A first-hand look at a first flight
Appeal Staff Writer
Cory Miller, a flight instructor for the National Pilot Academy, was preparing to take a student on his first lesson Wednesday morning.
That student was me, who along with a photographer, would receive – pardon the pun – a crash course in how to fly an small Cessna aircraft.
With the Lyon County Fly-In scheduled to bring 60 airplanes and 3,000 people to the Silver Springs Airport on Saturday and Sunday, I decided to see what attracted people to flying.
Project Pilot, a new program launched by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, connected us with the National Pilot Academy for my introductory lesson at the Carson City Airport. The program is designed to connect potential students with qualified flight schools nationwide.
Miller said flying has been in his blood for most of his life, and he knew it was his chosen career when he first took the controls at age 17.
“This isn’t really a career I’ve chosen, it’s a lifestyle,” said Miller, 21. “Don’t even want to think about what I would do if I couldn’t fly.”
To begin, Miller checked the outside of the aircraft, making sure the lights worked and there weren’t any major dents or dings along the leading edge of the wings. Miller inspected the flaps for resistance then checked the engine and siphoned off some fuel to make sure there wasn’t water in the tanks.
After adding a quart of oil, we got on board.
Inside, the electronics were checked and the engine primed and started. We taxied down Runway 27, which would allow us to take off to the west, into the wind. Miller increased the engine to 1800 rpm in preparation for takeoff.
“It’s a conscious decision to take off. We don’t just hop in the plane and decide to go,” Miller said.
Because of its size, there is no control tower at the Carson City Airport, so planes communicate among themselves to determine takeoffs and landings. The only airport within 200 miles with a tower is Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Once aloft, we climbed to 5,500 feet, and Miller explained the aircraft was steered using the yoke, a joystick-looking thing in front of you and the rudders, which are steered using foot pedals.
We crested Spooner Summit and began to fly across the lake at 10,000 feet when Miller gave me control. The first thing I noticed was that any movement affects the aircraft. Turn left or right and the aircraft leans that way, which I expected.
But, push forward and the aircraft loses altitude while evoking a rollercoaster feeling. Controlling the aircraft feels like trying to keep a ball balanced on strings as it sways and rolls with slight movements to the yoke.
Miller talked about how to fly using only instruments and how pilots are trained to come within 200 feet of landing without being able to see.
“That’s ‘decision altitude,’ if you can’t see the runway at that point, you aren’t landing,” Miller said.
As we headed back toward Carson, Miller explained why he keeps flying.
“This is my office. This is where I spent the majority of my time,” he said looking out the windshield.
After several loops around Mound House, we aligned ourselves with the runway, and Miller slowed our speed to 80 mph, while extending the flaps so we could land.
Pilots are taught the goal during landing is the same as in flight, just keep it straight and level.
With the ground quickly approaching, Miller looked at two sets of lights near the runway.
“One set of red and one set of white is good. That means we are in the glide path. Two sets of red lights means we are high,” Miller said.
We remained straight until the last second, when Miller pulled back on the yoke and raised the nose seconds before the back wheels touched the ground.
“The takeoff is optional, but the landing is mandatory,” he joked.
With that I had logged my first hour of flight time. To get my private pilot’s license I need a minimum of 40 hours in the air including instrument only flights.
One down, 39 to go.
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.
If you go
What: 12th annual Lyon County Fly-in
When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday with a pancake breakfast
from 7-10 a.m.
Where: Silver Springs
Cost: $5 per car.
For information about learning to fly, go to: