19 December 2011

First tailwheel transition lesson

Yesterday, I made my first takeoffs and landings in an airplane with a tailwheel--otherwise known as a conventional landing gear--rather than the tricycle configuration of the Cessna 172. The Super Decathlon is like nothing I have flown so far: it is nimble, climbs like crazy in the cold air, and sinks like a rock when slowed below best L/D airspeed. And I love the Hooker harnesses in this plane: they are so comfortable and I wish we had them in the gliders.

FAR 61.31(i) requires training and a logbook endorsement before I can fly a tailwheel airplane as pilot in command. This regulation was instituted in 1991 to address the disproportionate number of landing incidents and accidents in taildraggers. I'm taking this training as a means to improve my stick-and-rudder skills and to gain the tailwheel proficiency I'll need if I ever want to tow gliders as all of my club's tow planes are taildraggers. I'm a long way from fulfilling the FAR 61.69 and insurance requirements to tow--it will be awhile before I'll can accrue 100 hours of airplane PIC time--but you have to start somewhere...

04 December 2011

Niwot's Curse Thwarted (for now)

Last weekend, I had planned to fly from Gaithersburg, MD (KGAI) to Boulder, CO (KBDU) in a Cessna 182E. This would have been my longest cross-country trip to date at 1,300 nautical miles. The owner is a flight instructor (CFII) and the trip would have given me some experience flying in actual instrument conditions. I would have earned a high-performance endorsement as well. Mechanical issues and weather forced us to revise our plan and, ultimately, to cancel the flight; Chief Niwot's curse be damned.

I started my public transportation journey early Saturday morning using bus, metro, and taxi to get to Montgomery County Airpark in time to meet the airplane, which was enroute from Boston. Unfortunately, the airplane's transponder failed in flight. Potomac Approach could not allow it to enter the Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area in which GAI resides without receiving a secondary radar return from the airplane. The owner was forced to land in Frederick, MD (KFDK), outside this airspace.