Impress your pilot

Here are a few simple ways to get you started impressing your pilot without spending hours studying.

  • Learn the alphabet

I know what you’re thinking…we all learned our ABC’s in grade school. But the alphabet I’m talking about is the ICAO Phonetic Alphabet, also called the NATO Alphabet. Ever listened to your pilot talk or heard radio communications where they used a word to replace the letter they were trying to say? There is actually a method to the madness! Who knew? Learn some of the words that correspond with the letters and impress the yoke right out of his hands!

Letter Call Sign Letter Call Sign
A Alpha N November
B Bravo O Oscar
C Charlie P Papa
D Delta Q Quebec
E Echo R Romeo
F Foxtrot S Sierra
G Golf T Tango
H Hotel U Uniform
I India V Victor
J Juliet W Whiskey
K Kilo X X-Ray
L Lima Y Yankee
M Mike Z Zulu

  • Six Pack

This is the only six pack you’ll ever need! These six instruments are standard in every aircraft and fairly easy to learn and understand. Just to make sure I explain it right I referenced the website https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_instruments

Altimeter – The altimeter shows the aircraft’s altitude above sea-level. So basically it tells you how high you are.

Airspeed Indicator – This shows the aircrafts speed, usually in knots. Knots are a unit of measurement like miles. Knots and miles aren’t exactly equal, so if you are driving 45 MPH, it doesn’t mean you are going 45 knots per hour. Wikihow says, “the equation to convert knots to miles per hour is: 1 Knot = 1.15077945 mph (1.85200000 km/h). Take your number of knots and multiply it by 1.15. This will give you how fast you are moving in miles per hour.”

Vertical Speed Indicator – This instrument tells you how fast you are going either up or down.

Heading Indicator – Your heading is where you are “headed” too. The easiest way for me to learn this one was to pull up the compass on my iPhone and whatever number was at the top was the direction I was currently facing or heading in.

Artificial Horizon or Attitude Indicator – This is the very first one I learned and is, for me, the easiest to remember. It “shows the aircraft’s relation to the horizon. From this the pilot can tell whether the wings are level and if the aircraft nose is pointing above or below the horizon” (Wikipedia). If you have seen any aircraft/pilot shirts that say “Watch your attitude!” This is what they are referring to.

Turn Coordinator – We go from the easiest to the hardest in my opinion. This instrument is designed to tell the pilot both an aircraft’s rate of turn and quality of turn.


  • Tell them what time it is…in Zulu time

Time is always relative to what time zone you are currently in. It may be 1:00 P.M. here but just a couple hours away it could be 2:00 P.M. That can cause a lot of confusion when you are flying. That is where Zulu time kicks in. It is the worlds time. It is also called Coordinated Universal Time, UTC and GMT which stands for Greenwich Mean Time. It is the same time everywhere! You can read more about it here http://www.navy.mil/navydata/questions/zulutime.html

Click the following link to see the current Zulu time:

Zulu Time

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Excuse me but your door is open…

My first flight was surreal to say the least. It was a perfect morning and though I was nervous, I was also ready to share this experience with him. It wasn’t too cold for autumn but we brought a blanket anyway (good thing to keep in the plane or your flight bag, by the way).

Before we got there he was “briefing” me on how it was going to go and what to expect. I would be wearing a headset that the pilots use to communicate with passengers in the plane, other pilots in our area and any towers that were in listening range. It might also be a little more bumpy than commercial flights so not to worry if it’s not as smooth as the commercial flights I was used too.

Braced with my information and sheer determination to enjoy this moment we loaded up in the tiny, four seater Cessna. I sat in the cramped yet cozy back seat while he sat in the pilots seat with his instructor by his side. I had full faith in my boyfriends flying abilities, but it still made me feel a little less nervous that we had an experienced pilot in there.

I watched as he went through his checklist, turning dials and checking things off. As we started to taxi out I noticed the instructor had his door ajar. I didn’t think much of it at first but as the seconds turned into minutes, I became more and more panicked when he still made no move to close and latch it. The further we got down the taxi-way the faster my heart started beating; my eyes riveted to the door that needed to be closed…NOW. I mean, this guy was the instructor right? I had horrible visions of taking off and the door swinging open from the pressure while we are all sucked out…or left in the plane as it plummets to the ground!

Finally, I could wait no more…I had to save us all! Interrupting what was probably an important conversation, I immediately blurted out that the door was still open.

“Yeah,” My boyfriend responds, “There isn’t air conditioning in here and we don’t like shutting the door until the last minute so we don’t get hot.” They both return to their pre-flight rundown as I slowly try to melt into the back seat.

Needless to say I didn’t speak anymore for the rest of the trip. But, other than feeling like a silly nincompoop, my first flight was absolutely amazing! The view was breathtaking and just the experience of watching him fly took my breath away!

Tiny, flying death box

When I first started dating my boyfriend he had just begun taking his pilot lessons. I wasn’t very involved other than to ask, “How was your flight?” and to request he text me before take off and after landing to make sure he didn’t pull a Goose on me. It had taken me a long time to find a great guy like him and I really didn’t want to have to start looking all over again.

When it first because real for me that he was going to be a Pilot was the day he did his first solo six months later. They actually took the shirt he was wearing during his solo, cut the back off and wrote his name and the date to commemorate the occasion. They called it his “tails”.

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I started to face the reality that we might actually fly somewhere…together…in that tiny, flying death box.

I hated flying.

Our first commercial flight together to Vegas I had cried when we experienced the slightest bit of turbulence. How was I going to not freak out when it was just me and him 5000 feet in the air?! To get myself used to the idea I began to go to the airport to watch him fly. I would park in the tiny parking lot of our small town airport, sit on the hood and watch him take off, fly around the pattern and land.

It was so impressive (and a complete turn on) that he could actually fly a plane that I was awestruck. I became more and more excited to fly with him and less scared about freaking out. Not to mention the doors it opens for travel opportunities. We could actually fly to the ocean for a long weekend at the beach! Heck yes! I was actually ready and couldn’t wait to go up with him for the very first time.