Saturday, April 25, 2009

Inverted Is How I Roll

Growing up, there were certain things that my Mum told me she wanted to know about only after they had happened. Although not specifically mentioned, I decided that this morning's activity would be one of those things... so, surprise! I had my first aerobatic lesson today!!

It was awesome! I got to fly a beautiful red and blue Super Decathlon taildragger, instructed by the amazing Adam Cope. Although I don't usually blog about instructional flights, I'm going to have to make an exception for my aerobatics training.

After I arrived at the Potomac Airfield (VKX), Adam explained the basic maneuvers we would be practicing, gave me a safety briefing, helped me strap on my parachute, and then walked me through the differences between the Super Decathlon and the planes I'm used to flying. Most notably, Adam would be sitting behind me, where he would have access to only limited controls. Gone also was my yoke, replaced by a stick. Top Gun, I thought, here I come ...

Once we got airborne and clear of the FRZ, we started with loops. Adam talked me through the maneuver, but kept his hands off the controls. No, my loops were not circular, and yes, the plane lost momentum at the top sometimes, but I was pretty chuffed with my egg shaped loops (for now, anyhow).

Next came aileron rolls. Left first, because it's easier to push than to pull, and then to the right. Part way through, I moved over to double handing the stick to get more force behind the entry to the maneuver. Being tentative with the controls makes for poor maneuvers, so it was time to get tough.

Adam then stepped it up to primary rolls, which required me to be doing/thinking about more things during the roll. As a result, they were faster and smoother than aileron rolls. At least, when done correctly!

We also practiced inverted flight. Catch 120 knots, nose up, roll hard, neutralize, forward, and, HOLD! It was unbelieveable!! The Super Decathlon can maintain two minutes of inverted flight, so the manuever was not rushed. There was time to just float, suspended by your harness. Seeing the world upside down, hanging like a possum, the mind adapted surprisingly quickly. Click on the play button to watch a short video of inverted flight. (Adam's going to bring a camera that can be mounted next time.)

After inverted flight, I was supposed to do a loop and then a roll after leveling out at the bottom of the loop. Well, instead I invented "the McMaster." Adam noted that the McMaster was a cool way to turn 180 degrees, and that I should remember what I'd done because "that's how new aerobatic moves are created," but it wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind. So, I did the McMaster again, just to make sure I really had it down pat. The third time, I managed to do something resembling a loop and a roll at the bottom.

Adam had warned me that motion sickness would come on quickly, and asked that I volunteer as soon as I began to feel unwell. Although I could have done with a bit more sleep last night, the drammamine I picked up en route to the airport must have been key, as I continued to feel fine, despite my wacky and uncoordinated 4G maneuvers. So, we went back to practicing rolls for a while, with more emphasis on holding the plane inverted at the proper pitch so I could get used to the placement of the plane in relation to the (upside down) horizon.

Adam eventually congratulated me on making it a full hour, and suggested we head for home. He then talked me through landing a taildragger, which was very different than landing a nose wheel. Back in his hangar, Adam and I discussed the primary maneuver for my next lesson -- a slow roll. Although we haven't set a date yet, I'm already looking forward to it!


At April 26, 2009 at 1:13 PM , Blogger Greg said...

Rock ON, McMaster!

At April 26, 2009 at 10:56 PM , Anonymous Anne McMaster said...

This is definitely a "Tell Mum after I've done it " blog.....
But what an awesome experience!! Hanging upside down by your straps sounds like SO MUCH fun:))....
And I suspect there will be more to share as the weeks go on!!
Shades of roller coasters!!

At April 27, 2009 at 10:21 AM , Anonymous Dino said...

Very cool Amy. Now you just have to learn how to do a shot upside down.

At April 27, 2009 at 12:21 PM , Anonymous Sarah from BC said...


You are hard-core Amy.

I felt a little motion sick just from your descriptions! You must have an iron stomach.

Great read as usual!!!

At April 27, 2009 at 6:53 PM , Anonymous Tamlyn said...

You Rock Amoise :) Now remeber...a nice loop prior to landing this Friday would be cool!

At April 28, 2009 at 8:44 PM , Blogger Jude said...

Hi Amy,
Your descriptions of the manouvers then the upside down photos are enough to give me motion sickness.
But you look like you are having so much fun.
Keep on flyng and as Kev writes perhaps you can be a Snow Bird.
Cheers, Judy

At April 29, 2009 at 12:56 PM , Anonymous Sobia said...

oh my god, this sounds like it was so much fun. the upside-down pictures are AWESOME!!!!


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