Have you dreamed of flying an airplane or becoming a pilot?
In fact, it’s been something on my bucket list since the inception of my life to-do-list since I was 15 years old.
But somehow, despite all the outdoor adventure activities I’ve ever challenged myself to try – I had yet to experience flying an airplane until recently.
In Saskatoon, you can literally walk into Millennium Aviation‘s office near the airport and ask if they have immediate availability to get up in an airplane on an introductory flight. That’s how easy it is to book in with them. (Although it is more convenient to book in advance and then you get to have the fun of the anticipation leading up to the flight). And it’s surprisingly cheap – only $75.00 for the two-hour course. But the best part is, you can even bring a friend along with you. Just be sure to ask if you can take the Cherokee as it has seats in the back. The Cessna only has two seats. (The price is the same for both aircraft).
But as soon as I met my instructor, Duncan Starling, I knew I was in good hands. Although he’s an electrical engineer by day, he’s been flying for nearly twenty years, receiving his private pilots license in 1999 and his commercial license in 2015. Just recently, he completed his instructor’s training so he can take people (like me!) up for a taste of what it’s like to get airborne.
We spent half an hour in the classroom in a quick “ground school 101” where Duncan ran me through some flight essentials. We discussed safety and learned the basics of pitch, yaw, and roll. I even practiced on the simulator to make sure I had a handle on how to work the rudder pedals.
From there we headed outside to check over the airplane. Duncan was thorough when showing me what to look for outside and inside the airplane before take off. Nothing feels more badass than sliding the aviation headset into place over your ears and chatting through the radio.
When Millennium Aviation tells you you’re going to fly the airplane, they don’t wait to get you experiencing it first-hand. Before I knew it, we were taxiing to the runway and Duncan was instructing me how to take off. Thankfully, airplanes want to fly. Despite being a little wobbly and veering a little to the left immediately after leaving the ground, the plane – with me as its pilot – was soaring away from the airport.
Upon my earlier request to fly south of the city, Duncan instructed me how to navigate there. I wanted to catch some spectacular views of the South Saskatchewan river winding along the Chief Whitecap Waterway as well as the yellow and green patchwork fields in the middle of Saskatchewan’s growing season.
Getting a hang of learning pitch, yaw, roll and trim in the airplane was a lot to think about at first. I wasn’t used to thinking in so many different planes of rotation and movement. But Duncan was patient with me. He reminding me repeatedly (and good naturedly when I kept forgetting) to look at the horizon, not at the instruments. There’s always a bit of a delay between adjusting the plane’s position and seeing it reflected in numbers and gauges on the instrument panel. The quickest and most natural way to tell is simply by looking out the front window.
We practiced 180 and 360 degree turns which offered beautiful views of the landscape below. We even tried climbing and descending, throttling up or down on engine power depending what we were doing. Occasionally I asked Duncan to take control of the yoke so I could pull out my camera and capture photos. I couldn’t not take advantage of the gorgeous views around Saskatoon.
Introductory flights usually last around half an hour and Duncan even treated me to a “touch and go” landing. This maneuver is common when learning to fly as it allows new pilots more opportunity to practice landings.
Experiencing an introductory flight with Millennium Aviation was truly a dream come true. It’s the perfect way to decide if earning my private pilots license is right for me (it definitely is!). Now all I’m left asking is when I can get airborne again.
Disclaimer: While all the thoughts, opinions and stories in this article are, as always, my own, this blog post was created in partnership with a third party.