East Coast Flying

East Coast Flying

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Tailwheel Endorsement Lesson 1

Posted by Aaron Harrington on January 14, 2012 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Lesson 1: Jan. 7, 2012


I recently decided to get my tailwheel endorsement as I have been flying about twice every three weeks and have really only been taking people up for 'rides.' Rides are expensive if it isn't getting you anywhere and I really only want to be doing flying that is going to count towards something until I either (co)buy an airplane or start my instrument rating. So, because Harford has a nice Citabria 7GCBC and I can't afford to do the complex rating in the Piper Warrior, I am working on the tailwheel. It will make me a better stick and rudder pilot anyways.


Lesson 1 begins with me meeting Duane Wallace. I have met Duane once in passing really but this was the first time really getting to spend time with him. I am always nervous going up with an instructor for the first time because I want someone whose teaching style matches my learning style. I am the kind of person that you only need to explain things to once with only slight reminders here and there. If I already know something, I don't want them to waste their time explaining it to me again. (i.e. I am an aerospace engineer....i know what a stall is. I am only using that as an example, a stall explaination hasnt been attempted on me quite yet). However, I want someone who is very verbal and coaches me through the process. I like to be coached, "the plane likes to turn left so it is going to need more right rudder on take-off than you are used to" is much much better than waiting till I start the takeoff roll and "more right rudder.... More right rudder.....MORE rudder!"


Duane was great. He allowed me to pre-flight in peace but still explained to me the nuances of the Citabria pre-flight. 4 sumps, one under each wing, one under the gas collater and a belly sump. He also explained the importance of checking the tailwheel and leaf springs and encouraged me to sit in the airplane for a few minutes and figure out where everything was and the buttons and switches before he got in so we could go flying.


The initial taxi was benign and I had read that you need to anticipate any rudder/tailwheel control inputs before the plane required them, meaning, don't react to what the plane is already doing but command what you want it to do. The tailwheel was definately something new (and really cool) as I found turning super easy and I liked the amount of 'power' i had over its direction. After run-up and pre-takeoff checks, Duane explained the takeoff procedure. He was impressed with my ability to precisely counter the much more pronounced left turning tendancy of the plane and I hit the rotation, Vx, and Vy speeds perfectly. We flew around doing steep turns (up to 60 deg bank, the plane is, after all, aerobatic) slow flight, stalls, and departure stalls. Duane then demonstrated a three point grass landing at Moxley's private strip and it was back to Harford. Duane let me be on the controls (without direct input) while he demonstrated another landing. He then said that I had done so well my first time out that he thought I was ready to try an unassisted take-off and landing at Harford. He said that he rarely allows students to land the Citabria at Harford their first time out but thought I might be able to do it. We taxied back, took off, and I hit a perfect 80 kts downwind, 70 kts base, and 60 kts final. I lined the planes nose up with the runway, held her off in the flare and greased it on. I immediately felt the 'sway' of the tailwheel and kept the nose strait down the runway with small jabs to the rudders. Duane told me he was very impressed and was confident that my tailwheel transisiton was going to be easy and fun for the both of us. Next time, we are going to Summet and he is going to show me how to do wheel landings. I need 10 hrs before I can solo the Citabria for insurance purposes but it was a total blast! Cant wait for next lesson.


Flying Lessons

Posted by Aaron Harrington on February 5, 2011 at 12:27 AM Comments comments (1)

     Almost a year ago, I started my official training towards my private pilot's license. When I graduated with my bachelors degree in aerospace engineering, i made a promise to myself that I would get my pilots license no matter what. Well, last year I went for it.


     Before I started, I did a lot of shoping around. I talked to a lot of friends that were pilots or had gone through training. A lot of people gave me good advice and now, I have advice to give others. Below is some advice that was given to me, as well as some advice I have for others preparing to start the process:

  1. Do not worry about the money. If you stress over ever single dollar you spend, then you are done before you began.
  2. Look for a school with a good reputation and that has a high pass rate. Do the majority of students even finish?
  3. Find an instructor that you feel comfortable with and you get along with. It will be much easier to learn if you two can be friends but don't let your friendship get in the way of the business side of things (i.e. money)
  4. Go to a bigger airport. Even better if it has a control tower. Evern much better if it is Class B or Class C airspace! (i will explain this further down)

     Flying is not cheap and you need to get a realistic idea of what it is going to cost you. I will say right now, do not expect to spend less than $7,000 (if you are flying on the east coast) anyone who tells you that you can do it for much cheaper is lying. Also, don't expect to be done in 40 hrs, there is a lot of 'hangar' talk out there, and people will tell you, "oh, i soloed at 10 hrs and finished in 42 hrs" This is either a) not true, or b) a most likely unsafe pilot. You are learning to fly an airplane in a complex east coast airspace here, not learning to drive your mom's mini van on amish country back roads (where I learned how to drive). Make sure that most of the school's students pass, and not just barely, they should be passing with flying colors (pun intended).


     I also mentioned above that it is better to learn at a bigger airport. I learned to fly at a 'busy' international airport (Baltimore Washington International) this is a class B airspace AND inside the Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area. This is probably a worst case scenario as far as airspace is concerned, however, i wouldn't trade the experience i gained in my training due to this for anything else. Waaaaay too often I meet pilots who exclaim 'oh my gosh! I could never fly to BWI, isn't it hard?" or "don't the controllers not like small planes?" or "don't you have to look out for the big planes?" Well, it is NOT hard, the controllers are very nice and helpful, and you should always be looking out for planes no matter where you are, the bigger ones are actually easier to see. Yes, you have a few more radio calls to make, but the controllers are there to keep you safe and trust me, you feel very very safe flying around BWI. I have a friend learning at a small un-towered airport and he is terrified to even talk to an air traffic control person. Why? this makes no sense to me, especially if you want to do a lot of flying on the east coast. 14 of the 39 U.S. Class B airports are on the East Coast and there are 9 in between New York and Virginia. This means that it is very difficult, near impossible to avoid this airspace if you are going to do a lot of flying around here. Sooner or later you are going to have to talk to someone over the radio, better make is sooner rather than later.


Flying is rewarding. It is a great way to see the world from a new perspective. Pilots are a unique breed as we are a community who all share a single passion and it doesn't matter if you fly a Cessna or a Boeing, we are proud of flying and wish everyone to experience the joy it brings us. Well, this is what I have to say for now, and I look forward to putting up a lot more about my flights, training, and fun stories. Thanks for reading!