First Flights


love flying and, like many of you reading this, I enjoy sharing it with others. I regularly invite family or friends for a flight. For all but one of these flights, things have gone well. I can’t fully describe how vivid the lesson I learned was for the one flight that went awry.

Picture this: I arrange with a friend to fly her husband, who I’ll call Bob, for his first flight in my Cessna 172. The whole family arrives: friend, her husband, son and daughter, all to absorb the occasion. I plan to take him on one of what I call my “proficiency” flights, with some maneuvering and a few landings and takeoffs at a nearby practice field. It all sounds very fun and we decided to bring his 10-year-old son, who I’ll call Bobby.

I had flown with other first-timers and children and knew to give a thorough passenger brief, filled with enough detail to inform without scaring anyone. So far, so good. Bob was in front next to me and was asking a few questions, and Bobby was in back, jumping in with the occasional comment about how really cool this was.

The visibility from a few thousand feet was amazing and it was easy for Bob to pick out familiar landmarks, although Bobby didn’t have an ideal view as he wasn’t quite tall enough to see everything. The excited chatter continued, though, as we flew out to make a few turns and see if Bob wanted to try his hand at the controls. 

A few gentle turns progressed to a pair of less-than-steep turns in each direction. It was right about then that the intercom got quiet. That should have been an indicator for me, but I have to admit I was focused on flying, watching for traffic and making sure Bob was enjoying the freedom of flight. 

Sounds from the back seat went from animated chatter to silence to a growing rumble of nothing less than dread. I know how airsickness feels, and the need for cool air and no movement. I can only guess that to a youngster who had never experienced such discomfort, the feeling was overwhelming. If I had any doubt up to that point, I was about to get schooled. Within the brief time to get to the airport, enter the pattern and make a full stop, father and child were both overcome. Dad was weak-kneed and son was literally wailing with discomfort.

I learned that even the most basic plans must be adapted to suit everyone involved. A new conveyance, new environment and new adventure are a recipe for a dramatic reaction, hopefully positive, occasionally otherwise. I know that I will again fly with my friend’s husband, probably substituting what we did that day with a typical $100 hamburger. I will not know for a while, unfortunately, whether I will ever see Bobby, the most joyous and enthusiastic first-time flier (and possibly the most miserable passenger) I will ever have, on a flight again.

Learning Experiences

Have you encountered a situation or hazardous condition that yielded lessons on how to better manage the risks involved in flying? Do you have an experience to share with Aviation Safety’s readers about an occasion that taught you something significant about ways to conduct safer flight operations? If so, we want to hear about it.

We encourage you to submit a brief (500 words) write-up of your Learning Experience to Aviation Safety for possible publication. Each month, Aviation Safety publishes a collection of similar experiences sent to us by readers. Sharing with others the benefit of your experience and the lessons you learned can be an invaluable aid to other pilots.

You can send your account directly to the editor by e-mailing it to [email protected]. Put “Learning Experience Submission” in the subject line; add your name and daytime telephone number at the bottom of the e-mail.

Your report will be considered for publication in the Aviation Safety’s readers’ forum, “Learning Experiences,” and may be edited for style and length. Anonymity is guaranteed if you want it. No one but Aviation Safety’s editor is permitted access to the reports. Your name and telephone number are requested only so that the editor can contact you, if necessary.

While we can’t guarantee your submission will get published, we can guarantee that we’ll closely review and consider using it.

All Learning Experience submissions become the property of Aviation Safety and may be republished.


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