Thursday, July 10, 2008

First Post-Thunderbirds GA Aerobatic Flight



This is a regular blog post. Looking for show notes or links to audio? Please check out the other posts. AND CHECK OUT THE THUNDERBIRDS POSTS FROM A FEW DAYS AGO! (Scroll down.)

Spending a lot of time with the audio from the Thunderbirds ride getting it edited down for another epic summary episode a la the DC-3 summary episode. Thinking 90-minute-plus extravaganza. Might even go into the studio to record original music for it. Will have more vide to post soon, too. Will Hawkins is helping with the initial production. Watch this space!

Got up on Tuesday for 1.5 in the Citabria with Barry Sutton. I should note that, since Tradewinds closed in February, I haven’t had any home FBO at which I am checked out to rent airplanes all by myself. And I’m finding that, for the time being, I don’t care! I am a growing Citabria addict.

I did about 1.5 in the 172RG over at Flight 101 and had a good experience, then there was the DC-3 training. Just before doing the DC-3 training, I went up with Barry in the Citabria because I had no tailwheel time and wanted to do a few wheel landings before flying the ‘three. I loved that flight and went back to do more tailwheel training with Barry so that I could say with a straighter face that I have a tailwheel endorsement (the ‘three is wildly tailwheely in the taxi, but behaves like a big tricycle-great airplane otherwise). I really need to master a smaller taildragger before I can feel good about claiming to be a taildragger pilot.

Barry allowed early on as how he does aerobatic training in the Citabria, which piqued my curiosity. We did two flights after I got back from Griffin and before the Thunderbirds ride. The first was about aircraft stability and the second was about unusual attitudes and energy management. In each case, my stomach had had enough by about the 20-minute mark and we did the rest of those 1.3 or 1.4-hour flights in the pattern working on landings.


I got pretty green toward the end of the Thunderbirds flight. Not dwelling on it and not saying that I didn’t have an outstanding experience. (Can I say it again? The Thunderbirds rocked and Maj Mulhare worked really hard to make it a solid experience! I will never, ever forget that flight!) But I was a little disappointed in myself about getting that green that quickly.

So I had low expectations going out again in the Citabria on Tuesday. We strapped on the chutes and headed to the practice area and I expected to get maybe 20 minutes of cranking and banking before having to come back to the pattern.

Surprise! Yours truly got a full hour of loops, rolls, and hammerheads (I love hammerheads!) and no tummy issues at all. In fact, it was Barry’s idea to head back to the airport. (Not that Barry had issues – He just wanted to get some landings in.)

I think that it might have something to do with being on the controls a little more. I flew most of the maneuvers instead of watching or just following along on the controls. I think that made a big difference.

And there’s some element of exposure that helps. Most aerobatic guys who take time off in the winter will tell you that it takes them about five flights to get back into the swing. There’s an extent to which you have to just keep at it and push through whatever barrier you’re experiencing.

I was really stoked after the flight. This is what I’d hoped aerobatics would be like! Not having to be limited by the stomach and just enjoying the outer reaches of the flight envelope. And getting familiar enough with the maneuver to be able to just watch yourself do it.


You know the aerobatic sequences from One Six Right? I used to just hang my head and cry (yeah, cry) when I saw those because, although I’ve had more flight experiences than most people will ever have, I feared that that real skydancing would just plain elude me. Can it be that I can reach it and that it’s just on the other side of a little push through that 20-minute barrier? Can it be that I just need to have my hands on the controls?

What is a barrier, really? The problem is that the most important barriers are unique to each of us and there is no way to see anything but this side of the barrier until you put your head down and make a run at it. Maybe many runs. Maybe even fighting your own physiological and mental limits each time.

But the happiest times of life are when you realize that the barrier is surmountable. That you can do it. Or at least peek over the other side.

Hey, I’m no steely-eyed missile man yet. In fact, in many ways, I’m just a poser. I have a lot to learn. I’ll always have a lot to learn. But, on Tuesday, I transcended what I though was going to be an ongoing personal limitation. Or at least made a big-ass dent in it.

Car-dancing on the way home. Liquid Tension Experiment blaring. Windows down. Yeah!

Flight will transform you. Flight finally let me give my undivided attention to a burning blue-green horizon as the brilliant yellow nose of the Citabria fell through it and then the wings were like they were on straight vertical detents for a moment before pulling out.

Poser though I may be most of the time, for a little while this Tuesday, I was Superman, Harry Potter, and Fletcher Seagull. I am Stephen Force and I love this stuff.

________________________________

Contact information for Barry Sutton:

Sutton Aviation, Inc.
Oakland County International Airport
6230 North Service Drive
Waterford, Michigan 48327
248-666-9160
http://www.sutton-aviation.com/

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