Saturday, September 23, 2006


I called McCollum ATIS to find out what the conditions were at the field. Information 'Juliet' said the clouds were broken 1100' and broken at 1800' with light a variable winds. I looked out the front door to see low dark gray clouds with little patches of blue peeking through. I called the club and asked if it was good enough for the Decathlon to do some T&Gs, and my instructor said 'it was getting better'. I took that as a yes.

Objectives of this flight: Wheel Landings.

When I got to the airport the plane had already been fueled. As I approached I noticed an access panel missing under each wing. I never saw that one before. (Maybe this was a 'catch the dumb student' preflight trick?) Nope when my instructor came out he noticed the same thing. Seems that the owner had been out playing and popped them doing some aerobatics. No big deal, and not a hazard to flight, the rest of the preflight, and ground procedures were normal. We decided to stay in the pattern for the workout.

The winds were picking up a bit as we finished the runup, to a fairly good left crosswind. Good, I need the practice. Takeoff was normal, as was the pattern work. My 'arm chair' flying had convinced me that I was trying to do it all wrong last week. I was really trying to make the Wheel Landing like a full stall. Nope, can't do it. They are DIFFERENT! The Wheel Landing is more like a very, very low pass. It should almost be a surprise when the mains touch. The key word here is PATIENCE. The airplane will land when it wants to, you just can't force it. So, in my mind the sequence is to set up on the proper approach speed (75), with power on to minimize the rate of descent. Get into the 'belly of the flare' and wait. It worked! (well, kinda sorta.) The touch down was good (squeak), but I failed to coordinate the nose attitude. Jounce!

The other thing about a wheel landing is the Pilot Induced Oscillation (PIO). See, the airplane is flying slow( just a bit above stall), and you are trying to pin the wheels on the deck. If they come off the ground because you didn't nail the nose position and you still try to pin them down...well, it gets ugly fast. Porpoise is an understatement. I got some good practice exercising the 'go around'.

Progress was made on each pass, and one was actually very good. I learned a lot! During this work the winds continued to increase, and at one point the tower called 20 KTS. (That's a lot for a taildragger, especially since it was still coming off my left side.) I see the picture now, just a few more circuits should do it.

The final full stop was planned as a full stall (3 pointer) and I executed it well. A great way to end the day.

Time = 1.0

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