I can’t forget that morning, nor can I forget those words I said – “Control Tower – Golf Bravo Charlie Uniform Hotel ready for take-off.”
And there I was in my Cessna 152 on the runway ready for ATC to give me clearance to take off and fly away into the infinity.
Time for a recap before the main journey to how it began – The year 1986 saw an American action drama “Top Gun” which was screenplayed from an article three years earlier under the same name. The film starred Tom Cruise along with others and not going in much detail about the movie, the only important part of this introduction is Tom Cruise, the guy who brought in fashion with Aviators sun shades for the new generation, new heroes and the young boys. A trend was to fly and fly wearing Aviators, and guess what I was born in the same year but I watched this movie in the mid-’90s and since then I wanted to become a pilot, and many many years later that dream came true wherein I got the opportunity to taste what sky feels like, seated inside the cockpit, wearing my Aviators communicating on my radio to the ATC to give me clearance to take off.
Stars Fly – ELSTREE FLYING CLUB
Stars Fly Flying School is located at the historical Elstree Airfield, near North London. This was the flying school I chose to learn to fly, and this was one of my first trial lessons to understand the fundamentals about flying and on completing it then move on to the complete the rest flying hours and examination to obtain the PPL license.
About the Aircraft – Cessna 152
I was seated inside the cockpit of a Cessna 152 an American two-seater, fixed tricycle gear, general aviation airplane, used primarily for flight training and personal use. It was based on the earlier Cessna 150, including several minor design changes and a slightly more powerful engine running on 100LL aviation gasoline.
The Cessna 152 is in regular use for flight training.
This affordable, durable craft rolled off the factory lines in 1977 has seen constant use since. That’s forty-one years of flight-testing experience and their ability to endure the rigorous conditions pilots train for every day. In 1985 the Wichita, Kansas Cessna factory ceased production of the 152, but in that time had produced almost 8,000 individual planes.
Cessna has almost 100 years of history, filled with amazing highs and lows, from the very first flight to going under following the Great Depression. The company went through the wringer that was the 20th century.
The Cessna brand of aircraft takes its name from Clyde Cessna, a Kansas farmer who in 1911 built and flew his aircraft. Shortly thereafter he started making more aircraft with wood and fabric, testing the flights out in Oklahoma. They got off to a real start in 1927, and following a couple of closed years due to the Great Depression have been commercially producing planes ever since.
After 50 years in 1977, they created one of the best, most durable planes any cadet has had the good fortune to pilot: The Cessna 152.
1. Crew – One Pilot
2. Capacity – One Passenger
3. Length – 24 ft 1 in, or 7.3m
4. Wingspan – 33 ft 4 in, or 10.2m
5. Height – 8 ft 6 in, or 2.6m
6. Wing Area – 160ft² or 14.9 m²
7. Empty Weight – 1,081 lbs, or 490 kg
8. Maximum Takeoff Weight – 1,670 lbs, or 757 kg
9. Powerplan – 1 Lycoming O-235-L2C flat-4 engine, 110 hp, driving a 69-inch (175 cm) or 72-inch two-blade, fixed-pitch propeller.
1. Max Speed – 126 mph, or 110 knots, 204 km/h
2. Cruising Speed – 123 mph, or 107 knots, 198 km/h
3. Stall speed – 49 mph, or 43 knots, 79 km/h
4. Takeoff Roll – 725 ft, or 221m
5. Range – 477 mi, or 768 km
6. Extended Range (with long-range tanks) – 795 mi, or 1,280 km
7. Rate of Climb – 715 ft/min, or 3.6 m/s
Time to Roll – Let’s put our stylish Aviators and Begin
There are always rules when it comes to driving, riding, and flying, we need to do our groundwork and this being my first lesson, learning the basics was most important. You know guys even while writing this I can reimagine the whole scene of my first day, it is so fresh even now.
the basic step was to Walk Around the plane and check around if there are any possibility of trouble spots or anything obvious like a popped rivet or a tear in the wing casing or flat tires or a nick in the propeller which might be a cause for grounding the Cessna 152.
Next was to crawl up on the wheel mount and unscrew the cap on top of each wing – that’s where the fuel goes in. Full is good, empty is bad, they said and when I checked it it was kept full. Then we had to undo the tether connecting the plane, and there it was all ready to be taken where ever we wished.
And now it was time to be seated in the cockpit and below images show how the cockpit and the control panel looks like. Remember this was my first lesson so I was not alone, I had my trainer David Benfold along with me who was guiding me all along. David asked me to do the Seat Belt and Harness and gave me the complete details about the control panel, and after explaining handed me the keys to start the engine. And boy it ain’t any bike or car keys it was an airplane key wow, I had butterflies in my stomach, but I had to be calm and control my excitement and I took the keys as told put the ignition on. David asked me to flip the two red switches labeled Mags into the up position. then I had to pump the primer a few times, primer is basically in the center of the dashboard looked like a thing we used to launch the ball on an old pinball machine.
And now I was breathing bit heavy as David said time to crank the engine to start position, and there the engine was purring and I was all set to go, and then we maneuvered and slowly we started moving outside the plane’s parking position towards the Runway.
Time to Fly
While moving towards the runway David asked me to communicate to the Control Tower to ask clearance to take off, and that’s when I switched my communications on and started
“Golf Bravo Charlie Uniform Hotel to Control Tower”
“Control Tower – Go Ahead”
“Golf Bravo Charlie Uniform Hotel is ready to take off.”
“Control Tower – Golf Bravo Charlie Uniform Hotel you are cleared to take off from Runway No 1.”
I don’t think I would ever be able to forget this moment in my life.
And there it was the runway in front of my eyes and sky ready to open its doors for me.
Little more info to flying is that now David had asked me to steer the plane with rudder controls, and accelerate the plane by pulling out the throttle knob smoothly, he said that we need to reach to 55 knots steady, and now the plane started taking speed slowly and once we reached 55 knots David asked me to pull back the control and just look at the infinity beyond you and keep climbing and there I was just staring at the clear blue skies and slowly leaving the earth and breaking ties with it. And do you know what guys this was my first ever take off into the sky as a Pilot? And then we kept climbing up to 1,000 feet and flying smoothly, after few mins David asked me to take the plane up to 3000 feet. I could see the other planes flying and could even see the bigger aircraft flying over me and be able to see their tales.
We were flying around at 5000 feet on 90 knots at a smooth comfort and all I could see the beautiful world around me. And this was like the best feeling ever. I felt like flying forever and I wished that I never had to turn back or land down again to earth.
Sad part – Landing Back
How much ever we never want something to end, it does and in the same manner, my 30mins of flying were about to get over. During such moments I feel time runs so fast, but I had understood this is just the beginning, I had tasted life, and now its gonna be flying forever.
So now we were done with our flying circuit which meant we were flying in circles above the Elstree Airfield. Now David asked me to a Downwind check which is nothing but a basic inflight safety roll call that pilots need to do.
“Master on, mags on both, carb heat hot, mixture rich, primer down and locked, engine, oil temp and pressure good.”
David asked me to contact the Control Tower once again and this time it was to request permission to land.
In the same manner, I contacted the Control Tower:
“Golf Bravo Charlie Uniform Hotel to Control Tower”
“Control Tower – Go Ahead”
“Golf Bravo Charlie Uniform Hotel is requesting to land at Elstree Airstrip.”
“Control Tower – Golf Bravo Charlie Uniform Hotel you are cleared to land from Runway No 2.”
Now slowly we were bringing the plane to a lower altitude and at around 500 feet we were gliding, the engines were turned off, now we were slowly pushing the control for a slow descent at about 100 feet we gave a little throttle again, and now it was David who had asked me to just look and learn how to land, as during the very first lesson they don’t allow the pilot to land on himself, as it can be scary and there is a higher possibility of a plane crash, so what I could see and learn is he pulled the controls a little so that the rear wheels could land on the runway before the front wheels. once we were down David quickly close the throttle and started to apply the brakes gently and the plane came into a halt.
The love for flying
There it was my first encounter with Flying and since then I have never looked back, and hopefully, soon I would write one more article when I would get my PPL Licence in hand.
Contact for Flying Lessons:
Stars Fly Flying School
Elstree Aerodrome, Hogg Ln, Elstree, Radlett, Borehamwood WD6 3AW, United Kingdom