20 March 2011

First Acro Ride

Yesterday, I had one of the coolest experiences of my life so far. I strapped on a parachute and a hopped into the front seat of a capable, purpose-built aerobatic airplane. A friend of mine offered to take me up in celebration of my finally passing the checkride.
I'm not including too many details out of respect for his privacy--I'd really like to be able to do this again sometime--but rest assured that everything was safe, legal, and in accordance with the FARs.

Honestly, I was very nervous about getting sick, but it was a non-issue. I experienced aileron rolls, inverted flight, loops, a hammerhead stall, a couple of 1-turn spins, and an avalanche. It was shocking how responsive this airplane was, and I did a really crappy job trying to fly it. Sensory overload. The peak needles on the g-meter indicated +5g and -1.5g, so he took it easy on me--I wimped out on some of the more violent maneuvers for fear of getting sick. I've never felt g-forces like that before, but it was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated.

The weirdest sensation was rolling through inverted, even though aileron rolls are the most gentle maneuver. It just took me a while to get used to rolling completely over. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to witness spins. As a primary student, I was taught the religion of stall/spin avoidance but a spin was never demonstrated (lawyers and insurance companies are probably to blame). One of these days I will take spin/upset training.


  1. Very cool blog Paul, and the acro ride sounds like a blast. I'd have my doubts too wether my stomach could handle it or not as well. Here in Canada, my CPL flight test included demo'ing a full spin and recovery. That was in a 172...I guess that's the closest I have ever been to inverted..

  2. 5400,

    Thanks! I've enjoyed reading your blog as well--I stumbled across it a few days ago.

    If the opportunity ever arises to go up in an aerobatic category airplane, I recommend jumping on it. As long as the pilot isn't purposely trying to make you puke, you'll probably be fine and will have a blast. The acro fuel tank is usually small and a flight won't last more than 15-20 minutes, anyway. My friend has taken a bunch of people up for their first taste of aerobatics, and he told me that only one person got sick and that was because they pushed it. I was advised to call out for a break if I reached a nausea level of 2 on a 0-10 scale: if you go much past that, there will be no stopping it. I took along a Sic-Sac and kept it within reach, which helped take away my preoccupation with puking in his pristine airplane.

    I think the private pilot curriculum in the US should include at least a demonstrated spin. That is a sight picture that I will never forget, and in my case, he recovered well before the spin was fully stabilized.

    Best regards,