Acro is Back
...or more to the point, John Greenwood's back is acro-capable again. As for me, though, today's lesson amounted to getting back in touch with the Pitts S-2A and with flying knife-edge and upside down and around in vertical circles. My last lesson was on November 27th--almost three months ago, so there was no doubt about my being rusty. The only question was how thick the rust was.
It was thick enough. For starters, Greenwood asked if I wanted to follow him through on a slow roll. Although I knew I was rusty, I didn't really want to be flown because I've found that that's more likely to get my semicircular canals roiled up than if I'm flying, myself. Also, after that November 27th lesson, during which I was getting over a cold, I was slightly dizzy for several days and had even canceled the following week's lesson. So I asked to try the slow roll on my own.
Well, I did manage to get it all the way around--but it was a perfectly awful mess otherwise. I still hadn't gotten back the feel of the stick and rudders, so I under-over-un-controlled the poor little Pitts.
So he did one correctly--so smooth!--and then I was able to do a few reasonable rolls after that, including a couple that didn't have much rust on them at all.
More or less the same thing happened with the four-point rolls. My first one was more like .1 + .3 + .3 + .1 + .2 than the .25 + .25 + .25 + .25 I was trying for. And the nose wandered all over about half the sky, instead of staying close to one point on the horizon. (The Pitts' wings have symmetrical airfoils, so the angle of attack is about the same inverted as upright--so the nose shouldn't describe a very large circle in a slow roll.)
Then it was loops. Naturally, on the first one I forgot to freeze the stick on the downline and stalled the thing. Managed to ease off in time to stay out of trouble, but I could feel some definite buffeting. That was actually good experience because now I really know how it feels to get too slow while pulling around from inverted to straight down.
Did a few more loops, each a little better--or rounder--than the previous one. While we were turning back 180 degrees after one of them, Greenwood did a hammerhead, and that time I was really able to feel the whole maneuver pretty well and to watch the horizon carefully to the left side as he ruddered around to that side. And I was able to feel how he was cross-controlling with the ailerons to keep the right wing from lifting us into an inverted flat spin. He says that's the easiest mistake to make in a hammerhead--and the hardest to recover from.
A few loops later I started getting messages from my viscera--or, I guess it's really in the head. Anyway, I realized that if we did three or four more loops or rolls, I was going to feel ...some discomfort. So I wimped out and we just flew around for the few minutes remaining in my half-hour. Back on the ground I felt pretty good and was glad to have called it quits when I did.
Next acro lesson in two weeks.
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