A few years ago, a friend asked me if I would consider taking her daughter for a flight on her 9th birthday. They have a tradition that every year, part of her birthday present is a new experience,ranging from a visit to an Elephant sanctuary to a ride in the Monte Casino Balloon.
I agreed, and started planning the flight. I was not at all sure how she would cope with the flight, and planned a route that kept us close to the airport to begin, and then routed south to include Soccer City and the Vaal dam, if she was comfortable.
On the day, I started out with a visibly nervous mom, and daughter – I did my usual passenger briefing, and we loaded up – only to find that she could not see out of the back windows ! A quick replan, a borrowed car booster seat, and a discussion with her parents resulted in Mom sitting in the back, and the birthday girl sitting in the right hand seat. After a second briefing, which included some effects of controls, and a very thorough discussion on who has control – we set off. The flight was a huge successes, and the absolute highlight was the period that she had control (very closely supervised, at altitude). She absolutely loved the experience, and having taken control did wonders for her confidence.
I now do air experience flights – always with the child in the front seat, and a parent in the back seat, becasue this flight is about the kids ! We start with a safety briefing – how to behave at an airfield – and then do the preflight inspection, where we explain the control surfaces and the engine and propeller workings. We then do a passenger briefing, including the route, what we expect to see, transfer of control, and normal and emergency procedures, and then get everyone settled in the plane.
The flights last about 45 minutes, and always include a period with the child in control – I hope to provide them with an experience they would not otherwise have had, and maybe to help create a few more pilots in the future – because, lets face it – we could always use a few more pilots !!!