Keen to make progress on the tailwheel rating, I had booked a flight for the Saturday after my first flight. The weather on the day seemed pretty miserable, but a quick check of the TAFs suggested an improvement in conditions in the afternoon. As lunchtime arrived this seemed to be happening, so I headed off to Oaksey to meet Dave for a flight putting me back in the circuit.
After a quick brief of the peculiarities of taking off and landing in a taildragger, we headed out to the aircraft. Things didn’t start well when I pulled the mixture instead of carb heat during power checks, leading to it all going quiet up front. As Dave said, if there’s anywhere to make that kind of mistake, this was it!
Dave carried out the first takeoff and landing with me following through on the controls. We then taxyed back and it was my turn. The takeoff went generally well, with some coaching from the back from Dave. The initial difference in footwork required was obvious, particularly once the tail was raised early on in the takeoff roll. Generally it was fairly uneventful though, and we took to the skies for a circuit.
Once airborne, it was clear that conditions were almost perfect for flying. The scattered clouds we all well above 3000 or 4000 feet, and the visibility after the recent rain was spectacular. It was truly a joy to be flying in such perfect conditions.
The circuit went relatively well, as I gradually refreshed my memory of the rudder inputs required when flying the Citabria. Base and Final saw me slightly high, but a quick adjustment to the throttle sorted that out, and I brought us in for the landing. Surprisingly, it couldn’t have gone much better, as I rounded us out and flew us along the runway with the stall warner blaring, before we touched down and rolled out. Initially my footwork on the landing roll wasn’t quite up to scratch, but I soon got it sorted and we slowed down, before again was caught out by not making progressively larger rudder inputs as the effectiveness of the rudder decreased. To cap it all, I began to turn off the runway while travelling too fast, leading to a further reminder from Dave not to make turns in this aircraft until slowed down to a walking pace.
We refueled before heading back to the threshold to carry out some more circuits at Kemble. This takeoff again was normal, and I called Kemble to get their information while climbing to 2000 feet for an Overhead join. There was another aircraft operating in the circuit and one other joining. We slotted in nicely with the aircraft in the circuit, and the other joining aircraft slotted in behind us.
Again, the first landing went pretty well at Kemble, helpfully the wind at the airfield was straight down the runway, although stronger than it had appeared at Oaksey at some 16 or 16 knots. We backtracked at Kemble, and continued for a total of 6 landings at Kemble. The first few were pretty good, but the remainder all had some issues. These amounted to:
- Touching down with excess speed, leading to a bounce and Dave taking control to go around
- Rounding out too late, effectively flying straight onto the runway
- Approaching slightly slow, then after recovering this not closing the throttle correctly, using up a lot more runway than was necessary
- Not losing enough height on Base and Final, needing some side-slipping to get back down to the correct profile
In general, all the work on the ground was Ok, my footwork gradually improving over the course of the session. None of the ‘problem’ landings were too drastic, and in some ways it was good to be experiencing some problems as otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to learn how to correctly deal with them with Dave’s experience in the back to rescue me should it be required.
For a few of the circuits we flew with the window open, the pleasant breeze helping cool things down on a hot day. This gave me something else to be aware of, as the maximum operating speed with the window open is 90 mph, below the normal circuit speed of 100 mph.
Once complete at Kemble, Dave asked me if I wanted to try a few ‘gentle’ aeros. After a brief thought I agreed, and we departed to the South to find some clearer airspace. Dave demonstrated a loop initially, and I was caught slightly by surprise by the amount of ‘g’ in the initial pull up into the loop. The remainder of the loop was fine though, and I didn’t feel any immediate after effects despite it being my first experience of aeros.
Now it was my turn. Dave talked me through the initial one, operating the throttle for me. I was a little too ‘gentle’ on the controls, both in the initial dive to gain airspeed and the pull up into the loop. We made it around though, and after a turn to the North I carried out another in full control that went much better.
Finally Dave offered the chance to experience a spin. Spinning was something I’d always said I would go and do soon after gaining my PPL, so that at least I would know what to expect should I inadvertently find myself in one while flying. Dave explained what he was going to do, and put us into a 5 or 6 turn spin before recovering. The few was definitely disorienting, but wasn’t quite what I’d expected. I’d expected the spin to be more ‘flat’, when in fact it appeared that the aircraft was actually in a very tight spiral dive. I’ll probably try to get some more experience of them on future flights including some recoveries myself.
Both Dave and I took a moment to reorient ourselves, with the lakes in Cotswold Water Park being the first landmark to stand out, making it easy to locate Kemble and then Oaksey. We signed off with Kemble and joined at Oaksey on a high Downwind leg. I was initially expecting to find it difficult to get down to circuit height in time, but in fact the descent down to the runway was fairly constant and put us on an appropriate profile to land.
The last landing at Oaksey went fairly well, and after we put the aircraft away Dave announced he was happy with the progress we’d made. I’ve booked another flight for tomorrow, so hopefully we can continue the good progress.
(Not sure what happened to the GPS track. It appears that it recorded the entire track, but stopped recording altitude information sometime after the first loop)
It was a real pleasure flying today. The conditions couldn’t have been more perfect, and flying such a nice, responsive aircraft (at times with the window open and a pleasant draft keeping us cool!) was really enjoyable. Also, I’ve finally experienced some basic aerobatic maneuvers to boot!
Total flight time today: 1:30
Total flight time to date: 245:05