Thursday, July 21, 2011

In retrospect the post I wrote Wednesday night\Thursday morning was a ry, technical report written in exhaustion and under the influence of a few celebratory drinks.

It is probably time to fill in the rest of the story.

There was of course a large amount of initial nervousness on my part, let alone my wife. Vivian only had gave me conditional permission to execute the first flight if Tom was there flying chase. In turn Tom made me promise not to mar his perfect history of first flights without an incidents.

The real pre-flight inspection was done on the 19th to make sure nothing was missed due to nervousness. I had practiced some of the first flight in the 150 on Sunday with Tom riding as an instructor. We also practiced HAPL.

On the 19th after the DAR visit, my own inspection and putting all the hatches back together I wanted to do a run up. This way I knew I would have enough battery to start for the first flight and maybe catch a few issues. The weather was extremely good and the airport was empty so I did some taxi testing on 34. The first pass was just to see how far I had to go for the airspeed indicator to come alive. Then I went as far as to rotate the nose. At this point the rudder still did not seem THAT stiff.

Flash forward to the 20th. I flew up to AWO from BFI for the test flight. Flying immediately before hand was probably the most calming thing I could have done. It got me in a flying mind set and also let me know the real conditions aloft. There was no guessing if the air was smooth or not.

Going over emergency procedures, bailout procedures, ect was a little stressful. The idea that that I may have to trust a parachute packed by someone else just seemed wrong. If my day was going that bad, then how much worse could it get, right?

We removed everything from the plane and vacuumed it out once more. Only stuff riveted, bolted or screwed down remained except for the bottom section of my seat cushion. I only had a three printed pages ( two pages of checklists\procedures and the test card ) and a voice recorder taped down and jacked into the intercom. The tape of course ran out during the flight.

The run up seemed to take forever. And it really did. You can’t fly the Rotax until the oil gets to 120F. That meant some idling to get the engine warm enough.

For this flight there was a clear division of labor. Tom was going to handle the radios from the Cessna. I just needed to stay on frequency to communicate with him. He was to keep traffic clear and advised.

With the run up done and the pattern clear there was nothing left to do but to just get the flight over with. This was the peak of my nervousness.

I had this expectation that as I advanced the throttle every single bolts and rivet would flash through my mind. That did not happen, instead I actually relaxed a bit and tried to enjoy the ride. Concentrate on the signals the engine is giving you, keep down the middle and wait for the bird to leap.

At this point the closest aviation experience I’ve had was my first solo… that combination of a familiar plane climbing unfamiliarly fast paired with “now I have to land this by myself”. By 1000’ that was out of my mind. At 3000’ I was getting a little bored of turning left and climbing.

Then another strange thing happened. Tom was trying really hard to stay out of view and the 701 was doing a really good job of running away from my poor 150. Looking down and seeing my 150 more than 1000’ feet below trying really hard to keep up was very strange. Then during some of the turns I caught sight of it again through the big door windows, but much closer. It was something like watching the race scene from “Iron Eagle”. There was this little white plane with a red stripe turning so beautifully against the mountains and clouds. The 701 also slows down MUCH faster than a 150 and Tom went darting past me whenever I cut the throttle back.

The turns to the left and to the right were no big deal. I really had to restrain myself from going more than standard rate.

The 701 does not have a centering spring in the rudder or pedals. In addition it uses an all flying rudder with wetted area ahead of the hinge. If you push left rudder, it stays left rudder until you push it back. This is hard to remember. You also really need to lead your turns with rudder first, which is also hard to remember to do after so many years in a 150 where generally you use rudder and ailerons at the same time. Every once and I while I would see I was un-coordinated and push the rudder causing a bit of a skid.

When coordinated the 701 turns VERY tight. It is reasonable to fly the pattern only ¼ mile out, do a standard rate turn and expect to lined up for final. Hitting the rudder to get coordinated would skid you into coordination and really remind you of this.

The practice approaches were really nothing special and I have nothing more to say about them.

Landing was the ugly part. I knew I had tons of runway to allow myself to settle in. I knew I needed to carry power into the landing. I knew I had to hold the flare until last minute. These things blanked on me until I had already started to flare and felt that sinking feeling that makes every pilot think they will have to bend the gear back into shape. So of course I added power, but a little too much and got back up to where I started. Letting power out that time gave me a better sink rate but it was still a firm landing. Then I had the steering\rudder stiffness to contend with.

My thought is that the landing may have loaded the bungee strut putting more pressure on the front contact area, making the stiffness worse. Maybe stick back pressure would have helped.

All said and done the first flight took about 25 minutes and it seemed like 25 minutes. I didn't not any sense of time dilation or contraction. I remembered to breath and did some instrument scans. I was only tense for a few moments, most of which occured during the landing.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped, voiced support, stopped by my hangar, ect.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful read, John. Contgratulations, you have earned this! Enjoy it. We're all envious!

Good Job!!!