Maybe you remember my previous topic a couple of months ago, in which I announced that I was about to fly a Cessna. Well, since some of you guys wanted me to write over here who it went, here is my short report:
CityBird Virtual Airlines organized some flights with a Cessna-172 (OO-JMI) and a Piper-28 (OO-JMC) of the Sabena Aeroclub at Grimbergen Airfield, Belgium (EBGB). We were 18 that day. We were divided into 3 x 2 groups (1A,1B,...,3A,3B). So, first, 1A and 1B would fly. One group would get the Cessna, the other one would get the Piper (and one instructor for each aircraft of course). Then, one of each group would first sit in the right seat, and fly. Then, they would land, change places, and take off again. So, in total, each participant would take off and land three times.
Now, to start the day, we first got some information about the airfield and the aircrafts we were about to fly. Next, we got some brief words about the route we would fly and that we were very close to BRU/EBBR, hence special procedures to avoid getting stuck in the stream of departing aircraft.
Next, guest speaker Frans Van Humbeek (quite a famous aviation historic) gave us some more detailed information about EBGB and, after a short visit to the hangars, explained the history of EBBR.
By then however, we had a serious problem: the Piper was still in England, and the pilot was only about to take-off towards Calais by 14h30 or so (he should have been in EBGB by 13h00!!). So, basically all groups would have to fly with the Cessna. And, to make things worse: there was a serious cold front getting closer, and we could expect serious rain showers & thunderstorms by 17h00. So, if you combine this with the fact that each flight would take about 25 minutes (times three this makes 1h15 for every group), things could get tricky for the last groups (I was in group 2B).
So, the first group started, then the other, and so on...
But, fortunately, at 17h30, the weather was still pretty good (only some minor turbulence, but still good visibility and only scattered clouds). So, after a long wait, I was about to fly the Cessna 172.
After I buckled up (as did the other two guys behind me and the instructor), the instructor gave us some info about the aircraft, and then he started the engine. While we taxied towards the (grass!) runway, he did some checks and gave us information about the checks.
Then, it was time to take off. He applied power, and within 20 seconds or so, we were airborne. It was amazing. The feeling was just...awesome. After we reached 500ft, he turned to crosswind leg, and then he said I could take over the yoke. Oh man, I was so nervous. But, once I had control, I was really happy. I could really feel the wind, and had to make small corrections all the time, to keep the aircraft level. Next, he said to turn to downwind leg. And then we just kept on flying, out of the traffic pattern, towards Mechelen, Boom, Breendonk (for you Belgians over here). But, we could already see the severe clouds getting closer, and we saw the grey 'wall' of rain, not too far away. Then, we turned away from the cold front, and continued our flight.
15 minutes later or so, we were back on the ground (nope, I didn't land it). We turned places, so the second one could fly. He basically did the same thing I did, but had to turn away from the cold front, that had already gotten much closer. It already started to rain, and get really dark.
By the time the third one was about to fly, the instructor said it was impossible to do the same route we just did, so he said that he would try to take us more to the west. So, we took off, and after a couple of minutes, the other guy took over the yoke. But, then after a minute or so, we saw a lightning, a little bit later, we just got hit by some serious turbulence (I had never experienced som much turbulence in my life). It only lasted for like a second or so, but the instructor immediately took over the controls, and decided to return to the airfield. Luckily, we were still in the downwind, so it didn't took too long to get us back on the ground.
The instructor parked the Cessna in front of one of the hangars, and we helped him to push the aircraft into the hangar, to protect it from hail and such).
So, the instructor told the third guy to come back next Sunday (as will groups 3A and 3B). We all shook hands, and I returned back home, driving through some rain showers...
To conclude: I can only recommend to all you guys that haven't flown before: TRY IT! YOU'LL LIKE IT!
Ivan (who's now more eager than ever before to get his PPL)
Ivan Coninx - Brussels Aviation Photography