Post Summary: I took a discovery flight with Rainier Flight Service, a flight school near Seattle. I have never flown anything before and I’m completely new to this. Here’s my experience.
I’ve always had an obsession with the thought of flying. It just never seemed like something that I could do. The dashboards on planes are intimidating to look at, I could never quite understand what the control tower was saying, and I just didn’t think I’d ever be capable of flying a plane.
To be fair, I still technically haven’t flown a plane by myself, but the Discovery Flight experience at Ranier Flight Service made this dream of mine feel achieveable.
Signing up for the Discovery Flight
The Discovery Flight is typically what you start with if you’re interested in flying lessons. The Standard Flight is $199 from Rainier Flight Service and you’ll fly around for about 30-40 minutes. They also have a Deluxe Discovery Flight for $299 which is 60-90 minutes and you make a stop at a different airport. We did the Deluxe Flight, so we took off and landed twice each.
To contact Rainier Flight Service to schedule your Discovery Flight, just fill out this form and they will get in touch with you to set that up.
–> Looking for a day trip from Seattle? Bellingham is only about 1.5 hours away and they have some pretty epic hikes! <–
What It Was Like Inside the Plane
Discovery flights are typically done in a Cessna 162 or 172. If you’re like me and have no idea what that means, it’s a small plane with 4 seats. The first step on the Discovery Flight was the pilot making sure everything was good to go on the plane. He had a check list he went through both inside and outside. When it was time to “board” the plane, I sat up front with him and Austin sat behind me. We used the extra backseat for jackets and my purse.
It was a little cramped, but that was to be expected.
To be honest, I didn’t really know what all the pilot was doing the whole time. There are so many numbers and buttons on the dashboard and it sounded like he was speaking another language to air traffic control. I was glad he was taking care of everything!
Being a small plane, I was expecting the take off and landing to be somewhat scary, but it wasn’t at all. My pilot was awesome at both and they went very smoothly. We were all wearing headsets, so we got to hear the pilot ask air traffic control for permission to take off and land both times – that was interesting. Then, we just used the headsets to talk to each other.
One thing I will note: I don’t typically get motion sickness, but Austin does. He seemed fine at first, but he was definitely feeling a bit sick by the end of it. He was in the back, so that might have contributed.
The Views we Saw on the Flight
The flight was a little over an hour in total. We started by flying toward Seattle and we got to see the city skyline (including the Space Needle!) from above. This was probably my favorite part. Then, we turned and flew toward the islands and made a stop at Puget Sound Airport.
The views we got to see are why I’d recommend a Discovery Flight to anyone – whether or not you’re interested in flying lessons!
Obviously, we saw the city, but we also saw mountains and islands. This area has it all and it was breathtaking.
How Much Flying I Actually Did
Of course, the purpose of the Discovery Flight is to discover if flying lessons are for you. Part of the experience is getting to fly the plane yourself. The pilot obviously won’t have you take off or land, but when you’re at a safe altitude and there aren’t any obstacles around, they will let you steer and fly around!
I won’t lie – I was terrified.
I was very close to telling the pilot that I didn’t really want to fly and he can just keep doing his thing. However, I thought we’re already up here, I might as well.
The plane is already going forward, so you don’t have to press on a gas or brake pedal. You just have to steer and aim the plane up or down. To steer, it’s fairly intuitive and is just like driving a car. Although, in addition to rotating the yoke (or the “steering wheel”), you also have to press on a floor pedal which makes the back of the plane follow the front. The pilot said this would help minimize the motion sickness of the people in the back. Judging by Austin still feeling sick, I’m not sure I did a good job of this!
I didn’t end up flying for that long. Maybe about 10-15 minutes or so, but that was just fine with me. I’m sure if you want to fly a bit more, they would let you.
Am I Ready for Flight School?
This was one of those experiences where I felt like I could never do what my pilot did and successfully fly the plane. It felt like there was so much going on, I rarely understood air traffic control, and there’s no way I could learn what all of the gauges on the dash mean.
That said, the pilot reassured me and said he felt the same way when he started. You aren’t given a plane and just told to fly it. You go through extensive training (classroom-style) and then you’re flying with an instructor who is there to help you.
I still think flying lessons would be AWESOME! I plan to do them one day. However, they are a time commitment and it’s not as much of a priority to me right now as other things I have on my plate. So, I don’t think I’ll start them just yet, but you might catch me flying around Bellingham soon enough!