Flight Instruction – What to Expect

When you come for your first lesson, or a demo flight it is important to have an idea of what to expect.  Of course that depends a lot on which aircraft you are wanting to fly in and what the weather conditions are.  In either case, it is important to wear comfortable clothes that are flexible, especially if flying in the Challenger.  Climbing in and out of the Challenger for the first time can be a bit awkward, but becomes easy with a little practice.   Shoes should be soft and flexible such as tennis shoes or something similar.  Shoes with heels do not work well in airplanes.  You should dress according to the temperature and which aircraft you will be flying.  Below is some helpful hints for both new pilots and transitioning pilots.  If some of it is confusing to you, don’t worry, we will explain it all when you are here.  Everyone’s frame of reference is different based on their experience.

Quicksilver Sport 2SE:

Sport 2 SE purpleFlying in the Quicksilver is real blast!  Because it is completely open, it is a unique experience from any other aircraft.  One really nice thing about the Quicksilver is that it is extremely easy to get in, or rather get on, just sit down and buckle up.  The Quicksilver flies about 45 mph so you will be in a 45 mph wind from the time we take off till we land.  It is important to dress accordingly.  Ladies, if you have long hair you may want to consider a way to manage it.  The wind combined with cooler temperatures aloft will probably make you colder than you anticipate.  If it is 80 degrees or more on the ground you will probably be comfortable in about anything.  If it is between 70 and 80 degrees, a light jacket or sweatshirt would be appropriate.  Between 60 and 70 you may want a sweatshirt and a light jacket or a medium weight jacket.   Between 50 and 60 you will want to bundle up pretty good and wear a pair of gloves.   Between 40 and 50 degrees it’s time to put on a snow mobile suit or insulated motorcycle outfit that has elastic to seal up at your ankles, good insulated gloves, and a ski mask of some sort for your face, or a helmet with a visor.  It’s amazing how cold it feels below 50 degrees in a Quicksilver.  If dressing properly you can fly it even much colder than 40 degrees, but it takes some quality gear.  Once the temps don’t consistently get above 40, we put the Quicksilver away for the winter.    Eyewear is also important for flying the Quicksilver.  The wind will make your eyes water and make it hard to see and unpleasant.  Some sunglasses work well, while others make the air swirl around into your eyes.  It’s hard to tell which ones work and which ones don’t until you try them.  A sure solution is to wear goggles.  We have goggles here if you would like to use a pair of ours.   When scheduling a flight, keep in mind that our aircraft are light weight and will be affected more by wind and thermals than heavier aircraft.  The best time to fly is in the morning or evening when thermals are not active and winds are generally calmer.  In the summertime evenings can be hit and miss due to thunderstorms, so mornings are preferable for your first flight with evenings being the second choice.  It would be best to avoid the middle of the day when thermals are active at first.  Later in your training you will get a chance to fly in bumpy weather, and it can be a lot of fun, but it might make you nervous on your first experience.   As you take the controls of the Quicksilver you will find that it is probably the easiest aircraft to fly that has ever been built.  It is very stable and predictable and flies effortlessly.  Takeoff and landing is also very easy.  If you are a GA pilot, you will be amazed at how fast the Quicksilver jumps off the runway and how steep it climbs.  You will also find it is very different because it does not have a lot of inertia.  It has a lot of drag and very little weight so the air speed changes quickly.   When landing, you will either carry some power all the way down to the runway, or make a very steep approach if power off.  Once down to the runway, when power is pulled off, the transition and flare happen very quickly compared to GA aircraft. And until you get used to it you will probably feel like you landed gear up because you sit so close to the runway!  But it won’t take you long to get used to it and you will forget all about spam cans!  This is flying the way flying was meant to be.  Low and slow and feeling the breeze.

Challenger 2 CWS:

Challenger in snow with sunThe hardest part about flying the Challenger is getting in!  Your first time climbing into the Challenger will be a bit awkward, but soon you will be like Bo and Luke getting into the General Lee.  (perhaps I am dating myself there…)  With the Challenger we have a weight limit of 250 lbs.  While it would probably fly fine with more weight, I have found that generally at that point we have dimensional limitations anyway.  The Challenger has a wrap around windshield and in warmer weather the doors will be off.  There really is very little wind in the front seat even with the doors off.  Above 70 degrees you will probably be fine in a t-shirt.  Between 60 and 70 degrees on the ground you may want a sweatshirt or light jacket.  Between 50 and 60 a medium weight jacket.  Below 50 we will most likely have doors on, so simply dress how you would if you were standing outside for while.   Currently we do not have a heater installed on the Challenger.  If you are a beginner you will probably find the Challenger a little tricky to fly, but it gets easy with some practice.  The Challenger flies a good bit faster than the Quicksilver with a stall speed of 40 mph and a typical cruise speed of 70-75 mph.  The Challenger is very sensitive on the controls and very maneuverable.  There are several characteristics that GA pilots will find unique about the Challenger. The Challenger is a rudder dominant airplane.  You can turn the airplane with the rudder alone, but not very well with ailerons alone.  To make coordinated turns you will need just the right amount of both.  Anytime the ailerons are deflected, the rudder must be deflected proportionally also.  Once in a turn, both rudder and ailerons will be approximately centered until you roll back out again.  It takes a little practice, but once you get it, it will be automatic.  If you are just starting out, you will not have a past experience to compare with.  If you are a GA pilot, you will probably find it to be a lot different from what you are used to.  Pilots with a lot of tail wheel time usually take to it pretty quickly.  Spam can drivers will generally need a little more time to get the hang of it.    Another unique characteristic of the Challenger is that it is a pusher aircraft with a high thrust line.  This means that adding power will pitch the nose down and vice versa.  Probably the most noticeable point is at takeoff when it requires full up elevator to get the nose off the ground and will continue to need considerable stick pressure for the duration of the climb to altitude.  Once in a cruise configuration it can be trimmed for hands off flying.  When power is reduced from a trimmed out cruise configuration the nose will pitch up some.  If trim is not adjusted it will be necessary to hold down elevator to keep adequately above stall speed.  Because of this many pilots who have little or no Challenger experience will often get to slow when flying the pattern to land.  Combined with a tendency to allow the aircraft to get uncoordinated from inexperience in rudder flying this can lead to a stall spin disaster.  This is one of the key reasons it is highly recommended to have transition training.  Another characteristic that a new Challenger pilot may not expect is the need for a lot of right rudder at full power, most notably when taking off.  It is common for a new Challenger pilot to turn hard to the left when rotating off the runway for the first time.  Once a stable climb is established it will still be necessary to hold right rudder until power is reduced for cruise.  In cruise it will be noticeable that it takes more rudder to right than it does left.  This is normal for the Challenger and once you get used to it you will forget all about it.  While this is not an exhaustive handbook on flying the Challenger it will give you a rough idea of what to expect.  The Challenger is not difficult to fly it is just different, and actually quite fun!  Some of the characteristics that some folks might consider negative actually have a very positive factor.  For example, while it takes a little while to get used to rudder flying, having such a rudder dominant aircraft allows it to to an amazing slip to get into tight spots as well as handling and amazing 30 mph crosswind!