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With any luck, I'll soon be going into the air for my first actual flight lesson.

Short of the obvious (get a good night's sleep before; eat appropriately; try to not stress out; etc.), what should one keep in mind in anticipation of such a milestone in one's pilot training?

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    $\begingroup$ Have fun, don't get discouraged if you get motion sick. In the grand scheme of things in your training it's not that big of a deal (like first solo, or first cross country solo), so don't make it one. The first flight is more about getting to know you, the instructor, and the airplane than it is about learning to fly. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Oct 28 '17 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ Don't overthink it ;-) $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Oct 28 '17 at 23:00
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    $\begingroup$ Close voters: I disagree that answers to this question would be opinion based. Any CFI can and should be able to give an objective answer, and I suspect that most of them will be similar to mine. $\endgroup$ – Steve V. Oct 28 '17 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ I wore winter boots to my last flying lesson. My CFI said that was a big mistake since it made it hard to feel the rudder pedals under my feet. $\endgroup$ – Terran Swett Oct 29 '17 at 18:39
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Bring a camera. That's about it.

Unless you're training part 142 (you probably aren't) and were given homework (you probably weren't) your first flight is where you get to see what it's like to be in a small airplane, feel the controls, and get a sense of practices and procedures.

Nobody expects you to be good at anything at this point.

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Instructor responsibilities during the first lesson:

  • Ensure the safety of the flight
  • Introduce you to the airplane and to basic flight operations, including straight and level, basic turns, climbs, and descents.
  • Answer your questions
  • Get your contact information and learn when and how you would like to be contacted.

Student responsibilities during the first lesson:

  • Be a sponge: look, listen, absorb. You're not going to understand everything the first time, but start getting the general feel.
  • Ask good questions. Your instructor will be able to answer them, or if they're not relevant, she'll defer them to a later time when you have more foundational knowledge to build an answer on.
  • Ask stupid questions. You're on day one. How are you supposed to know a good question from a stupid question? If you're afraid to ask the stupid ones you'll miss out on asking the good ones. Your instructor doesn't care about stupid questions. She'll either defer them or respectfully let you know that they're not relevant. If she's an excellent instructor she'll also file away the fact that you asked as a point of possible misunderstanding to touch on later when you have a better base of knowledge.
  • Get your instructor's contact information and learn when and how she would like you to contact her.
  • Take a bunch of pictures. It's your first flight lesson!

Only one of these requires advance preparation. Got a camera? Good. Go have fun.

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    $\begingroup$ "Does this headset make my ears look big?" :-) $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 29 '17 at 21:06
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Forget the aviator sunglasses and leather bomber jacket. However, you might want to dress in layers for the weather. It can be windy and cold on the ramp.

Have writing stuff (like a small or mid-sized notebook and pencil) handy to take notes. But don't stress on the notes, rather try to absorb what you can from your instructor.

You may wish to eat light prior to the flight, as that my minimize the likelihood of any motion sickness, which many initial primary students may experience from time to time.

Be ready to absorb material, and understand that at the first lesson you don't have to remember everything in detail.

Here's some of the stuff I cover on the first flight:

  • aircraft documents, POH, checklist locations
  • Doors, latches, compartments and pockets
  • seat belts, windows and airvents
  • overview on controls and control surfaces
  • overview on electrical, vacuum and pitot/static systems and instruments
  • preflight and checking engine oil, belts, etc.
  • starting engine (instructor runs controls for this flight)
  • radio communications (usually done by instructor for this flight)
  • taxi aircraft, started by instructor, then done by student
  • takeoff demo with student following through on controls
  • trim and control forces
  • climb (done by student)
  • cruise power settings (demo first, then student does)
  • turns (demo first, then done by student)
  • some configuration changes, like flap extension (optional)
  • return to airport (instructor doing most or all of communications)
  • approach and landing (instructor takes over at some point)
  • checklist usage
  • postlanding taxi by student to ramp, instructor assisting
  • postflight procedures, and securing aircraft
  • debriefing
  • identifying study materials, laying out the next couple of lessons, etc.

Expect that you will be operating the flight controls 50 to 90 percent of the time.

I book primary initial flights for 2 hours, and later flights for 90 minutes. Times differ depending upon school, FBO, private or club aircraft, and servicing details.

You are essentially hiring a tutor, and if you think the chemistry isn't right, you can always switch to a different instructor. Instructors have different styles and some flex their styles to their students needs better than others. So if the chemistry doesn't seem right, just go with it for a flight or two, and see how it works out.

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