Tuesday, August 23, 2005

First aerobatic powered flight

I spent a week vacationing at Pismo Beach, CA, which did not lend itself to soaring (well, not full-scale anyway). But right next door was the Oceano airport, and there's a fellow there who sells rides in a bright yellow 1943 Stearman biplane. I've never been in a small power plane, so I thought it would be fun... and why just do a scenic flight? So I went for the "thrill ride" aerobatic flight. I've never done any aerobatics, not even spins (I know, I know, I need to do spin training!). But I've never been airsick with steep turns, stalls, etc., so I figured I'd probably do fine with a little aerobatics.

After a quite steep takeoff, and a short flight to gain altitude and waggle our wings at a shiny twin Beech, it was time to crank up to 140 kts and do the aerobatic sequence. First a loop, then a "hammerhead" (technically a chandelle, I think), and a "barrel roll" (technically a snap roll?). The loop was cool - part of the way I looked sideways like I do on looping roller coasters. I was surprised that the G force was not very strong. It felt like less G than some of my early stall pullouts. The hammerhead is definitely a zero-G maneuver: the headset cords were floating up in my face for quite a while. Then the roll, which seemed to have a spiral component, not just a roll around the longitudinal axis. Lots of fun!

Then we flew around a bit and he took it up to about 2300' and did a spin. The tip-over into the spin was a little disconcerting, but then the spin itself was much tamer than I imagined. The world goes around, but not really very fast, so not very disorienting. Two full turns and then we were out of it. So now I'm a little more enthusiastic about doing spin training in gliders - probably next weekend.

We flew around the beach and the sand dunes a while, checking out the ATV riders from about 500' AGL. Then out over the ocean to spot humpback whales! We saw two from maybe a quarter mile away, but each time they stayed down when we got closer, so no really good looks. Maybe they could hear that noisy Stearman coming! Flying along the ocean at 100 kts and 200' AGL was pretty cool, too. I did notice (as I have read before) that the ocean waves give very poor clues as to your altitude. The altimeter said 200' but it looked like we were less than 100' high. Very deceptive - it would make landing on water tricky.

Next week - back to silent flight!


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Bill said...

Go do your spin training and enjoy. I'm surprised you were allowed to go solo without spin training - over here it would be out of the question. In any case, as one of my favorite instructors was once quoted as saying "It's just about one of the most fun things you can do in a glider". And I think he was right, unless the glider is an MDM Fox :)