Lesson 89
30 October 98
0.5 hour

Third Aerobatics Lesson

I've just come down (well, I'm still high, in the other sense) from a full half hour acro lesson, during which time I (a) did not become sick (well, not quite) and (b) did four loops by myself (as far as I know), one of which was good enough for Greenwood to bat me on the head because on pullout we went through our own prop wash.  Whooie!

A few more details now.

On takeoff, he keeps the tailwheel down, and at 60 knots the Pitts just flies up into the air.

We headed north, got on the power line, and flew to Kings Dominion, while I got myself tuned in to the airplane.  Above the Awful Tower (what they call Eiffel) it was time to turn south and get to work.  I'd been doing fairly easy turns--no more than about 60 or 70 degrees of bank, but I'd decided to turn tighter today, so I hauled it around to left in a 90 degree bank, with a little right rudder to keep the nose up.  Great fun, and Greenwood seemed to enjoy it, too.  And I felt good, felt the airplane, managed to stay coordinated pretty well and not to lose much altitude.

The first thing was to practice recovery from inverted flight.  He rolled us to the right and I followed and then held it inverted for a while, getting the feel of it again, wings level, enough forward pressure to keep the nose high and wings level.  Then right aileron and right rudder to roll upright again.

Okay, now it's time for loops.   On the first one I followed him on the controls, remembering to squeeze my stomach muscles good and tight against the 4 or 5 g's.  Then it was my turn and he talks me through it:   Dive to accelerate to 170 knots. and I take a breath and squeeze, pull it up., my head back against the cowl, looking for the horizon to come around, just before it comes into sight give it a touch of right rudder just a touch (to compensate for the right-turning tendency with high power and low speed), hold the stick where it is, we're coming down now, start increasing the back pressure, and I'm still squeezing my stomach as the g's build up to--what?--more than on entry, maybe 4.5 or 5, and we're back upright and not too far from where we started.

I do another of those tight 90-degrees-of-bank turns and head north along the power line, and we do it again.  This time I pull out a little too hard and the angle of attack gets too high and he says we were close to a stall.  As I'm getting level again he says climb, look, and turn.  He's been saying this, but it only now sinks in that he's telling me what to do in an aerobatics routine--as if I were performing.  He means as I'm coming out of the loop, part of the recovery should be to gain altitude while we still have that extra speed from the dive part of the loop, trading speed for altitude; then look to be sure we're clear, and while still recovering from the loop, begin turning to set up for the next maneuver.  Cool!  I slam us over into another tight turn, with the elevators doing the turning and the rudder keeping the nose up, the g's up to maybe 3 or 4, but I'm no longer noticing the effects of the g's, just tightening my stomach muscles automatically.

Turn south and do it again.  This time my entry is a bit too gradual, and we're a little slow on top, but the exit seems to be all right.  Climb, look, and turn.  Head north and do it again, and this is the one where he bats me on the back of the head because even I can tell it's pretty good.  He's been coaching me all along, of course, but after this one I think I could probably do it alone, get all the way around, and not die.

Next he says we'll do a loop and immediately go into a slow roll to the right.  I follow him on the controls and his loop is perfect and instead of climbing, looking, and turning, he rolls to the right and by the time we're back around upright, I get an inkling that my semicircular canals might not want to do that again right away, so he turns it back over to me and says we might as well head back, that it'll be the full half hour by time we get on the ground, anyway.  I don't really feel sick--just a hint of the possibility--and even that settles down once I'm doing the flying again.

We're at 2,500 feet, only three or four of miles north of the airport, so I throttle back slightly and pitch down fairly steeply, to get to 1,000 feet for turning crosswind across the 1-6 numbers.  Those miles disappear fast at 160 knots.  Over the numbers he takes it, turns downwind less than a quarter mile west of the runway, chops the throttle midfield, and rolls into the turn to base and final.  The wind has picked up to about 10 knots crosswind component.  He rolls onto final at his "normal" 50 feet or less, and we're down on the left wheel, then the other two, so smooth that it seems simple--the way loops seem simple until you try doing them..

I'm not sure I'm ever again going to be satisfied flying Cessna 172's.

Aerobatics Figures--online lesson--not quite the same as what the Pitts requires, because of its high power and constant-speed prop, but close.

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