I received a email a few days ago asking for Young Eagle Pilots. I have to say, I like taking people for rides, but with kids you never know what your going to get. My worry was that they sit up front and I can't get to them if they get scared or freak out. They also have to sit very deep in the Pitts so without a lot of seat cushions they can't see anything but the side of the plane. I flipped and flopped on this one for a few days, then said sure, but they had to be the older ones and they had to put a parachute on. The chute was only for a more of a cushion, but that might flip the parents out.
I get to the airport for the flights and it was a mad house. This little grass strip had become the busiest airport in the city. Most of the planes don't use radios, which was me once upon a time, but that was ok in the Cub. Now I'm doing 110 MPH and things are moving a ton faster. I entered the pattern a two or three times and had to go around two of them. Third times a charm and I was there.
First things first, Pancakes! Grab some food and then meet up with Lorie to get the flight briefing. We were to make a long circle out of the lake just East of the airport. Take about 15min or so.
12 noon came and I headed to the plane with my first Young Eagle Flight. He was not much of a kid, he towered over me, and was a Sr. in High school. I told him about the seat and the chute and that we would not be going inverted. I got him in the plane and we headed down to the end of the runway. The traffic was not bad on the ground, we were number two, but the pattern was full. By the time one was turning off, another was on short final. Finally we had a chance, so I moved out and did one last "You OK?". I got a yep and we hit the gas. Now the Pitts is only on the ground a few seconds, we move from 0 to 110 MPH in around 5 seconds or so, and we climb out. His last ride was just earlier today in a Cub, so this was huge change.
Once in the air we talked some. He wants to be a pilot some day, in fact he wants to fly F18's for the Navy. I told him about the plane, the engine how the prop changes pitch and what I was doing in the back. After our lap I told him what I was doing while entering the pattern, which had lightened up in the short trip we had just taken. In the Pitts I am looking for a pattern speed of about 100 MPH. I'll hold that speed all the way around and onto short final. I talked about the slip I held so I could see what was in front of me, and we made a great landing and taxied down to get some fuel.
Once out he was thrilled. His Dad and Brother were there also. His brother thought it was so cool, he wanted to go to, so he was number two.
I flew 3 kids that day, it was a blast for me. I love to give rides to first timers, and if the opportunity is around, I love to give first Aerobatic rides too.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved aviation. I watched and learned any thing I could, and when I had the chance I would go to the air shows and watch the aerobatic routines in “awe”. I always wandered what it would take; what do these pilots have to go through to be able to fly those crazy routines? Well, I finally got to have a taste of that for real! Starting a few years ago I flew R/C aerobatics, and my lovely wife and daughter bought me a ride in a PITTS!!! After all I had a 30% model of one. This was my first true ride in anything smaller than a 747. Brett put me through all the moves, I was totally blown away. I had been saying “I’ll be a pilot someday” long enough. I started training just a few months after that. Finally I had become a pilot in February of 2004, and it was a dream come true, but I still had that itch to be upside down. Starting in May of 2005, I started my training to compete in the Ohio Open. It took about 4 or 5 lessons to stop feeling awful after each flight, but the short time I had in the air was worth all the misery I felt after. Things started to come together around lesson 8 and I started to put all of the pieces together. The next two lessons were focused just on the Primary and trying to keep it in a straight line and in a small box. Now I had just about 11 hours in the Decathlon, and the weekend came.
My Wife, Daughter and I headed up to Marysville for practice on Friday night. When we got to the airport I started getting very nervous. Aerobatic planes were every where. Having flown at many R/C meets it was like all of our toys just grew up. It was intimidating for me, having only about 60 hours TT. Trying to mix with people who had hundreds or thousands of hours of experience, not to mention most have been flying since I was still in grade school, was difficult for me. But once I started meeting them all, they were very accepting to a new guy. I went in and got registered then met up with Gordon to get in a practice round. As we started our “Long” climb, we got the call to enter the box, as the previous person was done. This was the first time I had ever seen the markers out; I had a terrible time trying to see the markers when the plane was over them. Once up we left the box and went over entering it. Basically you can’t see crap!! At least not until you have a clue what to look for. I entered fast and did the ever so lovely float trying to slow down. Once I stared the spin, it was like a blur. I just went through like I had in practice. I tried to watch the markers, but the only time I truly saw them was at the top of the loop, and no the center marker was not under me! Since it is a short routine, we climbed back up and did it again. I did it 3 times, getting better and slower each time. After the last one its get down and out of the box quick. We were on the ground in seconds, or at least it seemed that way. Good thing Gordon was with me, because I just went blank. It was like I had not flown that plane before. Once down we talked it over, and went over the entry again.
The next day came and it was time for Primary. I got the shoot on and Gordon and I headed out. We started out toward hold 1 and then got sent to hold 2 before we even got close to 3000 ft. Now that call came over the radio. “The box is yours” and that is when it got quiet. If you ever fly with Gordon, that’s a weird feeling. I had practiced this a bunch, but always with a voice. This time I was on my own. I entered the box fine and did my spin. 1 turn and it came out on heading, my loop was centered, but I had forgotten to let go of the pull and float over the top, so I pinched it. After the 180, the dreaded slow roll!! It felt like it was one of the best ones I’ve ever done. After the last turn, I wagged and the voice came back: “Dive, Dive, Dive”, now just fly the plane. Downwind, Base, Final, damn I’m too fast. We floated way past the numbers, but got down fine and taxied back. My first competition run was over. It happed so fast. What a rush!! I loved every minute of it. My second flight was not as good. I floated before my spin, and tried to squeeze, so I did not go out of the box, and my scores showed it. While I was not knocking on Mr. Henderson’s door, I had a great experience, and got to meet a great group of people in the processes.
I am a Private Pilot, and partner in a Pitts S2B. I have just over 200 hours and have been fascinated with Aerobatics from my first flight. My Wife and Daughter put up with my crazy addiction... For now. :)