sure they are comfortable, while allowing you to talk clearly without raising your voices.

While wearing the headset you will be able to communicate with your instructor and anyone else in the plane. Nearby aircraft and air traffic controllers won’t be able to eavesdrop on your conversation. When its time to talk to other aircraft and controllers, your instructor will press a button (called the push-to-talk switch) to transmit over the radio.

How to take the controls to get the most from your intro flight

After you take off and climb to altitude, the first thing you will notice is that the temperature is cooler! Once you’re established in straight and level flight your instructor will probably offer you the controls. If you decide to take the controls, they will coach you through some turns, climbs and descents while you fly the airplane.

Like many people trying something for the first time, you might be tempted to grip the yoke tightly. To get the most from your intro flight, try to relax and listen to your instructor as they talk you through the maneuvers.

Airplanes are naturally stable, so if you find the the airplane wanting to fly all over the place after you take over, try to relax your grip or let go, so the airplane can find it’s natural equilibrium again. Remember, if your instructor needs to take over, they have a full set of controls in front of them. But they’ve also seen this before. Notice how they’re sitting in the seat, alert and relaxed, and take a cue from them for the best results.

Be prepared for a few small bumps

Instructors know that bumps bother people flying small planes for the first time. They will make every effort to avoid bumpy weather, especially for intro flights. After all, no one enjoys being bounced around in a light plane.While flight schools try hard to make sure that the weather will be calm for your intro flight, the weather is not always predictable. You may experience a few small bumps, especially during takeoff and landing. (This is because the sun is heating the ground making the air rise; as you get above about two thousand feet the air will usually smooth out.)

It may not be enjoyable at first, but your instructor won’t take you up unless it’s safe. If you’re feeling nauseous and uncomfortable let your pilot know. They will head straight home and get you on the ground as soon as possible. You’ll begin to feel better as soon as you touch down and start taxiing back towards the parking area.

You’ll learn what it takes to become a pilot

Pilots routinely do something only a small percentage of people get to do: being in the air looking at the world from above. Because of this, pilots get to experience amazing sunsets, fluffy clouds, and other joys they love to share with others. Your instructor will probably tell you what you can expect if you decide to become a pilot yourself. This is not meant to be a sales pitch, and your pilot is not paid on commission, although they will be thrilled if you decide to become a pilot yourself after flying with them.

Don’t be shy about asking to see the local area

While you’re flying is the time to get the most from your intro flight. If you want to see your house or a local landmark from the air, let you pilot know. They’ll let you know if it’s within range an if there are any local airspace restrictions. Assuming everything is clear, you’ll get to see something you know well from the ground from a completely different perspective.

How long should I plan for my intro flight?

A typical intro flight lasts about 1.5–2 hours. You’ll spend about 15–20 minutes completing the initial briefing after which you’ll take off. The flight itself will be about 30–45 minutes long after which you’ll land and spend some time taking photos in front of the plane. Be sure to allow some time to ask your instructor any additional questions or for a brief chat after the flight is over. Depending on the school, your instructor may also want to present you with a “First Flight” certificate and complete an entry and sign your logbook.

What now that my intro flight is complete?

You’ll be surprised at how quickly time passes. With so many new experiences and sensations you will feel exhausted from all the effort and concentration you put in. Learning to fly, like many activities, is easier to learn when younger. If you’re thinking about getting your pilot certificate, don’t be put off is you struggled. You have plenty of time to master the skills. Start by choosing a flight school and scheduling your first formal flying lesson.

Don’t put off your dream of learning to fly any longer. Click the button below and start your journey to become a pilot with FlightRepublic today.