Tuesday, July 20

Antique Aeroplane Education

Today is a wonderful day, because I have received my Tailwheel Endorsement on my pilot's license!

Tailwheel aircraft are a different beast compared to tricycle geared airplanes, mainly due to center of gravity, though many other differences abound. In tricycle geared airplanes, the center of gravity is forward of the main gear, and therefore momentum will force the airplane straight if you're not lined up on a runway at touchdown. Tailwheel airplanes require that you "dance" with the rudder pedals to make sure you stay in line with your track of motion, lest the tail of the airplane swings around in front, and many people laugh at you. It's quite an experience, and shows how a lot of piloting skills are lost, due to the tricycle gear's design that uses the laws of physics to make an aircraft more stable on the ground at the cost of more weight, more aerodynamic drag, and more maintenance.

I decided to get this training and endorsement, mainly because I knew my landings could use some refinement that only a taildragger could offer, and also, I love the taildragger design, especially that of the Piper Cub, Helio Courier, and the workhorse of WWII, the DC-3.

It took me forever to find a school that could offer me such a curriculum, but with the help of a fellow neighbor pilot, I stumbled across the Ullman Flight School in Fulton County. One email later, Dave, my Instructor, introduced me to his 1940 Luscombe 8A. 70 years old, no radio, covered with dead bugs that were wandering near an airstrip at the wrong time, and just enough horsepower to get off the ground when at full gross weight. What a fun plane! And after three weeks of sneaking in flight time between the endless barrage of thunderstorms we've had all summer, I got signed off. It took less than I thought, but I found a really good instructor that was more out to mentor me than place a few hundred bucks in his wallet. And the picture is no joke. It was preferred that I fly barefooted, so that I could have a better feel for the rudder's control. Sometimes less is more.

I really enjoyed this training, and will definitely be flying "Luscombe 734" again soon! Preferably with clearer skies.

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