Flight of fancy

“You have control”. Excuse me what? I am sat behind a throbbing engine at 1,500 feet just coming up to Pembroke... No I do not have control... Actually, wait a minute... I am in control. I am flying a plane which is in straight and level flight.
Those were the first thoughts that went through my head as Diamond Flight Training Chief Flight Instructor Jeremy Tan handed over the controls of the Diamond D-40.
Diamond Flight Training is a new flight training school which has opened up in Malta. The company is small, and its focus is on providing a personal learning experience, being close to clients and students and helping people learn to fly in a way that suits them for time, payment and individual attention. Last month I tried diving, which I am now studying and practicing regularly, so this time I thought, let’s reach for the skies.
I went along to the company offices and was given a quick tour of their brand new equipment and learning centre, but to be honest, while they enjoyed explaining the joys of flight and their pride in their new school – they simply wanted me to get up in the air and have a go at flying. To be completely honest, so did I.
Ben Borg Cardona, our photographer joined me for the trip and we took some photographs of the brand new, state of art Diamond 20 and Diamond 40 which the school owns. They are definitely a new breed, the shape is modern and aerodynamic and the aircraft itself is of composite construction and is completely flush. Both the planes feature full glass cockpits (screen represented instrumentation) with backup instruments... just in case.
Jeremy completed the pre flight checks while Ben and I got into the D40 four-seater which was actually quite comfortable and spacious by light aircraft standards. Checks done, we taxied out and before we knew it, we were bouncing about in turbulent air, heading out on the old runway towards Qrendi.
Before long, we had flown out over Marsaxlokk, the Freeport and Valletta and we came up to Pembroke. Jeremy came over the headset and said, “Right, do you want a go?” I nodded and he said: “You have control.”
My initial reaction was two seconds of absolute panic, what if I crash it... But very quickly, the sensation wore off and there I was, banking along the Eastern Coast and before we knew it, we were headed out over Comino. Jeremy was on hand all the time and was totally relaxed and calming, telling me how to correct and making sure I got my head out of the cockpit and to look outside the aircraft as we were on a visual flight rules flight.
As soon as I stopped ‘chasing’ the instruments and relaxed, I began to get a proper feel for flying and was happily going round Gozo’s north tip when I opened my big mouth.
“So, how do I trim the aircraft if the alignment goes out?” Jeremy fiddled with the elevator trim and up the nose went and I heard a yelp from the back seat where Ben was hanging on for dear life. Instinctively, I compensated on the stick and followed Jeremy’s instructions on how to trim it... lo and behold, we were straight and level. By that time, we had come around to Dingli and Zurrieq and we lost some altitude to enjoy the cliff view. We hugged the coast and I even meandered about a bit, dipping the wings to get a better view.
Before I knew it, Jeremy told me to bank left towards Luqa and line the aircraft up for landing. Just before we came in for final approach I heard “I have control”. I gave up the stick and we were back on the ground. I must say, flying a plane was one of the most exciting things I have ever done. And yes... just like the diving, I have decided to go to Ground School to learn the theory and eventually (hopefully) get a Private Pilot’s Licence. In fact, Ben reckons that I fly better than I drive, so I must have been doing something right.
Diamond Flight can take you from knowing nothing to full flying qualifications. It can be done at your own pace and they will help you plan it out to offset the costs involved. Flying is not cheap, but in my opinion it is definitely worth it, even if you just go on a one off joy ride. What are you waiting for?

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