Lessons from Flying

I couldn’t help but compared what it was like to fly the aircraft to other situations in life – situations where you are pushed to the deep end, situations where you really do need to pilot yourself across whatever it is you are up against. I was going to write an entry about the similarities between flying and entrepreneurship but feel that this is the case in other areas of life.

Just do it.
The night after I saw the TV ad about their flying lessons, I decided to go ahead and do it. Why not? It’s been in my head for a while. My first lesson was booked in about a week later! The only other thing that I had to think about is making sure that it was set in a date where I am free for the day.

If you feel that it should be done, go for it. Look at the risks/rewards and make the decision. Don’t dwell too much otherwise it may never happen.

Find out the conditions and decide if you know that you have the capability to go ahead
It was windy and slightly grey and the instructor warned that there is going to be a lot of turbulence and the ride is going to be bumpy. I definitely didn’t mind – I actually loved the idea that my first flight was going to be more challenging compared to flying on a clear, sunny day! However, others may not be comfortable in going ahead and just reschedule their lesson and that is not a bad thing.

Find out what the conditions are that could affect the outcome of your decision. However, also understand what you are capable of and/or what your comfort level is. This is entirely a personal decision based on what you know about yourself.

Be prepared, ask questions, be armed with the right knowledge before taking flight

No one is going to fly without knowing where to break, how to accelerate properly, how to change the plane’s direction and so on. The same goes with new challenges – starting a new job, a new degree, moving house. Before taking flight in these new situations, be armed with the right knowledge so that you are well equipped to react and to control the situation.

As the flight instructor told me about throttles (difference in power during take-off and during flight), which controls should be used to maneuver the aircraft in the air and which should be used on the runway, and more.  During take-off, you would want to make sure that you are using the accelerator pedals rather than the breaks. During landing, you want to use the right controls so that you can actually steer the aircraft.

This is the same in other situations – use the right controls, use the right pedals. Be prepared, ask lots of questions before taking flight.

Inspect yourself, know your direct resources.
I’m not talking about inspecting sun spots to make sure that they are not cancerous (although you should do this anyway) but rather make sure that your carrier (aircaft/you) are ready to fly. After the briefing, we circled the Piper P38 Tomahawk inspecting the fuel, the antennas, engine, ailerons, and more.

Inside, we went through a checklist to ensure that everything is working properly.  Once everything was A-OK, we throttled out towards the runway. Another aircraft was landing but it went on the grass airstrip and was not in the way so we went ahead to prepare ourselves for takeoff.

Don’t be too caught up in the moment.
I was too preoccupied in making sure that I know how to actually fly an aircraft and it wasn’t until I felt the full force of the engine when we hit full throttle or realising the full speed of the did I realise “This is it, we’re going to fly in a few seconds!”.

What are the moments in your life, before heading 100% into a certain situation, did you feel those moments of ‘being in the know’ or moment of realising exactly what it is your doing? There really isn’t a lot of opportunity to go anywhere else – you are either 100% in or 100% out.

Don’t be too caught up in the moment though as you are seconds away from taking action.

Find out what else is in your airspace
There were two main things that we had to avoid – other aircraft and clouds. There was a helicopter in the airspace (and I also saw another plane taking off about 20 minutes before) but it was at another altitude to ours. It was a cloudly day, no it wasn’t the cute fluffy kind either, and we made the effort to avoid as much of it as we can particularly for a first-timer. Also, though the flight instructor and I had headphones on to listen to any broadcasts and I could listen in on the transmission the instructor was the one who relayed the actual meaning of the information to me.

Control the aircraft. Don’t let it control you.
I suppose I should let you in on why I was keen on the fact that it wasn’t my lesson didn’t happen in a picture-perfect baby blue sky. It reflected the kind of ‘weather’ that I was in. I have just graduated from uni, and I guess like many other recent graduates, it signalled big changes into my life. It wasn’t just graduating either but numerous other things – from moving houses (which meant splitting up with my two housemates who I have been living with for 3 years) to finally having more freedom into what I can do now that there is a big time and energy gap. I also have this mentality that the more challenging and new situations I put myself in, the better that I will be when I come out of it.

Back to the actual lesson itself. No amount of words could describe the feeling of actually flying the plane for the first time but there is one thing for sure, it was a great exercise for me when it comes to concentration and focus. The instructor was guiding me, in words, on where to go and what to try out. I had to bank in various directions, ensure that my vision of the horizon line is correct (and if it dips lower or higher than it should be, I had to pitch it lower or higher to the correct level) and so on. I had to use the right amount of force. Too light and the aircraft won’t respond, too heavy and the roll is going to be too wide (and if it’s too wide, there’s that feeling of falling down the sky because we’re tilting 40 degrees or something). The same thing for the roll as well. The turbulence made things a lot more interesting and challenging as well. The phrase which still rings with me via the instructor was “Control the aircraft – don’t let it control you” and it was absolutely true. It is true then and now.

Know your bearings when all is done.
We were flying around the south to south-west of Toowoomba (interstate readers that’s in SE Queensland and Toowoomba is 1.5 hrs drive from Brisbane). Most of the time I was concentrating but occasionally I did look out to really take in the view and just be in the moment of being up in the air. I see similarities to life as well – take the time to pull in the view and relish the feeling. Then go back to whatever task is at hand. Find that balance – don’t concentrate and you may soon find that horizon line below that it should be, concentrate too much and you may soon realise that you didn’t spend as much time as you wanted taking in The View and The Moment.

One thought on “Lessons from Flying”

  1. Congratulations Hannah and welcome to the club / addiction.

    Just a little further to your first solo and you will have achieved what many, many people would love to do but never attempt.

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