Before you get to go flying, your instructor will explain how your aircraft stays up in the air, then review the functions of the primary aircraft instruments. The aircraft instrument panel and cockpit might seem daunting as you first sit in your trainer, but it will soon make sense. Review the flight guides about instruments. Know that each of the many controls, instruments, and gauges are important, but they don’t all have equal weight in your learning process. Some, like the control yoke or stick, are most important and will be used all the time but the nav-com radio (if equipped) won’t be used as often during initial training.
Of course, each instructor presents a little different lesson plan for the first flight. However, all instructors’ goals are approximately the same: to help you begin the transition from ground bound to airborne. They know that you have much to learn and the good instructors will be patient with you—unless you make excuses. Remember: Millions of people have taken their first flight and the survival rate is excellent.
Your first flight will probably be the easiest. Most instructors want to share their love of flying without making you afraid to ever go up again. Your first flight — and every subsequent flight — will start with a preflight inspection to make sure the aircraft is airworthy. Then you’ll learn to start the engine, let it warm up, and taxi to the runway (the instructor will handle communications with the control tower or other aircraft), and take off. In fact, some instructors will have you do the first takeoff! It’s that easy. Of course, the instructor will be inconspicuously poised to take over if there’s any problem.
Your first flight will continue with a climb, turn, and either leaving the traffic pattern or staying in the pattern for a landing made by the instructor. As you continue climbing you’ll notice new sensations and a new respect for pilots. Your instructor’s goal for this first flight is to give you a goal: to do whatever it takes to learn how to fly on your own. That means there won’t be any steep turns, fast descents, or other abrupt maneuvers to shake your confidence. In fact, the most unusual thing you will probably do is turns, banking the aircraft with the ailerons and adding some rudder to make a coordinated turn toward the left or right. Following directions, you might do much of the flying on your first flight!
The traffic pattern is an imaginary rectangular flight pattern around the landing runway at an airport. You will spend much of your training time preparing for and practicing flying the traffic pattern with precision.
To develop your comfort level with flying, I strongly suggest that you try out a flight simulation program or a simulator at your flight school. It will help prepare you for the dozens of new things that will be thrown at your brain during your first flight. If flight simulation isn’t available, get an instrument panel wall poster from one of the pilot shops or manufacturers so you can visualize yourself inside the aircraft. Another option is to ask your flight instructor if you can sit in your trainer aircraft for a half hour and make notes if you promise not to touch anything. You want to be as comfortable as possible with your new environs.
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide