19 February 2012

First Aerobatics Lesson: Loops and Rolls

The snow never appeared in the Washington, D.C. area. It was a perfect morning to begin learning aerobatics in spite of earlier forecasts. This was the most fun I've had so far at the controls of an aircraft, and I didn't even need the Sic Sacs that I brought along (just in case). I had the good fortune to experience some aerobatics last year, though save for a few aileron rolls, this is the first time I've attempted to fly the maneuvers.

We briefed the flight and went over the bailout procedure, of which I was familiar after watching Allen Silver's bailout webinar a few weeks ago. Clear of the FRZ and class B airspace, we climbed up over the Potomac River to attempt a few loops. 

Loops were fun, though mine weren't particularly round: as the airplane passes through a vertical attitude, one needs to gradually unload the wing so it floats over the top of the loop at less than 1g, then gradually load it back up until the best cornering acceleration (3.5g in this airplane) is reached again. The fabric rumbles distinctively at the top if you get this right. If it really rumbles, you're going to fall out of the top of the loop. I've got to work on that timing.

Then I tried a few aileron rolls: pitch up, unload the wing, then fully deflect the aileron. At first, I neglected to release all of the back pressure before beginning to roll. And though I thought I'd reached full deflection, I still had some aileron left and needed to push harder.

Afterwards, I rolled to inverted and practiced level inverted flight. It was an odd sensation hanging in the straps and pushing to hold the nose-high pitch attitude necessary to maintain level flight. My feet weren't cooperating on the roll from inverted to upright and later the complete roll. I need to work on harmonizing the elevator and rudder, especially when passing through the knife edge. I'm going to chair fly it over the next couple weeks and try again as we work on the primary roll and then the slow roll.  

While on final for runway 6 at VKX, I was informed that a friend from my glider club would be observing my landing. So I proceeded to balloon the round out and needed some power to recover. This meant that I touched down at midfield: not a problem in the Super D but not a great demonstration of my newly-acquired tailwheel skills. It never fails when there is an audience watching.

As with anything else you find on this blog, none of this dreck should be considered advice or instruction. Find a competent instructor and an airplane properly stressed for aerobatics. Don't try to teach yourself.

08 February 2012

Tailwheel sign-off, Eastern Shore, Gin Gins

Sunday, I received my tailwheel endorsement in the Super Decathlon after sticking the wheel landings, simulating an aborted takeoff, flying a few power-off approaches, and making a couple of short field landings. While I've still got plenty to work on and it'll take many hours of practice before I'll feel comfortable in gnarly, gusty crosswinds, I know what I need to do. Weather permitting, I'll get my first aerobatic lesson next weekend: loops and rolls. I can't wait!

Terminal at KGED
It was astonishing how quickly I could stop the Super D after crossing the threshold at 65 mph. At that speed, there is just enough energy remaining to arrest the descent in the landing flare. I felt the cushion (actually a reduction of induced drag) from ground effect immediately before touchdown. That airplane is so much more fun to fly than a 172; I'm getting spoiled. 

I was walking to my car after the lesson and ran into a fellow glider pilot from the club (my policy is generally not to list names on this blog in order to protect the innocent). He offered to let me ride along in the back seat of his friend's Mooney while they flew a lunch mission to Georgetown, Delaware (KGED) and made a few practice approaches. I had nothing else to do, so I jumped at the opportunity. Fortunately I had my sectionals with me to practice navigation by pilotage. 

The Mooney M20J is impressive: a pretty fast little bird for something with an IO-360. I'd never crossed the Chesapeake Bay in an airplane before, so that was a treat. After wolfing down a medium rare bison burger in the restaurant on field at Georgetown, we were on our way. We flew down the beach from Lewes, on to Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany, Ocean City, and then shot an approach into Ocean City Municpal Airport (KOXB) before returning home. To me, this is what general aviation is all about. And I am continually surprised at the great people I meet in the flying community.
Leaving Ocean City, MD (KOXB)

On this flight I got my introduction to Gin Gins, a potent ginger hard candy. These are said to settle a queasy stomach. Whether that is true or psychosomatic, I'll definitely stuff a bag of these in my flight bag to hand out to nervous passengers in case of a turbulence encounter.


Returning to KVKX