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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I can quit anytime, seriously...

I may have developed a new addiction...
Around 1530 yesterday afternoon, I took off from Hanscom's runway 5 in my school's Super Decathlon for my first aerobatics lesson. With little daylight left and only minutes of ground instruction, my CFI and I opted to run through a few exercises so that I could familiarize myself with the aircraft, similar to the one shown below.
We began with a few dutch rolls, designed to improve stick and rudder coordination, which after flying so long in 172s can get a little sloppy. The CFI picked a road ahead, lined the nose up with it and demonstrated the maneuver: alternating swift turns to the right and the left. He was spot on. My turn... hmm, the nose drifts here and there. His arm and leg movements were a lot more deliberate than mine. Must stop pussyfooting that rudder!
The Decathlon has much more aileron authority than the Cessnas I fly, mostly imparted by an additional surface hanging below the wing called the spade. It basically acts as power steering and my feet were, I think, a little shy in matching the deflection.
Within a few minutes, however, I got the hang of flying stick and the dutch rolls improved.
We moved on to the next exercise: drawing squares in the sky with the nose of the plane, all the while keeping the wings level. You start off straight and level and kick in some right rudder. The nose moves right and the wing wants to dip, so I use just enough opposite aileron to curtail the movement. Hold it there, then raise the nose. Hold it there for a second. Now, left rudder, a touch of right aileron, hold it. Push forward to lower the nose and keep it there. Finally, right rudder, some left ailerons and we're back to where we started.
It took a couple of tries, but my squares began to look like, well, squares, as opposed to weird distorted ovals.
As the sun receded in a distant and hazy copper horizon, we performed a few steep turns, which are part of private pilot training. While nothing new, I hadn't practiced them in a while and since I'd never flown stick before it was good to brush up on them.
As we headed home, my CFI demonstrated an aileron roll, which I can't wait to try myself.
Next lesson is in two weeks and I can't wait. We'll go over these exercises again and venture into spins and hopefully rolls and loops.
Flying the Decathlon is definitely different than what I've been used to up to now, but I think I will like the aircraft a lot. Visibility is quite good and the stick is quite a pleasurable way to control it.
The instructor I flew with is also a great guy who's been doing this sort of stuff since he was a kid. So he knows his stuff and most importantly he clearly loves it.
The aerobatics bug bit me on my wedding day when Jen and I rode in the front of a 1941 Waco UPF 7. Paul, our pilot, performed spins, barrel rolls, loops and hammerheads, opening up this whole new world of flying to my very very influenceable mind!
Now, having myself touched the controls of such a capable aircraft, which wants nothing better than to spin and loop and roll around the sky, I think I might get hooked.
Sure, some of it scares me a little, but that's what's been so great about flying for me: conquering the occasional fear to discover what I can only now describe as pure bliss.
I love flying!!!!!!


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