When is a flying lesson not a flying lesson?

I decided a few weeks ago that it was time to try another flying lesson. My instructor, Rich, had given me a syllabus during our first lesson, but my first two lessons were really “see if I can even handle being in a plane” sessions. Rich had said that for our next session, we’d cover pre-flighting the aircraft in-depth. So after a six-month hiatus, I sent Rich an email and asked if he was ready to give me the pre-flight lesson. He was!

I met Rich at KPAO on a Monday afternoon, and we set to work on the same plane I flew last time, a very nice Piper Warrior. The plan was to do a thorough pre-flight, and then have a short flight. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the lesson, except to say that it was great to take a really thorough look at the aircraft. This was the first time I had had a chance to spend any time looking under the engine cowl. It’s so clean! When you’re used to all the plumbing and such under the hood of a modern car, it’s refreshing to see something as elemental as an aircraft engine. I was rather amused by the brake master cylinder, which looks like a small turpentine can!

The biggest challenge for me is clearly going to be the use of the walkaround checklist. Rich is teaching me to use it as a “verify” list, checking the wing, for example, then looking at the list and verifying that I got everything. However, somehow, in checking the list for the port wing, I missed the fact that I hadn’t untied it! Fortunately, I noticed it before Rich could point it out to me. Still…

In the end, we used two hours just doing the pre-flight, so we didn’t have time to do any flying. So, does it count as a flying lesson? Well, Rich asked for my log, and wrote down what we had done. The FAA requires that all instruction be logged. So I count that as a flying lesson.

Next time, steep turns and stalls. Fun!

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