About Bumps in Cessnas

The first entry into my Pilot’s logbook was on 16 August 2012. I was exactly 1 month pregnant and yet to find out…

First entries in my Pilot’s logbook, 2012.

By that time my name had been on a waiting list for a spot at the Flying School for some time, my deposit was paid and the ground school books were sitting on the table.  I was ready to learn to fly.

Once we got the news of the impending new family member we were over the moon. Baby Z had just turned one so there would be a mere 21 month gap between the two. We couldn’t be happier!

Mr Z, about to become a big brother. Swakopmund airfield.

And then started the planning and the logistics. We realised that, if I wanted to obtain my Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) any time within the next decade or so, it would probably be easiest to do it while there was still only one baby. And also while said baby still took daily naps.

So after our doctor confirmed that there was no medical reason why I couldn’t continue to fly I did what any responsible pregnant student pilot would do: I didn’t inform my instructors. 

The very first lesson was on how to take off. And if at first one still had any doubts, the thrill of getting a plane in the air really sorts that quickly. Later of course you realise that anyone that can follow three simple instructions can do it: full power, keep her on the center line and lift the nose once you reach 60mph (with a whole lot of right rudder input from the instructor, of course). But still. After the first flight there was no turning back.

Then came flying exercise 10 and 11: Stalling and spinning. Stalling is when one or both of the wings of the aircraft stops flying. The aircraft runs out of airspeed and the nose drops for a dive.

Now stalling the aircraft it no real biggie. Not while you are doing it intentionally during training, at least. If you happen to stall the plane during flying and you recognise it early you should be able to easily recover the plane and continue flying. So the reason why stalls are taught is is for this very reason, to recognise it and recover early. And this is also why spins are taught.

A spin occurs if you don’t recover from the stall quick enough. One wing keeps on flying, the other is deeply stalled and the aircraft spins in a corkscrew fashion on a vertical axis around the dropped wing.

Spin training is no longer compulsory in PPL training. Apparently there were too many accidents during training  since many of the instructors weren’t able to properly execute spins. Also, the air frames of many of the lighter aircraft aren’t certified for spinning.

But then I trained in the Cessna 172. The Toyota Hilux of the sky. And I had an aerobatics pilot for an instructor who remembers his first flying lesson at the age of six, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat next to his father. Nuff said. He lets his students spin, and he makes sure they can recover from it.

Oscar Echo Whiskey, my training Cessna 172. I feel I need to add that a Cessna 172 is as stable as a diesel Isuzu on gravel, not as loose-tailed and jumpy as the Hilux. So I assume it is referred to the never-say-die aspects of the Hilux, not the stability…

Now look. I am brave and I am all for fun and games, but I can promise you on the grave of all the inhibitions that I lost on that first day of spin training that I will recover from a stall sooner than you can reach for your phone to call your mother. But spin I will never again. Not for me. Thank you.

And then only did I tell them. By that time my t-shirts had gotten bigger and I always had to make sure I went to the bathroom before an hour long flying lesson, but the bump stayed tucked away for the first four months. I wanted to be a good pilot, and for that I needed the best training, including the complete spinning exercise.

Luckily I was never really nauseous during my pregnancies so that helped. After the worst was over and I proved that I wouldn’t barf all over the cockpit I figured it would be safe to spill the beans, so to speak. Apparently that worked, since neither of the instructors batted an eyelid during the big reveal. So we kept on flying.

Mamma and The Bump in OEW.

So after the spinning it was mostly bumps in the circuit. Bumps, or “touch-and-go’s” are mainly to practice landing and take-off procedures in the circuit. One joins the landing pattern soon after take-off and goes around shortly after landing again.  Baby Bump was doing bumps with me in the Cessna and thoroughly enjoying it! I remember noting how I could feel baby V actively moving and turning while I was flying. I think his little system was so wired for adrenaline after all those touch-and-go’s and stalls and spins. But nothing, really nothing, got close to the rush of that first time solo flight. But more on that later.