Learning to Fly the Unusual Way

By Roy Wright, edited by Steve Aughinbaugh


Editors note: This is a series of article edited by me and written by Roy Wright. Roy decided it was time to learn a bit more about being a pilot and has begun taking aerobatic lessons. I have asked Roy to let me edit his write-up and publish them in the TFC Newsletter and on my website. Roy was a hangar neighbor of mine a few years ago and owns a 1965 Cherokee. Roy was with TI/Raytheon for 13 years starting in December 1984. He then moved to Cisco Systems in Austin during October 1998. A long time high school friend talked him into going halves with him on a 1965 Cherokee 180C, N8389W.  He thought about joining TFC, but with his own airplane there was not much need for it. Roy found Mark Seglem (my instructor also) for his primary instruction with Art Jones doing his progress checks and Don Boothe did his checkride. Roy currently has about 450 hours with practically all of it in N8389W and of that, about 350 hours are cross country.


Roy’s aerobatic instructor is James Norton at Harvey & Rihn Aviation (see http://www.aerobatics.cc) at La Porte, TX (T41).  Debbie Rihn-Harvey owns the FBO and has competed eight times in the world aerobatic championship, which she won three times.


The course he is taking was one of their spin awareness and safety proficiency courses.  But he is planning on continuing into their basic aerobatics course. Roy can be contacted at royw@cisco.com if you have any questions. Here is part 1 of  2 so far. Steve Aughinbaugh


Flying Upside Down!


La Porte (T41), 7/27/2001: I had my first aerobatic lesson yesterday.  It was in a Super Decathlon, which is a two seat, high wing, tube and fabric, 180 HP constant speed prop and fully aerobatic. This particular Decathlon is located at La Porte, T41 (just east of Houston). I flew to La Porte in my Cherokee 180, N8389W


It was a nice flight to La Porte via I-10 (VFR corridor) and the monument.  I arrived right on time instead of the hour early I had planned on (the delay was caused by a flat tire on my car on the way to the Brenham airport). After about a half hour of ground school and pre-flight briefing, we strapped on our parachutes and started the plane.  This was the first fuel-injected engine and first constant speed prop that I've flown, so I had to be talked through the procedures.


After crossing runway 30, my instructor had me taxi the airplane to the run up area for runway 12.  This was also my first time steering a conventional geared plane.  There is a delay from the time when you push a rudder pedal until the airplane responds.  It takes a little getting used to.


OK, my instructor handles the take-off (I'm not signed off for conventional gear) then he hands the airplane over to me at 300 ft. Basically we just followed a highway south until we reached the practice area.  Along the way he demonstrated, then had me perform Dutch rolls, which is rocking the wings right then left while the keeping nose of the airplane pointed straight ahead. This is a good maneuver for getting the feel of any airplane that you are new to. Then we did up and down 45 lines, vertical climb at 45 degrees up from the horizon and then a descent at 45 degrees down.


Once at the practice area, we did normal steep turns (45 degrees bank) and then I learned competition turns where you bank the aircraft 70 to 90 degrees, half second pause, pull elevator until desired heading, push elevator to neutral, half second pause, roll upright.


Next we did normal approach and departure stalls followed by an exercise called the falling leaf.  My instructor held the plane in a stall while I used the rudder pedals to keep the wings level and the plane pointing straight.


Next we climbed to 5000 ft where my instructor demonstrated a one turn left spin.  Believe it or not, spins are 1 G maneuvers with just a slight sideways loading (you feel more side forces when you turn your car).  The spin went real fast and we lost about 700 ft in altitude.


OK, back to 5000 ft, and this time it was my turn.  For spin recovery you use the mnemonic PARE for:  Power off, Ailerons neutral, Rudder opposite, Elevators neutral.  That's what I did but when we came out of the spin at about 70 degrees down angle, I forgot to neutralize the rudder.  My instructor had to remind me and then I pulled out of the dive.  Wow!


Try it again.  Did the same thing, but recognized the rudder before being told.


Next was a right spin.  An airplane will usually enter a spin easier in one direction due to gyroscopic precession.  So entering the spin, the part where the wing goes over the top, was slower for the right hand spin. My last spin was a two and a half turn left spin.


Last, my instructor demonstrated a one and a quarter left turn competition spin.  The difference being that you exit the spin on a 90 degree down line which you hold for a couple of seconds followed by a sharp pull to horizontal (this was a 3.5g maneuver).


I flew the airplane back to La Porte, entered the pattern, then my instructor landed and I taxied it back to the hangar.


Our maximum G's were -0.5, +3.5


I had an absolute blast!  I did not get nauseous at all.  I did get disorientated (as in which way is north) during the spins.  I felt like I was more along for the ride than actually flying the airplane during the spins, but think I can eventually master that with practice. My next two lessons will include more inverted flight, rolls, loops, hammerhead turns, and more spins.


Upside Down and More!


La Porte (T41), 8/3/2001: Last Friday I did two more aerobatic lessons. We started with inverted flight.  My instructor rolled us over … wait a minute, let me back up a bit. I was secured into the seat using both a 5-point hooker harness (one strap between the legs, one over each thigh, and one over each shoulder) and a regular lap belt (for back up).  I had climbed into the airplane and had tightened all the belts to be comfortably snug. That was a mistake!  Now where were we, oh yes we were upside down.  At this point my rear about three inches away from the seat and my mind is trying to say that this is cool, but my body is yelling that it is falling!


OK, we are back right side up now.  Time to tighten those belts as tight as I can get them.  Unfortunately it still does not feel tight enough, but it will have to do.  Oh well, my turn to roll her over and this time I can barely feel the seat with my rear.  I'm hanging by the two straps across my legs.  My headset feels like it wants to fall off.  I have to hold my legs up to keep them on the rudder pedals.  But the weirdest sensation is having to push the joystick away from the direction you feel like you are falling. Pushing the joystick keeps the nose up which is necessary to maintain level inverted flight.  After an eternity (must have been at least 30 seconds), my instructor has me roll the airplane upright.  Whew! 


I try to snug the belts even tighter, no joy.  We realign for another pass in the aerobatic box.  And roll inverted again.  Not so bad this time.  My body is only saying in a normal voice that it is falling.  At this point I'm not sure I like inverted flight.


Enough of inverted flight, time for aileron rolls.  These turn out to be pure joy.  I love them from the start.  Simply establish entry speed, trim for level flight, pitch up to 30 degrees, then full aileron.  Hold it all the way around, neutralize aileron.  We are now nose down about 30 degrees, so pull to level, and smile!


Next on the lesson list is loops.  Loops are nice too.  Dive for entry speed, level the wings and then a 4g pull and look out the side.  When past the vertical relax the elevator to float over the top.  Look ahead at the ground and pull for a 4g pull out.  A slight bump as we hit the bottom of the loop and level flight indicates that we crossed our wake.  Not bad!


One of the basic flight maneuvers is a slip.  You command opposite aileron and rudder (example, left aileron and right rudder).  What you are doing is increasing the drag by having the relative wind hit the side of the fuselage. Slips are great when you are a little too high for landing or there is a crosswind.  One of my training manuals stresses that slips are spin resistant.  I've always been extremely cautious to maintain airspeed when slipping because I do not want to enter a spin.  So we established a left slip and took it into the stall.  I could not get it to enter a spin.


Now back to T41 for a break and lunch.  What was weird is when my instructor took the airplane in the pattern for the landing. I started to feel a little queasy.  Now come on body!  I've been in the pattern over a thousand times and never felt queasy!  After landing, it took about five minutes for me to recover my land legs.


For the next flight, my instructor had me perform the take off.  Let's just say that everybody is right and the rudder on a tail wheeled aircraft is very sensitive.  But besides a little yawl oscillation, the take off was OK.


At the aerobatic box we did one more loop, then we did some barrel rolls.  They are the same as loops except you add a little aileron and time it so you complete the first half of the roll when you are at the top of the loop.  I found them interesting.


Next we revisited spins.  We did an incipient spin recovery. You command a spin and as soon as the wing starts to come up you do a spin recovery.  This ends up like a 90-degree wing over turn with a pitch to 70 degrees down.


Next we entered a spin, and then increased the rate of the spin by applying ailerons in the direction of the spin.  The spin rate is just about double a normal spin.


I didn't have the disorientated feeling during the spins this time, but I still can't pick out the exit point.  My instructor suggested that next time I try looking up for the exit point.


Finally we tried the slip stall again, but this time with a right slip (right aileron, left rudder).  We were able to get a spin entry, but it was a lot slower (about quarter speed) and the airplane bucked and screamed at us before entering the spin.  Now I understand what is meant by slips being spin resistant.


My instructor had me follow along on the controls for the landing so I expect after a couple more lessons he will have me try landing a tail dragger.


Afterwards, I was talking with the FBO owner, Debbie Rihn-Harvey, and told her that I'm not sure if I like inverted flight.  She said it takes a few times to learn to trust the straps and cautioned me that aerobatics are addictive!


Overall I had a great day!


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