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Sometimes you're in a situation where - hey - you have to fly that airplane. Be it a hijacking gone wrong, a sick pilot, a joy ride, or heck - the end of the world has rolled around and you find yourself able to escape in a flying vehicle.

Most people are scared of flying. Don't be. It's as easy as driving a car in three dimensions while trying to keep a dog with an upset stomach from sticking it's head out the window while it's tail is whapping you in the face. Easy!

In this quick and simple quick-start guide I'll tell you how you too can pilot a small airplane without damaging yourself (or the plane for future use). Hopefully you'll never have to use it. I'm assuming you're being chased by a pack of wild dogs so there's no time for safety or radio etiquette - you'll just be hopping in and flying away.
Hopefully you've chosen an aircraft that has the keys left in the ignition. You may have to get under the dash and cross some wires if no keys are found; which ones, I am unsure. Try checking the sun visor or inside the nearest building, such as a hangar or flying club facility.

Thankfully, most cockpits have all the instruments labelled clearly. Find and locate the ignition switch or the keyhole. It should be labelled "Magnetos." Sometimes there is the option to set it to L, R, or BOTH. Flip the switch or turn the key to BOTH. If the engine does not start, it may need to be primed - find the priming knob and pull it out/push it in several times. Start the engine again. Most aircraft run off of engine power, so at this time your instruments should "come alive."

Locate the throttle - it should be another knob in the aircraft, likely pulled all the way out. This is the "no throttle" position. Pushing it in is full throttle. If you were smart enough to remove the chocks from the wheels, simply push the throttle forward. You'll need a decent amount of space to attain takeoff speed; just floor it. Finding a runway is optional - however, it gives the authorities more time to stop you if you decide to go that route. When you are on the ground, you shouldn't touch the stick - just use the rudder pedals (those things down by your feet) to steer your plane. When you attain a good takeoff speed (probably 40-100 knots depending on the size of the aircraft), wait a few seconds then gently pull back on the stick. Keep pulling farther and farther until the plane lifts off - then level her our again until she builds up speed. You are now flying - Huzzah!

Congratulations! You can now fly down to Mexico and land on one of their many flat, empty deserts. And that's about the only place you can go, too, because.. well... Good luck landing anywhere else, you newbie. Don't attempt any fancy crazy steep turns or dives with a slow airspeed or else you might die.

Landing is an art practiced by pilots everywhere, and is not easily mastered. Most of flight training is directed towards flight regulations and landing. The actual flying part is easy (flying a large airplane in such a way that the many passengers feel like they're in a bus... well... that takes even more skill).

If you care to attempt to land, the basic summary is this: Fly your plane overtop of the designated landing area, as close to the ground as possible (8 feet or so is desireable). Slowly let off the throttle while remaining in level flight. Some people may prefer to cut off the throttle entirely - and though this works, and is in fact preferable, you just may find it easier to "ease" into things, as you've never done this before. In either case, eventually your speed will be too slow to remain airborne - you will slowly sink down to about 3 feet. At this time the aircraft will stall. The plane will then touch down at a nice, manageable speed. Use the rudder to keep your airplane straight.

I recommend landing on a not-so-busy highway, as they are wide and definately long enough for your intent. Maybe you can roll to a stop at a gas station, if fuel is your reason for landing. That is, if your particular plane takes regular unleaded.

Hopefully you are still alive - perhaps you should look into a local Flying Club or Flying School or maybe even a Flight School or Flight Training. To Learn how to Fly is to expand your horizons... literally!
This document is part of the Learn how to Fly project.

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