My first real day of flying was on Sunday, October 16, 2011. A typical southern california fall day - sunny and warm (actually, hot!) with temperatures in the 80s. Ahhh. I do love SoCal when it comes to the weather - earthquakes… not so much. But I digress…

The aircraft I’m going to be flying is the Piper Cherokee PA-28-140. It’s one of the workhorses of general aviation training (along with the Cessna 172). Here’s a picture of the aircraft.

Cherokee N4132J

And, here’s a picture of its cockpit.

Cherokee Cockpit

So, I headed over to my training facility, DuBois Aviation in Chino, CA where my instructor was waiting for me. We spent about 20 minutes in “ground school” going over the previous week’s homework, and then it was flight time.

The first step to flying is to complete a pre-flight inspection (often, just called a “preflight”). My instructor had shown it to me earlier and so, had me do this preflight on my own. I will post more details on the preflight in another post, but for now, suffice it to say that I spent the better part of 15 minutes going the aircraft to ensure that it was fit to fly.

Once preflight was completed, my instructor and I hopped into the aircraft. He talked me through the engine start checklist and I started the engines. I was finally getting ready to fly a real aircraft! Yay!

We taxied out of the hangar towards the runway. Of course, in order to get to the runway, we had to do a bunch of things…

  1. First we obtained the weather report for the airfield from the Chino ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service) on frequency 125.85. This provided us with the weather information as well as which runways are in use, NOTAMs, etc. The ATIS is updated every hour and is always suffixed with a phonetic letter (alpha, bravo, charlie, etc.). The counter resets to alpha after 12 hours where there’s no update or when the date changes. In our case, Chino ATIS was on Juliet (the letter “J”).
  2. After that, we tuned the radio to frequency 121.60 to contact Chino Ground Tower. This is the control tower that can provide us with taxi clearance to make it to the runway. The communication to Chino ground sounded something like this. Text in red is what we transmitted and text in blue is what we received. I’ll explain more about the communication and what it means in another post.
    • Chino Ground. Cherokee Four One Three Two Juliet. Waiting at DuBois Aviation. Requesting Taxi Clearance. Runway Two Six Right. With information Juliet.
    • Cherokee Four One Three Two Juliet. Proceed to Runway Two Six Right via Delta.
    • Proceed to Runway Two Six Right via Delta. Cherokee Four One Three Two Juliet.
  3. We then proceeded to the pre-takeoff area at Runway 26R via taxiway D for our pre-takeoff engine run up.
  4. Once the pre-takeoff checklist was completed, we asked Chino Tower for permission to take off. On receiving permission to take off, my instructor asked me to do it! Cool!
  5. Takeoff is pretty simple to do - it’s the landings that are hard! I rolled the aircraft onto the runway, aligned it with the centre line of the runway, advanced the throttle to full power and off we went down the runway. All single engine aircraft exhibit a left turning tendency at high speeds and high angles of attack. So, a little bit of right rudder kept the aircraft nice and lined up with the centre line.
  6. When the airspeed indicator showed about 60 knots, I began to pull the control column towards me and the aircraft started “rotating”. After establishing an airspeed of about 80 knots, I let the climb continue until we reached an altitude of about 1500 feet.

Now that we were airborne, the fun really began.

Unfortunately, I’m out of time now. More on that later…