By DebbieH 18 Jan 2021 7 min read

First time in the cockpit? Here’s what to expect

For many aspiring pilots, the first time in the cockpit is often an exciting experience – stepping out on the tarmac, hopping into the cockpit, feeling the unmistakable rumble of the engine, and soaring high in the sky, ready to accomplish what may be your lifelong dream. To become a well-trained pilot, you’ll spend many hours in the cockpit, and that first time means everything.

So, what should you expect on day one in the cockpit?



Pre-flight Checklists

At this point, you should already be familiar with your flight school and flight instructor. The instructor should take time to explain the day’s agenda and answer any questions you may have. The two of you will then walk to your assigned aircraft and do a “pre-flight” – better known as checklists – that you’ll be using for every flight to conduct various inspection tasks.

This step involves inspecting the aircraft by walking around and checking that everything’s fine. Your instructor will demonstrate everything they’re doing. After that, you’ll board the plane and enter the cockpit. You’ll sit on the left-hand side and the instructor on the right. You’ll then put on your headsets to hear what traffic control and your instructor are saying.


TIP: Most flight schools and pilots now use iPads to conduct their regular pre-flight procedures conveniently and more effectively. iPads can be incredibly useful in giving trainees and pilots the information they need at their fingertips.

In fact, preparing your iPad is now considered part of your regular pre-flight, along with checking the plane and yourself. That’s why getting extra iPad accessories like an iPad Cooling Case to prevent overheating has become a necessity for pilots.



Starting the Aircraft and Taxiing

Before you start the aircraft, you’ll go through the pre-starting and starting procedures with your instructor. You’ll also be instructed on the right pre-taxi procedures to follow and how you should manoeuvre the plane on the ground.

You’ll then check the cockpit instruments and gauges and then start up the aircraft’s engine – ready to taxi to the runway.



The Run-Up

Before taking off, you’ll be instructed to take the aircraft to a safe place to do a “run-up.” This is usually the last check you’ll do before taking off to ensure that all the aircraft’s critical systems are operating as expected.

Again, your instructor will use a checklist to verify that everything’s working correctly and to test some systems. Every step is vital, so take your time and be thorough – your life, and that of others, depend on it.




After you’ve gone through all the pre-flight checks, it’s time for take off. Wait until tower control clears you for take-off, and you can now roll the aircraft out onto the runway. With your instructor’s help, you’ll then take off and enjoy the thrilling experience of lifting off the ground as the world around you rushes by. This is an unforgettable moment in flight training, so enjoy it.

As you climb higher, your instructor will take you through the “climb checklist” while also looking out for any air traffic. Once you’re at a safe altitude and far enough from the training airfield, you’ll be instructed on how to do some basic manoeuvres. Expect to be guided throughout the first flight training session, which normally lasts 30-45 minutes.

You’ll learn a lot about turning, climbing, descending, and the relation between power and pitch, then be instructed on how to head back to the airfield. Take-off is perhaps one of the most critical parts of flight training. To become a paid commercial pilot, you have to be perfect in the whole sequence from start to finish.



Landing Checklist

To prepare the aircraft for a safe landing, your instructor will help you go through another checklist, which explains all the necessary steps to take when landing and show you how to do it. You’ll most likely be handling the controls or rather shadowing so you can be familiar with the inputs. Be ready when air traffic control provides landing instructions.

With the go-ahead to land, you can now enter the air traffic pattern and approach the runway to touchdown. Congratulations! You just completed your first training flight.



Post Flight Checks

Well, landing is not the end just yet. You have to safely exit the runway and go through the after-landing checks and the procedure to taxi back to your aircraft parking ramp. Your instructor will also teach you how to safely shut down the aircraft, how to secure it in the designated parking spot, and the post-flight processes.

After that, you’ll head to the dispatch room and go through a ‘debriefing’ that provides more vital information and instructions about your flight. Your overall flight and performance will also be reviewed. Additional materials will be provided for your next lesson. Take this opportunity to ask any questions you may have, and schedule more lessons. The first flight training should take 2-3 hours.



Relish in This Incredible Experience!

Flying a plane for the first time is a thrilling experience. It can be a bit overwhelming, but at the end of it all, from pre-flight to landing, you’ll be happy and proud of yourself. With more lessons and time, you’ll be well on your way to obtaining a pilot’s license and be happy flying. If you’re wondering what your first experience at the cockpit will be, this should answer your question.


Written by Jennifer Bell. Jennifer Bell is an experienced freelance writer specialising in writing informative content for recruiters and job seekers in the aviation industry. She regularly writes for companies like X-naut. Apart from writing, she’s an avid outdoor enthusiast and community volunteer.