April 28, 2012
I learned about Andover Flight Academy in the December issue of AOPA Pilot, where it was positioned as the premier place to earn a tailwheel endorsement. I have always loved the idea of bush flying and flying a taildragger into remote airstrips. Soon after reading the article I found myself in New Jersey and made sure to make my way over to Aeroflex-Andover Airstrip, a picturesque and cozy little airport nestled between two lakes in the hills of Northern New Jersey. Stepping into the Andover Flight Academy office is like stepping into the past. Their office is adorned with a ton of memorabilia and their primary seating for ground school work is a comfy worn in couch.
Before getting in one of Andover's aircraft I watched Tailwheel: 101 a DVD developed by CFI and Owner of Andover Flight Academy, Damian DelGazio. The DVD did an excellent job discussing the basic procedures used for flying a tailwheel airplane and knowledge and skills needed to earn a tailwheel endorsement.
After signing up for instruction I had spent significant time thinking about ground loops and prop strikes, the two dangers I associated with tailwheel flying. The DVD did a great job of explaining the causes of the ground loop and how to prevent one from occurring. I also learned that while performing two point landings on the main gear that it is actually quite difficult to cause a prop strike. With those concerns vanquished I had a clear mind to focus on taking my new knowledge and putting them to work. If you are interested in a earning your tailwheel endorsement I highly recommend you check out Damian DelGaizo's Tailwheel 101 DVD.
As we rolled the TopCub on it's Alaskan Bush Tires from the hangar I quickly forgot that I was in New Jersey. Despite being within an hour of New York City I was transported into my mind to the wide open West or Alaskan backcountry.
Damian talked me through the taxi procedures and we did some slow and fast taxing to get used to the necessary rudder controls to maneuver safely on the ground and to simulate the controls needed after landing to prevent a ground loop from developing. Once I had proven I had a handle of ground control I rolled us onto the grass and applied power steadily and let the tailwheel fly itself off the ground then brought in some back pressure and the TopCub leapt into the air. I am confident it was the shortest takeoff roll I have ever made. Who knew takeoffs could be so fun, but there is something exhilarating from going from stand still to airborne in such a short distance.
Once aloft we spent a few minutes working on stalls and general airmanship in the TopCub. The TopCub is at its heart a very simple aircraft, and I loved that. The only glass panel was the iPhone in my pocket and there was no autopilot to shoulder the load, and I loved it. Damian quickly spotted some rust on my stick and rudder skills. He gave me a few pointers and in a few minutes I felt at one with the TopCub.
As we approached the nearby turf strip at Trinca Airport he gave me the final tips for making a successful three point landing. I followed his instruction and flew the approach with my eyes focused straight ahead until I was ready to flare at which point I transitioned to looking at the runway edges as the nose blocked my forward visibility. A few feet off the runway I flared and brought the plane to a full stall and gently brought the two Alaskan Bush tires & our tailwheel to the ground in unison. I quickly transitioned to focusing on using the rudder pedals to control the plane on the ground while we bled of the remaining speed, success I nailed my first tailwheel landing! Landing on turf has always been one of my favorite aviation experiences but it was even more fun and challenging in a tailwheel aircraft with big Alaskan bush tires.
Damian is a phenomenal instructor and coach. Before and during the flight he consistently asked "Does that make sense to you?" He genuinely was looking to make sure I was comfortable with the information and if not he clearly walked me through it. I understand why people like Harrison Ford sought him out for training.
I logged 1.0 hours of tailwheel experience and made four three point landings. Next time I am in the area I will return to Andover Flight Academy to work on main wheel landings and continue working towards a tailwheel endorsement which might come in handy for some of the other exciting flying I have planned for this summer. More on that in the coming weeks.
April 23, 2012
As much as I try not to be a hibernating pilot, each winter I see a significant decline in my flight time. This winter was no different. I believe a large contributor to the winter slowdown is the lack of daylight hours but I am sure there are other contributing factors as well. None the less in Chicago we have jumped from winter to summer like weather in the span of a few weeks. As a result I have been spending significantly more time on my flight club airplane scheduler planning flights.
In the coming weeks I will share some updates on some flight experiences I had this winter and my plans to checkout in a new airplane. In the meantime I thought I would share some writing I have done over the past few months away from MyFlightBlog.com.
This Fall I took a swing at publishing some articles for another blog as well as both digital and print magazine articles. The first to get published was a piece in the digital magazine Airplanista entitled Broaden Your Horizons. Sadly, the magazine has since stopped publishing, but I was proud to have been a part of what was a great aviation publication while it lasted.
I also published an AOPA Pilot Magazine "Pilots" feature on Greg Morris of Gauntlet Warbirds. I had the opportunity to fly the Gauntlet L-39 with Greg earlier this year. In my few hours spent with Greg I was impressed with his passion for aviation and his drive to help others find the excitement in aviation. That experience spurred the article which was featured in the December issue which can be found on the AOPA Pilot website or here via PDF.
Most recently I published a post on the AOPA Let's Go flying Blog in response to the disappointing news that Blue Ash Airport, the airport I soloed at and earned my license at, is scheduled to be closed. My post Let's Keep Making GA Memories can be found on the Let's Go Flying blog.
With daylight savings time firmly in place I look forward to logging more time in the air as well as time behind the pages of MyFlightBlog.com this spring and summer. I look forward to reconnecting with my regular readers and sharing my flight experiences again in 2012.