Airport Stories: Runway Runaway

After I flew with instructor D, I had two weeks of bad weather to contend with - stormy, windy, just not suitable to any sort of flying I do. My contact with the flight school consisted mainly of phone calls where either they said not to bother coming, or I did. In fact, one morning I pick up the phone to call C to say I wasn’t coming, and no sooner had I picked it up than it rang - C calling to tell me not to come.

That’s really not such a coincidence - we both have the same sources of weather information, and she knew about when I’d be leaving the house. This sort of simultaneous decision-making is fairly common among pilots.

Somewhere during that two weeks I decided to try J as an instructor - his schedule matched up best with mine. The third week after D was when I met him, which was a good thing. It was also the week that a magneto decided to spontaneously disassemble, which was a bad thing, but not horrible.

Let’s try this again.

I rolled into the airport a few minutes early for my lesson. J was running late. Normally, I don’t have a lot of patience with that, but given the distance I was traveling it would be all too easy for me to arrive late and tolerance works both ways. I’d also been warned before I ever signed up with him that he runs chronically late and I thought, what the heck - I’m not in a hurry, and if he works out otherwise I can live with it. I actually have figured out why he’s always running late - he starts out 10 minutes behind arriving for the first student, then he gives an hour and 5 or 10 minutes for every hour scheduled with someone. So…first student of the day, he’s 10 minutes late. The second, he’s 20. Third, it’s a half an hour… He is consistent, so if I’m third student of the day I expect him to be a half hour late and in that sense he’s “on time”. At least everyone gets a full dose of attention, you don’t get cut short just because the guy ahead of you started late.

Anyhow, I’m there and the airplane was used earlier so it’s sitting out there on the flightline. I went out to pre-flight it. Yeah, I check the mags out extra thoroughly. So does J when he shows up. We’re not paranoid, naw…

Before we start the engines there are a couple things to take care of. We’re back to checking my position in the cockpit, whether or not I can reach everything comfortably and so forth. Also, a review of how we’re going to communicate in the air.

This airplane has tandem seating. That means I’m in front and J is sitting directly behind me. I can’t see him at all, he’s just a voice in my head most of the time (piloting: an occupation where hearing voices in your head and talking to yourself is considered perfectly normal and OK :slight_smile: ). Sure, I could turn around and look, but that’s not really advisable when traveling forward at high speed. There’s also that four-point safey harness getting in the way. When you strap in, you’re really strapped in. The feet of the person behind me rest to either side of my hips, if I look down I can see them easily. It’s kind of snug, and I have to make sure the ends of the straps don’t interfere with that second set of pedals.

(This arrangement means that I am more familar with what J’s shoes look like than what his face looks like. I’d describe the guy, but since 99% of the time I spend with him I never actually see him it’s sort of difficult to impossible - I have a general impression of larger than me, Causasian, and middle-aged. That’s about it.)

Although there are some conventions that are near-universal in the US - one of them being “your airplane” to relinquish control and “my airplane” in reply to acknowledge who’s in charge - every instructor I’ve ever worked with has their own favored way of doing things. Good ones will talk about this before you go up rather than expecting you to read minds.

A further factor involved with the Citabria is that while the guy in the back seat has a stick, rudder pedals, throttle, and carb heat he or she doesn’t have a clear view of the instruments (I’m in the way) and he or she has to operate the trim with his or her left foot as there is only one control and it’s placed for my convenience and no one else’s. Fortunately, a Citabria is a sort of airplane that doesn’t require much instrumentation. Throughout the training flights with J, though, he’s occassionally asking me to tell him what various dials are saying because I’m the only one who can see them. Interestingly enough, the electrical switches are really more conviently in his reach, so I’ll be flying along and notice the radio isn’t working, say something to that effect, then hear “Oh, I turned it off so it wouldn’t distract you.”

So, yes, teamwork does come into play, and there’s that whole business of I can’t see what the person behind me doing. J also explained that a tap on the right shoulder means more right rudder, a tap on the left means more left rudder, he might take hold of my left elbow to guide me on throttle settings… In the old days before radios, when open cockpits were the norm and communication nearly impossible between instructor and student that’s pretty much what was done, including a whack on the top of the student’s head to say “Give me the airplane” - J doesn’t do that, just grabs both your upper arms at once then lets go to grab his set of controls. That’s all in addition to lots of talking. Talk, talk, talk. You’d think he was being paid by the word. (That’s a common trait of flight instructors as well.)

By the way - it was beastly hot that weekend, nearly 100 degrees. There’s no air conditioning in these airplanes, just lots and lots of window. It was hot in there. Definitely, the window is going to be open part of the time. J said that if I was feeling brave later we could take the door off. I reminded him that I had started flying with open cockpits, why don’t we just take it off now? So that’s what we did - J got out, I pulled the release pin from inside the cockpit, and he caught the door as it fell off . It’s an airplane authorized for quite a few aerobatic manuvers you see - you need to be able to exist quickly in the event you break your airplane.

We start up and use the checklists. Got to CHECK DOOR and I truthfully reported it as “absent” :slight_smile: Unfortunately, with the air circulating inside the cockpit it becomes apparent that the headliner above J was ripped. It’s a cosmetic problem, not structural, but the air currents of absent-door flight would only make it worse.

We had to put the door back on. (Nooooooooooo!)

OK, OK, we’re all set to go now - pre-flight done, door restored, engine run-up complete, and I’m put-putting out to the runway. I am feeling more confident about moving this thing around on the ground, there’s that at least. I’m taxiing at a more normal speed and keeping it on center. J announces that he’ll be doing all the radio work. I’m a little surprised - many instructors insist on students working the radios as much as possible. Nope, J wants me to concentrate on just flying the airplane. That’s what I’m here for - learning to fly a taildragger, not to improve my radio technique. OK, fine with me.

Here we are, looking down the runway. Hey! The engine is still running! That’s a huge improvement over last week! J tells me to start when I’m ready, and to remember to move my feet.

“Move your feet” is this guy’s mantra. By the end of the weekend I’ll be hearing it in my sleep.

I push the throttle forward, along with the right rudder because as soon as the engine revs up the airplane will want to pull to the left.

"Move your feet, move your feet, move your feet … the tail is going to come up on three. One…two…three – " The tail comes up, right on cue. “Move your feet!

Oh, yeah, we jog left, we swerve right, left, right, bounce ever so slightly as the weight moves onto the wings – a gust of wind from off the right hits the tail, we swing right, weathervaning into the wind, and I’m just not fast enough to compensate . The gust dies, we’re traveling in a straight line again –

– straight off the runway into the grass.

I immediately quash the impulse to pull back the power. We’ve passed the point of commitment. I push even harder on the throttle because the only way to get safer is to get off the ground and it takes power to do that. Behind me J says “KEEP GOING, WE’LL BE OK” - that simultaneous decision making thing again, we’re both drawing the same conclusions from the same information. Thank Og the grass to either side of the runway is level, smooth, and in good enough condition to be able to function as a runway itself. This isn’t just a happy coincidence, either - tailwheel instructors prefer runways with groomed sides like this because beginning tailwheel students fall off the pavement on a semi-regular basis.

I only have to maintain directional control a few more seconds. One more bounce and J says “pull back, fly it off”. Even as I do so I can feel that he’s got the stick, too, keeping me from pulling too far back as a stressed out, slightly freaked, inexperienced-in-taildraggers student might have a tendency to do after falling off a runway. (If you pull back too far on take-off you exceed maximum angle of attack and you stall - and that’s why you drill with those power-on stalls, so you know what “too much” is and don’t do that low to the ground) Oh, yeah, I’m panting and not just from the heat but all I say is “I’ve had better take-offs” as I adjust the airplane for the best rate of climb.

Climbing is slow today. Not only is it hot and humid, which markedly reduces airplane performance, but I’m back to a regular-sized instructor sitting in the back seat. As the Citabria ambles upward J tells me we’re going to Cushing. I’ve been there before, but it’s such a hazy, scuzzy-looking day that I can’t see it from Morris. It’s hazy because there’s no wind to blow away air pollution and dust and it’s been that way for 8 or 9 days. The lack of wind is good for training, it just feels like we’re the fish in a dirty goldfish bowl, that’s all. J gives me a compass heading and off we go.

On the way there he asks me if I know why we ran off the pavement and discusses the matter. I am feeling not so good about it - it’s been nine years since I last ran myself off a runway like that (after which it took about two hours to clean all the soybeans out of the nooks and crannies of the airplane). J reassures me that it’s not unusual for someone making the transition from tricyle gear to tailwheels. It was largely inexperience with this style of airplane, he says, and he apologizes for not getting on the controls faster to prevent that. However, we’re both very awake now and that shouldn’t happen again.

It’s also sobering to be back in the position of depending on someone else for a safe landing. These past 6-7 years I’ve been the one in charge, utterly confident I could make the landing. Now I can’t anymore. I really can not safely land this airplane unassisted. I am back to trusting someone I barely know to keep me safe. This is not an easy thing for me to do. Oddly enough, I do have trust in this guy - he oozes confidence. Other people I’ve talked to have said wonderful things about him as a pilot and instructor. Every time doubt raises its evil little head I beat it back down.

On the way to Cushing, in addition to maintaining altitude-airspeed-heading and navigating J says how he’s going to first show me what normal landing and take off looks like, then he’ll have me do it. He also warns me that we’ll be landing from the north and the trees and powerlines just off that end of the field will bother me. Not to worry, he says, we’ll clear them with room to spare but we’ll get a lot closer to them than I’ll like the first few times.

I find Cushing and J has me bring the airplane onto the pattern downwind, at which point he says “my plane” and I say “your plane”. I don’t take my hands and feet off the controls, however - I rest lightly on them so I can feel what J is doing without exerting any force on them myself. It’s the only way to tell what he’s doing since I obviously can’t see what he’s doing behind me. He reassures me one more time he’s in full control. As he pulls the power back and bring the airplane down and around he’s also describing what he’s doing.

We pull out on to final. Yes, I see the trees. And the powerlines with those red-orange rubber ball things they put on them to make them more visible to pilots (not that it helps much - it doesn’t). I see where the powerlines have been lowered to allow airplanes to pass over them on their way to the runway. I see where we’re going. We’re going really close to branches and wires.

In the back of my brain there’s a primative little bit running around activating the alarms, the red alert, and in general screaming in protest.

Out in the real world I don’t say a word. I do, however, do one of those marvelous all-over-body-tense-ups while still managing not to mess with the controls.

J says “We’re not going to hit anything. I promise. I want to live, too. If you want, look out the side, you’ll see we clear them with plenty of room.”

So I did - yeah, we cleared the obstacles. Yes, there was lots of room. Oh, you betcha I wanted more!

Just past the trees J says “Look at the runway.” So I did. That view looked normal. Why I find heading toward flat ground rather than trees reassuring I don’t know - the ground would probably hurt more than the trees if we smacked into it in an uncontrolled manner. Maybe I’m just more used to pointing the nose toward dirt rather than leaves.

We’re over the runway now, J is working the rudders saying “move your feet, move your feet - feel that? That much - move your feet” as we float over the ground, slowly settling. “Be patient… it will touch on three. One… two… two and half… three…”

Well, yeah, it sure did - nice and gentle, too. J is still working the rudders to keep us on course as we rumble along over the grass. Makes it look easy.

J does the take-off and two more landings to demonstrate what should be done, with me following along on the controls and him continuing his lecture. Then it’s my turn.

First the take-off. This is a really wide field so directional control is not as critical though I still try for as straight a line as possible. It really is easier to keep this airplane under control on turf. The tail comes up, I swerve a little but not as badly as before, we bounce a couple times then we’re off the ground… although not going quite as fast as we should.

“Lower the nose” says J. So I do, in order to gain airspeed. If you take off a little too soon you won’t have enough airspeed to generate enough lift to climb. Pulling back more will only hurt you - your speed will just drop and eventually you’ll stall. The only way to get more speed is to lower the nose to a lower angle of attack, then wait, then pull back when you reach the speed that gives you the best rate of climb. After that, you raise/lower the nose as necessary to maintain that speed. It’s awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes a smooth and almost automatic motion. Since this part of flying is something I’ve been doing a long time the climb-out to pattern altitude is the easy part of flying today. We skim the ground until we hit 70, then up we go.

Turning back onto the downwind we hit a thermal, which actually pushes us up above pattern altitude, which is a little annoying but hardly the first time. I do the usual power adjustments, slip a little to get back on proper altitude, turn base, turn final…

I don’t think J is actually holding onto the controls back there - he’s blocking them so when I’m in the correct zone there’s free movement but he won’t let me push them too far in any one direction. If I make a mistake I can feel it, but the airplane isn’t allowed to get into a dangerous position. Lots of help getting over the powerlines and trees, which are still making me nervous. Various taps on the shoulders indicating more of this rudder or that. As we come over the runway edge he starts up again with “move your feet, move your feet, move your feet --”

We touch down. I’m moving my feet but evidently not enough - I can feel that there’s someone else helping me with the stick or the rudder every so often. Tap on the left shoulder, left shoulder, tap on the right, the left, the right - rapid tapping on the right “More right!” then left… The tail comes down and J calls for the stick to be all the way back. As we slow down the controls are all mine. I turn the airplane around and go back to the take-off end of the runway.

We do it again.

And again.

This is, after all, how you learn to take-off and land - by taking off and landing.

After the first trip around the pattern J starts adding to the exercise. On downwind he has me move just the rudders, but hard, swinging the airplane back and forth. Then roll the wings up and down with the stick. Point the nose of the airplane here. Point it there. Feel the wind and how it affects our course over the ground, and just as important, feel how much force is required to move the airplane at different speeds.

Then it’s back to Morris. On the way back there’s more with using just the feet to control the airplane, then just the hands. “Give me a turn with just your feet - hold your hands up, up over your head where I can see them. Yes, like that. Feel that difference? OK, now just the stick. Now together, coordinate that turn.”

Then we’re coming in for a landing again, this time on pavement, and strictly a demo. I taxi the airplane over to the parking area by the restaurant, J tells me good job, and take a break, maybe get something to eat. I nod, note how long the flight was on the clipboard (just over an hour), then unpeel myself from the front seat.

It’s hot, remember? I have sweat rolling into my eyes and down my legs. My clothes are…um… not so fresh as when I put them on this morning. And damp. No, worse than damp. Ick.

I staggered into the restaurant, and for the life of me, I don’t remember what I ate for lunch that day. I do remember two mugs of ice tea, water, and a lot of ice but remarkably little urge to pee.

And that was just the warm up for the afternoon.

A little over an hour later we do a quick preflight and climb into the airplane again. (Sweaty seats… ewwwwwww!..) Start-up, run-up - this is all getting more efficient - and out to the runway again.

This time, I stay on the runway. Yay! :slight_smile: Progress.

It’s even hotter, though… airplanes do not like to climb in hot weather, and even with less fuel on board we ooze upward at the same anemic rate as before. Finally, we get up to the proper altitude and head off towards Cushing again.

No more easy going flight instructor - J decides to start the work out on the way over. It’s a little more airwork for yours truly.

First, we review slips. Slips are an interesting manuver involving cross-controlling. That means left stick and right rudder. Or right stick and left rudder. You can use them to lose altitude without gaining airspeed the way you would if you simply pointed the nose down. (Airplanes with flaps use flaps to do this, but the Citabria doesn’t have flaps). You can also use them to alter your course to one side or the other, to fly sideways. By asking for a turn one way with one control and a turn the other with the other control you reduce the efficiency of the lifting force. You can build up a very impressive rate of descent, but still be in complete control of your speed both forward and down and your direction. There are slips with the window open and the window shut, so I can feel how the air currents over the airplane are affected. Slips left. Slips right.

One thing about slips, though - you need to keep adequate airspeed, which is related to your angle of attack. Remember angle of attack? Very important not to exceed a critical angle of attack during a slip. If you stall with crossed controls you WILL flip over, and inverted flight may be the least of your possible outcomes. You can get into things like inverted spins, which, to be honest, is really not something I care to think about at this point. That would really be a case of me hoping J can pull our butts out of the fire before we hit the ground because I just don’t have the skills to handle that sort of mess.

Which is why you just don’t allow that sort of thing in the first place.

Fortunately, maintaining airspeed in a slip is easy - just point the nose sufficiently earthward to maintain that speed. In this case gravity is your friend. It’s completely reliable, never known to fail, and you can trust it utterly.

OK! Slips done! Now we get more stall practice. I thought I was doing stall recoveries properly, but J wants to refine my technique. Power back, slow down, nose up, look left to the horizon, look at the wing and the angle it makes with the horizon… No one has ever insisted I look at the horizon while performing stalls before and I ask about that. The reply boils down to looking forward during a practice stall all you usually see is blue sky, you have no reference points. Look left (or right), you get a better idea of what’s happening.

(This sort of emphasis on orientation is, apparently, a feature of aerobatic flying… and J teaches aerobatics. I figure out fairly early on that some of the stuff he’s having me do not only works for improving general flying skills and teaches you how to handle taildraggers, it’s potentially laying a foundation for stunt flying.)

We arrive at Cushing a little later than usual, thanks to all that manuvering. As we slide into the downwind leg he starts up again with the “move your feet”. Waggle the nose left and right with the feet. With the hands. Adjust power and pitch and turn to base leg. Move the feet, keep moving the feet. Power off, turn to base - oops, a little high, slip to bring the altitude down - HARD right rudder, FULL left stick, which leaves the wings canted over at a definite angle as we come in, level out over the trees and powerlines, start slowing it down (with the power off, you do that by gently pulling back on the stick), MOVE YOUR FEET, hold it off, hold it off, be patient…we’ll touch on three… one…two…three (bump) - stick back, move your feet (shoulder tap), move your feet (shoulder tap-tap), move your feet (shoulder tap)… jump on the brakes, that’s it, my plane.

“Your plane?”

Yes - becuase the student already knows how to taxi, and he wants me to think about that landing and also take a small breather before he makes me do the next take off and landing.

According to what I have written down in my logbook, we did that five times. About the third time around I notice he’s helping me somewhat less. Then J decides I have had enough for the day, let’s me fly back straight and level (this time I can even find my own way), and we get to chat a little on the way to Morris.

Re-reading the above, it occurs to me that while I am accurately conveying a lot of the work, I seem to be skipping over the jokes, the wise-crackings, and witty observations. There are times when flying does not require one’s full attention, even in a learning environment, and chatting occurs. J is actually a humorous guy with a good laugh. There’s been a fair amount of “What’s your day job?” (I’m a glorified secretary. He’s a school superintendent.) “What else have you flown?” and so forth.

Then he makes me land on the pavement. LOTS of help with that one. Then I take it back to the hangar and we put it away for the day. J pointed out the correct parts of the plane to grip for handling without causing damage and I pulled it into the hangar. I made the observation that J let me do this entirely on my own rather than doing it for me in some sort of misplace chivalry - one day, I’ll be on my own with this airplane and it’s important that I know how to handle it properly on the ground, on my own, because there might not be anyone around to help me.

In case anyone was wondering, Citabria N8503 weighs 1,230.94 lbs/558.34 kg with full fuel. We refuel at the end of the day so it’s ready for the next person, and also because it discourages water condensation in the tanks. Engines burn fuel, not water, so water in the fuel is something you want to avoid. That’s about nine times my own mass I’m dragging into the hangar, but surprisingly it’s less difficult than you’d think. I’ve moved airplanes twice that size on my own, though with considerably more effort.

I think I got my money’s worth - I certainly got a workout!

I stopped by the airport restaurant for more fluids. Getting into my car I thought I had some sort of peculiar white dust on my legs. Wasn’t dust - it was salt. Salt from dried sweat. I did mention it was hot, right?

The drive home wasn’t bad, but I was tired. And icky-sticky. I stripped off my clothes and spent some quality time in the shower. The Other Half made sure I ate some dinner, then I went face-down on the bed and slept until morning, a good nine or ten hours.

Good for you going for the tailwheel signoff, Broomstick! I’ve enjoyed reading your training reports. I got my endorsement in a J-3 Cub, but my first tailwheel solo was in a Citabria - what a fun plane. Have fun with the rest of your training and keep us posted!

Just a little >bump< - if anyone has comments please fire away. It not, the next installment will be along in a bit.

J seems like a great instructor. Some of the things that could go wrong but mostly don’t sound utterly hair-raising!

As ususal, facinating. Thanks, and keep’em coming.

Yes, he is. In truth, I don’t feel I’m truly doing him justice here. I’ll try better on subsequent threads.

Yes, they are.

Flying is wonderful fun, it’s an awesome activity, truly amazing… but when things go wrong they can go very wrong very quickly.

Yes, pilots really are aware of Bad Consequences pretty much all the time. You only need to see one aviation accident in real life to be impressed by the physical forces involved. But we don’t dwell on it (usually) and it certainly doesn’t stop us.

The key thing is to try to prevent Bad Things from happening in the first place. Don’t want to stall? Don’t let your airspeed drop. Don’t want to hit the trees? Mind your altitude. Don’t want to run out of gas? Check the tanks before take off and don’t lose track of time.

The most forgiving, most docile, easiest to fly airplane is still capable of killing you very, very quickly if mishandled. (In fact, J felt compelled to remind me of that fact about two weeks ago. Yes, I was getting a little cocky…) On the flip side, with proper training and attention even very unforgiving, difficult, and cantankerous aircraft can be flown safely. It’s this constant push-pull thing in aviation. No matter how well the flight is going, how well the engine is running, and how skilled the pilot there’s always some element of potential catastrophe that must be guarded against and kept at bay. If you find that sort of tension exciting and exhilirating you love flying. If you don’t like that, you will not enjoy flying.

I hope that very soon your instructor will prove to you that you don’t necessarily have to have low airspeed in order to stall an airfoil. And if you do the wrong things close to the ground bad things happen quickly, high airspeed notwithstanding.

Runway Runaways? Well, on my first night flight in Basic Flight Training at Gardner Field in Taft, CA. I managed to get around the pattern without killing myself and the instructor so he let me go on my own. On one landing I came to the end of the landing mat and turned off on the taxiway. As I glanced back at the approach end of the field I saw a red light and a green light at the same level and the were diverging. An airplane was headed right for me. I kept watching it and taxied faster trying to get out of the way but it kept heading right for me. My eyes were glued to this monster that was about to get me and I could almost see the propellor ready to tear my plane to pieces.

All at once the taxiway got real bumpy and I came to and realized that I had run off the taxiway into the dirt. So I stopped. The I looked at the lights again and realized that what I say was one wing of a plane of final approach and the opposite wing of a plane in the middle distance traveling at right angles to the approaching plane.

I lucked out in not running into a ditch which would certainly have cause me to nose over and might have aborted my flying career right then. Night flying takes some getting used to. Your depth perception is screwed up and you can see the damndest things. Pilots have been known to get so confused that they fly into the ground.

I did it again! :rolleyes:

Yes, I actually AM aware that one can stall at any airspeed, in any configuration, at any angle to the horizon - all one must do is exceed the maximum angle of of attack in relation to the relative wind.

But it’s just not as snappy!

I wasn’t going for aerodynamic accurary, I was trying to make a point about staying out of trouble by avoiding the obvious errors. Naturally, I made an obvious error while doing so!

Yes. It’s close to the ground in a tight situation where the inexperienced pilot can get in a jam by making a sudden and much too violent move with the controls resulting in a stall. Nice and easy does it. Pressure and not motion on the controls and stay ahead of the airplane and everything will be just fine.

Unless, of course you need a lot of control motion as in a snap roll which is an accelerated stall with one wing in a deeper stall than the other resulting in autorotation, a spin in other words, in the horizontal plane. Not recommended on the turn from the base leg onto the final approach, although it has been known to happen with bad consequences.

Part of the problem, as Wolfgang Langwische eludicated as far back as 1944 in Stick and Rudder is that small airplanes do not have a direct angle of attack indicator. The airspeed indicator is the closest thing we’ve got, and it’s not a perfect substitute.

Running off the runway must raise the old pucker factor a bit. You had your instincts wired just right, though - get the damn thing in the air! You don’t need a runway up there.

Are you thinking about aerobatics after your tailwheel? Maybe you could get your instructor to demonstrate some manouevres - I bet he ITCHES for it!

I love these flying threads :smiley:

Just a suggestion. On a hot day like that, try drinking something besides iced tea. It has caffeine, and is actually a diuretic. It can cause more harm than good and may not hydrate you properly.

I think the most enlightening aspect of this thread is that after a lesson, you really review in your mind (and in this case, type) everything that happened and what you learned. I know that so many times when I’ve had a lesson, the instructor would have me work on manuvers, practice various scenarios, gain some proficiency, and then when the lesson was over I’d leave the airport and not think about what we did until I was getting ready for the next lesson. I’m sure if I had just spent 10 minutes afterwards going over the things we did, my progress would have been much faster.

:::blush::: Yeah, I’m thinking of it… haven’t asked the husband yet. Wouldn’t be before next year, though, would have to save up some money for it.

Oh, yeah, he sure does… but the agreement is to finish what I’ve started before going on to something else.

And if I don’t get my tea on a regular basis I go into caffeine withdrawal and get headaches, which isn’t good for me either.

I did drink something besides iced tea - I drank water. Even said so. As much water as I drank tea. Heck, the tea was half ice, anyhow. Don’t worry, I was sucking down non-caffeinated fluids, too.

I’ve had a runway runaway experience too.

I did my taildragger rating as I was nearing the end of my private pilots licence, in a 100hp flapless PA-18 Piper Cub (I mention the specifics because Cubs come in a huge variety of configurations.) After I got my PPL, I managed to get a bit of money together, enough to do the extra 150 or so hours required for a commercial licence. My plan was to hire aircraft and just fly around New Zealand until I had about 30-40 hours left of the 200 (total) that I needed. Then I would start the specific flight instruction in preperation for the flight test.

Because I had really enjoyed flying the Cub I chose to do 50 hours in it and after talking to the operator of the aircraft, he agreed to hire it out to me. The Cub had only been made available to my flying shool over a weekend or two as a novelty and was actually based at an aeroclub in Gore, some distance from my flying school in Dunedin.

Gore has a grass strip with a cross-strip, also grass. If I remember correctly, the strip is used for sheep grazing as well so you had to have a good look before landing and make sure that there was no stock inside the aerodrome fencing that day.

I got to Gore somehow (I think my Mum drove me there or something) and did a check ride in the Cub as I hadn’t flown it for some time. This consisted of some airwork including stalls and steep turns and a couple of circuits at Gore then we headed off to Mandeville and did a couple of circuits there, then back to Gore for a couple more circuits.

The instructor was happy enough so I paid my money, jumped in, and flew back to Dunedin. Unfortunately, when I got there I found that a 14-18 knot cross-wind had arrived at the field. It must have made an impression on me at the time because the wind speed is written into my log book for that day. I had yet to be tested by such a cross-wind in a taildragger so I was a little nervous about it. Dunedin had just the one strip and it was sealed.

I informed the Tower of my reservations about the wind, told him I’d make an attempt at landing and if it wasn’t going too well, I’d divert to Taieri, which is a small grass field only a few miles away that had a cross-strip. I also requested he send someone out to help me taxi in (to hold the into-wind wingtip to ensure it didn’t get blown over.)

Did I mention that I had my girlfriend in the plane with me? So that was in the back of my mind too.

Well, I made an approach and as far as I can remember, everything went ok until after I’d touched down and almost slowed to taxi speed. As we slowed, the airflow over the rudder became less and as a result the rudder became less effective. The cross wind is still there though, gusting away at 18kts, and it’s the rudder that you need to stop the wind from swinging the tail around on the ground. The solution would normally be to apply a little bit of brake if you have applied full rudder and it is not enough. The brakes on the Cub though, are a seperate pedal, operated with your heel and it is not practical (for me at least, with my leg/foot geometry) to use brakes the with your heel as well as applying full rudder with your toes.

So, as we slowed, I gradually lost directional control, ambled off the edge of the runway and came to a stop on the grass. No damage done except to my pride. Shortly afterwards, a car pulled alongside and my usual flight instructor poked his head out the window, grinned at me and said “you’ll be fine, see you back inside”, then drove away.

I taxiied in to the parking spot with no further trouble.

All part of the learning experience.

Broomstick I can empathize with you about the various rudder exercises you’ve had to do. I remember my instructor trying to get my feet working properly. One thing he got me to do, was to fly at a reduced power setting with some flap out, this slowed the plane down and made the adverse yaw, caused by aileron input, more pronounced.

Quick lesson for non-aviation readers: You roll the aircraft with the ailerons which are at each end of the wings. A secondary, undesired effect of rolling with ailerons is that the nose of the aircraft tends to swing off a little in the direction opposite to that in which you are rolling, i.e., if you want to turn right, you roll right, but the nose initially swings left. This is called adverse yaw and is corrected by coordinating aileron input with rudder input in the same direction.

With the aircraft slowed down he had me pick out a cloud and keep the nose pointing at it while rolling the aircraft left and right through 30 degrees. The only way to do this is by working away at the rudder.

Another exercise I’ve had to do was when I was doing my Pitts Special rating, the instructor had me stall the aircraft with a fair bit of power on, but instead of the usual recovery, he had me keep the stick back in my stomach to keep the aircraft stalled, and to use the rudder to keep the wings level and prevent the aircraft from spinning. Once you get the hang of it, you can drop out of the sky, upright, wings level, with very little forward speed and a huge rate of descent. In itself, useless, but as a rudder exercise it was excellent.

I think the biggest leap to make when learning to fly a taildragger is to become proactive with your rudder use. Your instructor J demonstrated that when he was telling you exactly when the tail would come up during the takeoff roll, he knew you’d need to apply more right rudder. You need to be anticipating everything that happens on the ground, and correcting it with rudder before it has happened, rather than reacting to what has already occured.

It is one of those things that is hard to learn, hard to teach (I imagine, I have never instructed), and once you’ve got it you’ll probably wonder why it was ever a problem. One day you’re taking off or landing and you have a think about what your feet are doing, and you realise that they are working away at the rudder, and you don’t even really know what, exactly, they are doing, it’s all become automatic, allowing you to concentrate on other things.

Keep us posted on further developments!