28 September 2013

Still Alive (and flying)

It is not hard to believe that it has been over a year since my last post. Many things have conspired to keep me from flying as much as I'd like, but I have resolved to fly (and write) more this fall and winter.

I've continued to gain aerobatic experience--however irregularly--and have flown 3 IAC contests this season in the Sportsman category. I flew the beloved Super Decathlon in two contests and competed once in the Extra 200 at KWWD. Currency breeds proficiency, and I've had a rough time with both in competition this season. My flying really sucked in the first two contests!

I was absolutely giddy to fly the Extra in June, a one-time opportunity; I pored over the Pilot's Information Manual in advance of my first flight. While some consider it to be a dog when compared to other composite monoplanes like the Giles 202, the Extra 200 has the highest performance in every dimension--roll rate, etc.--of anything I've had the good fortune to fly a sequence in an aerobatic box.

The stick forces in the Extra are extremely light and provide little feedback, in stark contrast to the Super D where my right arm is usually exhausted after an hour of acro. That made it easy to high-speed stall or load the wings more than optimally during pulls. I was advised not to judge the g-load by how it felt in the seat. This is because the pilot sits reclined, and what felt like a 4g pull in the Decathlon is really close to 6g in the Extra.

The roll rate was startlingly quick--so rapid that my hands and feet were far behind the airplane. With very little practice time before the contest, I elected to slow the level roll down in order for my body to keep up. Friends later accused me of flying it like a Decathlon when they saw that. Yep. So it goes. I made several large mental blunders in competition which caused me to get overloaded. My IQ dropped at least 50 points, and I reverted to flying the airplane with Decathlon-like control inputs. The results were embarrassing and humbling, but I am grateful to have gotten the experience to fly such a cool airplane.
Yours truly

I flew better in the local contest earlier this month. I put up a couple of good rolls, but the judges caught me "scooping" the nose up during the first 30 degrees of roll. I need to work on that. I also flew the best hammerhead of my short acro "career."

Thanks for reading!  

Disclaimer: I am not a flight instructor, I know nothing, and nothing here should be interpreted as advice. Do not attempt to teach yourself aerobatics. Find a good aerobatic instructor or school and have fun safely.