First Flights

When you first go flying with a new student, you should make certain everything is as perfect as possible. In other words, a new student’s first flight should occur very early in the morning when the temperatures are low and the wind is still. An alternative time almost as good is the other side of the day when the wind has laid at sunset. If you try to fly a student on their first flight during the middle of the day, more than likely conditions will be hot and turbulent, creating a very unpleasant first impression.

It is important on the first few flights with a new student to make sure they are comfortable with the weather, what is going on with the airplane and the flight in general. If the student is comfortable and has a great time, rest assured they will return for more lessons. On the other hand, a student who is hot, perspiring, uncomfortable and develops an upset stomach from all the bouncing in turbulence will probably view general aviation as the unpleasant experience some of their friends may have alluded to be. Throw in high aircraft rental fees, inconvenient scheduling and anything less than total enthusiasm on your part as the instructor, more than likely the student will not return for the next lesson. This is not good for general aviation, the local economy, and most importantly – your bottom line.

Ideally, the first flight should consist of nothing more than an introduction to the airplane and the local flying area. On the first flight, you should fly the student to a nearby airport, maybe 20 minutes away. On takeoff, try to be as smooth as possible. Use a cruise climb so the new student is not alarmed by an extremely nose high attitude on takeoff. On the way to the airport, set the power at about fifty-five percent to help keep the noise level down and use no more than 15 degrees angle-of-bank for turns. These measures will help keep the student comfortable throughout the flight.

After arrival at the distant airport, shut the airplane down and treat the student to a drink of water, a soda, or a cup of coffee. Let him or her unwind a little with the drink and a liberal dose of enthusiastic information about airplanes, the fun of flying airplanes, and the places to which they might enjoy flying.

The stop for coffee or soda allows the student to take stock of what they have just done over the last 20 minutes. They can also come to grips with the idea that they actually flew an airplane, many for the first time in their lives.

During the first 20 or 25 minutes of flying, a new student will probably have many questions they will want to ask. Unfortunately, they are unable to think of those questions while trying to fly and make sense of everything new they are learning. After 20 minutes, the break is a chance for them to gather their thoughts, think about what they have done, and ask important questions. This is where the real learning takes place; when you can sit down with a student and go over the recent maneuvers, they can analyze what they did, what they did not do, and what they should do.

When they are comfortable, it is time to put them back in the airplane and return home. Again, you should do everything very easy on this first lesson. The return flight should mirror the flight out. If their home is nearby, or there are other landmarks they can easily identify from the air, flying over them will give the new student something to talk about with their family and friends. When they talk about how they enjoyed flying with you and how much fun they had learning, they will increase the number of your students. Nothing is better than word of mouth advertising.

This is why the important thing on a first lesson is to deliver a smooth and comfortable flight home.

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©2013 J. Clark

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4 Responses to First Flights

  1. Harrison says:

    Great plan for a first flight, Joe. Creating a little passion for a new student can last a lifetime. The fact that you have a plan puts you far ahead of a lot of instructors. The old saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail. Hope is not a plan,” comes to mind. May the summer thermals be kind to you.

  2. Joe Clark says:

    Great quote, Harrison. Are you actively teaching?

    • Harrison says:

      Fortunately for the flying public I’m not instructing. Teaching is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done, but time is precious these days and as you know flight instructing is labor intensive. Family is my first priotity now and I’ve learned that can be labor intensive too. With four grandchildren and a family business I have plenty to teach, but it’s not as much fun as aviation. Writing is on my list also and I hope to get back to it soon. Break ground and fly into the wind my friend.

      • Joe Clark says:

        I fully understand and appreciate everything in your comment. Same here – we now have five. And I have to hurry up and teach some of those kids how to fly…

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