Springfield Chapter Missouri Pilots Association

January 2002

Flying Journal - Old Fears, New Hopes

No doubt many columnists will write something more or less profound about the year just past. For me, I'll let 2001-and 9-11-speak for themselves. May the next year somehow be brighter for all the world.

For me, "flying-wise," the old flying year had ended well. I finally got to fly with a long-time MPA friend, Seth Caperton, of the Ozarks Chapter. We had a great time as he gave me my first Biennial Flight Review of my aviation career. That's right, in over a decade, I've always renewed through added ratings or giving Wings training to other pilots. This was the first B. F. R. that I "had" to take. We also practiced instrument approaches. In fact, we had such a good time, I think I'll write about it next month, but suffice it to say that the year ended with me feeling freshly "current and proficient" (as Larry wisely reminds us).

The new flying year also began well. Roni Burns (Bolivar Chapter MPA) and I began the new year by working out a plan to carry him through the final stretch to complete his Instrument Rating. With snow in the forecast, we taxied out on the first Saturday of January. We recalled that the last time we had flown had been in October when we had an impromptu fly-out to the Warsaw Fall Festival.

That had been a foggy morning at Bolivar. When the fog had lifted, I watched Roni fly his Beaver Experimental twice around the pattern. Then I got in.

I would have been OK if I had just gotten a wrench to move the seat back. But as it was, my knees rested anxiously against the rolled metal edge of the bottom of the instrument panel. That physical sensation of almost sharp metal above my tender kneecaps instantly aroused two mental images-the first of a friend who nearly lost his legs in a car crash as his heavy powered wheelchair pushed him into the panel of his van.

The second image that immediately jumped to mind was of the time several years ago when I flew the first test flight of a newly constructed Avid Flyer, later determined to have a factory flaw in a flaperon actuator. That was one of the 2 or 3 scariest flights of my life, struggling for control of a unique aircraft, my feet so big they couldn't properly actuate the rudder pedals of the little short-coupled taildragger. I didn't even need to vow to never do THAT again.

But déjà vu. Here I was again. Or at least my memory thought so. The same fear-but a big difference. This was not a test flight. I had just seen a friend I taught to fly take it twice around the pattern. He had briefed me. I asked the right questions. I was ready for the RIGHT-turning tendencies of the geared propeller, the flight adjustable propeller pitch, and the stick (not a yoke).

So, it felt the same, but I knew it was different. Of course by now, an audience had gathered. But I gingerly taxied down to runway 18, testing the one brake lever on the stick that actuated both the mains. I pushed in the throttle on 103 horsepower for 500 pounds of airplane and got the feel of the rudder to keep it straight. It seemed like I was using up a lot of runway, but it didn't seem to want to fly. I tugged a little. I tugged some more. Suddenly, whoooosh!!! Up she went, like an elevator, or a gyroplane. Lots of power on a large, high-lift wing.

The second time, I did just like Roni said and rotated at 55 and it lifted off a touch and go in only a couple hundred feet! It was a nice little plane. I soon had confidence in my control and even played with the adjustable prop (not the same as "constant-speed"). I hope to fly it again soon, maybe even give instruction in it.

The strangest thing about this plane is that it can be flown either as a nose-wheel aircraft or as a taildragger. The two relatively large main wheels are near the CG, with a steerable nose-wheel as well as a tail wheel. If you flare it like a Cessna, it will land on the back three wheels and must be steered with rudder-or tap the brake to roll it forward on the steerable nosewheel. If you land a little flatter, it will touch down on the mains and the nosewheel. Very interesting.

But that had been October. Now in January, we took the Arrow, under heavy skies smelling of snow, for instrument training and Saturday fun. We shot the VOR/DME 36 approach to Bolivar and enjoyed the breakfast buffet while Rex aired up the struts. Then we flew to the Lebanon NDB, shot the SDF approach and landed at Lebanon.

Many area airports have new facilities and friendly FBOs. But you definitely must try Lebanon. They serve lunch to pilots everyday and have a comfortable new facility. While at Lebanon, we also visited Jeff and Eva Bond at their new pilot shop, "Wings Over Lebanon." Roni and I picked up some accessories we had been needing, and I even found another gift for my granddaughter, Claire, who is visiting this week. We also had a great visit. Nice friendly folks.

Now the weather radar was showing patches of "wintry mix" to our northwest, so we headed home, shooting the VOR approach at SGF and landing just as the snowflakes began. A great way to start another flying year.

Fly safely, and share the joy!


[Copyright 2002 - Earl Holmer]