Almost every qualified aircraft pilot started their flying career with a trial lesson. It's likely that all of them, from enthusiastic private aviators to captains of commercial airliners remember their first lesson as a day that changed their lives for the better.
Trial lessons are carried out by qualified flying instructors who are authorised in the UK by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or equivalent regulatory body to teach civilians, including complete beginners (sometimes referred to as ab Initio), the necessary skills and related academic subject matter needed to obtain a private pilots licence (PPL).
Benefits of Trial Flying Lessons
- The student is under no obligation to take additional lessons or join the flying club.
- The price of the lesson includes temporary membership to the flying club; the student is therefore covered under equivalent terms and insurances as fully paid club members without incurring any additional expense.
- They offer the student the unforgettable experience of spending a large proportion of their flight controlling the aircraft themselves in complete safety under the close supervision of their instructor.
- The duration of the lesson from brakes-off to brakes-on is usually classified as flight training that is recognised by the CAA (BGA for gliders) and can be logged as such by the student should they wish to continue learning and obtain a private pilot licence or equivalent qualification.
- They are suitable for a one-off special occasion that is both exciting and challenging.
- They make an excellent gift.
- They are the recognised gateway for those who are thinking about learning to fly and becoming a qualified pilot.
What happens during and what to expect from your Trial Flying Lesson
Details of where and when you should arrive for your flight will be outlined when you book your lesson. In most cases you should expect to report to the 'Ops Desk' or clubroom reception of the flying club about half to one hour prior to your flight time. This may vary from one flight organisation to another, for example, if you're taking a Glider Lesson some clubs operate on a basis of first to turn-up at the airfield are the first to fly.
On arrival you will be introduced to your instructor who will carry out a pre-flight briefing. This usually includes what you will be doing and where you will be going during the flight, the aircraft control systems and safety / emergency precautions.
Before you climb aboard your instructor will show you around the aircraft and describe the walk-round checks that are made before each flight. These vary from one type of flying machine to another but will include, on a light aircraft for example, a visual check of fuel quality and levels, condition of tyres, control systems and flying surfaces.
Once you are aboard with your seat belt fastened your instructor will describe and carry out the pre-flight checks and any radio calls needed to get you up and away for your trial lesson.
You can expect to spend much of the lesson controlling the aircraft yourself. For example, on a Glider or Microlight lesson your instructor will demonstrate the basic flight maneuvers such as climbing, descending and banked turns whilst you follow through on the controls, you will then take control of the aircraft and practice these maneuvers for yourself.
If you are taking a Helicopter lesson you will usually spend a fair proportion of the flight practicing the coordination of cyclic, collective and foot pedal controls whilst ascending, descending and hovering.
Don't expect to get everything perfect first time, flying isn't difficult but it does need practice. However, do expect to get a great feeling of achievement from your efforts.
Your instructor will describe the procedures for landing the aircraft for which you will generally be able to follow through with on the controls. Once on the ground and depending on the type of lesson you are taking you may have the opportunity for a little taxiing practice.
Your trial flying lesson will end back in the clubroom where your instructor will carry out a short de-brief and get you signed back in. At this point you will no doubt be wondering if you should carry on and learn how to fly; we hope so, as we have never met a qualified pilot who regrets having made the effort.