Introducing Children to Flying
I figured once around the pattern was plenty, and to make things as close to what they would be on a real flight (either a day trip or a vacation trip), as possible, I used the same aircraft as I'd flown to New England in April, 923DM.
But, I hadn't figured on the way the twins would react. Arriving at the airport, we went out to the aircraft parking area with the children on leashes to keep them under control and away from any whirling propellers (see first picture).
The next step was to maneuver the stroller into the cargo compartment. It was a somewhat snug fit; I think if we'd had other luggage the stroller would have had to go in first, and other baggage would have had to be maneuvered in rather carefully. I doubt if any aircraft smaller than a 182 would have swallowed the stroller with any room left over for luggage. My flight bag lived on the floor behind the front seats.
Next we put the baby seats into the aircraft. The Cessna 182 has no rear door, unlike, say, the Bonanza A36, but the front seats slide so far forward that it doesn't matter that the seatbacks don't tilt forward as far as on a 2-door car. There are no LATCH hardpoints on the airplane, so we just used the built-in rear seat belts to secure the car seats.
Next, we put the twins into the seats and strapped them in, and it was at this point that unforeseen problems showed up. Even though Catherine knows what an airplane is, and excitedly says "Airplane! Airplane!" whenever she sees one in flight, she has only been in one motor vehicle in her life: the family minivan, a Mazda MPV. I once let her climb into the back seat of our other car, but never strapped her in as if to go anywhere, and apparently this seemed like a terrifying prospect, even though to me the interior of a Cessna is not too different from that of a car. Not so to a 3-year old. They immediately started screaming (photo 2). Catherine is the one in the foreground, on the port side of the sirplane, screaming the loudest. With Nancy, my wife, soothing them almost continuously, we managed to survive the preflight.
Then it was engine start -- triggering a fresh series of screams, as they had calmed down somewhat after we were all in our seats. We taxied to the runup area and (with headsets on) the adults couldn't really hear the screams, but Nancy assures me they were quite upset by the runup. Taxiing onto the runway didn't seem to upset them. Photo 3 shows the takeoff roll. Conditions were ideal, with 10 knots of wind straight down Runway 22 at Easton.
We did one circuit of the pattern, finding visibility slightly hazy at pattern altitude, but still adequate to get this view of the field from downwind (Photo 4). Runway 22 has right traffic to keep airplanes away from downtown Easton, so the airplane is flying to the left of the picture, which was taken by Nancy in the copilot's seat. Hangars are in the foreground, and the terminal and aircraft parking apron are on the left middle, near the approach end of Runway 22. After the picture was taken, we turned right twice to align ourselves with this runway and land on it. There is a second runway, 33, that's almost at right angles to 22-4, out of the picture to the right.
I couldn't hear the screaming from the back seat; apparently, Catherine screamed practically the whole time, but Elisabeth screamed only a few times.
Once on the ground -- it was quite a good landing, extremely short, so I made the first turn-off -- with the throttle back to idle, I could hear Catherine screaming again. This time, it might have been because we hadn't opened the windows immediately after taxiing off the runway, and it was too hot for her in the back of the airplane where there is little air circulation, especially on the ground.
As we got out of the plane, Elisabeth started clapping. She doesn't talk yet, and to her, clapping means she wants "more". "More airplanes?" Nancy asked, and Elisabeth nodded. When asked the same question, even after we'd returned home, Catherine said "No."
So far, Catherine had seemed the more interested in flight. But, Elisabeth seems to be the more adventurous. Catherine was willing to wear a headset at home (we didn't dare try putting it on her in the airplane). Elisabeth wouldn't even tolerate the thing on her head at home. But, if and when we take them flying again, my guess is Elisabeth will walk cheerfully out to the plane on her own, while Catherine will have to be carried. You can never tell.
But, it's not many 3-year olds who have already had a ride around the pattern in an airplane!