Lesson 121
27 August 1999
1.5 hours
Tailwheel Lesson 6
First Tailwheel Solo

Unlike my previous lesson in the Citabria, nothing blew out and there were no surprises--well, only one pleasant surprise.

I preflighted, Carmine trotted over to the hanger, and we were off.  I remembered to do almost everything right, even switching the transponder to Alt for a change.  The wind was only about 8 knots, but from 280, so that worked out to about 6 knots of crosswind component.  It was enough for some good, gentle practice, but not enough to be difficult.  The clouds were low, so Carmine suggested that we'd better fly the pattern at 900 feet instead of the usual 1000.  Okay, I got us around and landed reasonably smoothly.  We did that several more times without Carmine prompting me about anything, except once or twice about keeping the upwind wing down after landing and--of course--about getting that stick ALL.  THE.  WAY.  back.

Once shortly after I turned crosswind leg and we were at about 600 feet AGL, he pulled the throttle and demanded to know where I was going to land.  I saw runway 32, the crosswind runway, ahead and said I'd go there.

"What about five?" he said.  "It's right there!

"Huh?  Five?"  Aw jeez, of course we'd just taken off from the other end of it and there it was off to my left.  Why didn't I think of that first?  And we'd had several conversations about this very situation.

Okay, so I turned left toward 5 and then right and managed to get lined up on it before running out of altitude.  But I got a little slow, down to 60, by doing exactly what I knew not to do--try to stretch a glide by holding the nose up.  Fortunately, we had just enough airspeed to flare and get down, a very crappy landing, but at least nothing broke.  And I (finally?) learned a good lesson about power failures on takeoff and about gliding distance.  It would have gone much more nicely if I had turned toward 5 immediately, instead of wasting time trying to think if I could get to 14.

So we did a couple more touch-and-goes and then Carmine said, "Taxi to the FBO."  Well, I knew waht that probably meant--that he awas going to sign me off--but was surprised because I'd been thinking the crosswind wasn't really strong enough.  But he evidently had decided that it was--or that he was tired of going around in circles.  We shut down the engine and went inside, where he endorsed my logbook and told me to go do some landings by myself.


Climbed in and started the engine.  But then I couldn't get the radio to work, so I shut it down again.  Carmine came over and showed me the one switch I hadn't figured out in the Citabria, the one that switches the transmitter control from the rear seat to the front.  (It's a really screwy setup.)

Started the engine again, taxied to 23, ran it up, and took off.  So far, so good.  It got up much quicker without that weight in the back seat.  Around the pattern.  I felt awkward on the radio because Carmine had done all of it before.  Got around on final, but overcorrected for the wind and under corrected for the wind and--aw hell powered up and went around.  I could have landed okay, but didn't want to fool around when I didn't have to.  After that I did four more landings that turned out to be smooth and straight and uneventful.  By then I was getting good and hungry, so I decided to call it quits while I was still having fun.

So my log says I'm a tailwheel pilot.  Now, of course, I need to learn how to do all that stuff well--another instance of the "license to learn" expression that describes flying so accurately.

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