First steps on the tail

First steps on the tail


Location: EDAY (Strausberg)
Equipment: D-MPBW (“Wild Thing” WT 01)

The weather is great for todays lesson. Not very clear but that is okay. The important part today is: Almost no wind.

I talk to the flight instructor for a few moments and then go ahead to preflight the plane. It is yellow and bulky and has nothing in common with my trusted “Rider”. I take the check list and work my way through the items point by point. After I have gone around the aircraft once, I have a first impression of her.

The instructor arrives and shows me the inside. Bravo Whiskey is much larger than the “Rider” I have been taught on. The flight instructor tells me stories of sleeping in the airplane on rainy camping trips and of a friend of his who actually hauled a washing machine in her once.

The lady and the jack

The “Wild Thing” is a bush plane, a rather rugged tail dragger. It is in the ultra light class but it is a stranger there and it comes from a very different pedigree as the flight schools other aircraft.

The “Riders” are ladies. Italian, elegant, sleek and very efficient. They look good from any angle. The MD3 has a rather modern Rotax engine and it is quite fast.

Compared to that, the “Wild Thing” is a wood chuck. Not fast, not sleek but solid. It is strong and it wants to feel the pilots touch as direct orders. It has an air cooled six cylinder engine and analog gauges. If something does not work, first thing is to tap it.

Let’s go

I go through the engine start check list with the flight instructor explaining the items to me. After we have checked all settings, I press the start button and Bravo Whiskeys six cylinder Jaibiru roars to life. The vibration of the slow idle is deep and feels comforting.

I carefully push the throttle forward, the stick firmly pulled and the hand on the break. The plane starts moving slowly and I start feeling the nervous tail almost immediately. The first turn goes well until I realize that the tail has no intention to ever stop turning. I step into the opposing paddle and suddenly the tail swings back violently. I press agains the swing, pull back the throttle and break. We stop and our angle to the taxi way looks like we are drifting in a cross wind. The flight instructor smiles. We taxi on and I am more careful. This is going to be fun!

Before we leave terra firma behind us, we do a number of fast runs on the grass strip. After all the ground handling is the challenging part of this aircraft. We speed up to about 60 km/h and lift the tail from the ground. This is one of the more delicate parts of handling a tail dragger. The aircraft is in between rolling and flying. The rudder does not have a lot of control yet, the tail wheel has no control any more. It is a demanding task to keep her steady. I am not yet ahead of the airplane, I react and I sweat. I am grateful that it is not windy today!

Love at first climb

Finally we take off and I have time to get to know Bravo Whiskey in her element. Flying she makes up for the challenging run ups. The aircraft is roomy, everything resonates with the engine and the flight is very stable.

We climb out of the pattern and the instructor tells me to try a few maneuvers. The aircraft needs explicit control inputs and reacts with stable, predictable maneuvers. I love it and I am very interested to see how she is doing in more turbulent weather.

Three point landing

We go back into the pattern to practice landings. I like how the aircraft handles and after a few rounds I am comfortable in the pattern. The power settings are easy and the flaps are manual. The approach on final needs some experience. I come in a bit too high most of the times. There is still no wind and it is easy to align the aircraft with the runway. On final approach I flare the aircraft, fly a bit parallel and then let the tail go down until she sits down on all three wheels simultaneously. Then I pull the stick to get weight (and with it control) onto the tail and keep it straight with the feet.

We do this for about one hour. The flight instructor stays ready but does not interfere. The landings are bumpy but not terrible. I guess I can work from there. At the end I taxi Bravo Whiskey back to the apron. On the small visitors terrace behind a little fence there are about ten people watching us taxi. The flight instructor opens the window and gives them a friendly wave. I smile, this feels like the beginning of a wonderful friendship…

To be continued…

 

(originally posted on August 26, 2011 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/first-steps-on-the-tail/)

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