Friday, December 03, 2010

Article Written for Light Plane World

I was fortunate to have an article published in EAA's Light Plane World newsletter. I wrote about my experience with Dave Froble at DFE Ultralights. Give it a read:

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Learning to Fly (Day 3)

Day three of learning to fly was at Mt. Pleasant Airport again. The sun was low and the wind wasn't noticeable. It was a great time to be flying.

I started out practicing what I had done the day before. After flying a few feet off the ground down the runway twice, Dave called me over for a talk. We chatted for 7 or 8 minutes about the next step. That next step was a big one; flying around the pattern. "Was I really ready after three days," I thought. I knew how to take off, land, and stay straight over the runway. I knew how to do all of that and was able to do it very well, so I was ready. Having thought it over, I had the skills to do it and the confidence to do it.

An Aeronca was taking off as I was taxing up the side of the runway. I taxied up the runway slowly to allow the wingtip vortices coming off the heavier aircraft to dissipate. This also gave me time to think about what I'd be doing. Then it came time for me to actually do it. I was at the end of the runway, on top of a slight hill and I applied power. In no time, I was flying.

I remember looking at the hangars below once I crossed the intersection where the two runways meet. The picture I saw will probably stay in my head for my entire life. As I was looking down, I wondered if I was dreaming. Could I really be flying? Am I now living the dream?

After flying the pattern, the wheels touched down exactly where I wanted it to. It couldn't have been a better landing. Dave came over and my first words were "I like this a lot better than the Rans," referring to another plane that I had gotten a ride in after my first flight lesson. It took everything I had in me to keep from getting out of the plane, jumping up and down while yelling at the top of my lungs like a little kid. That kind of behavior might not grant me a few more trips around the pattern, but I felt good! It was a moment that I have been waiting for as long as I can remember.

Dave told me to fly the pattern three more times, taking off from where I was. At the moment, I was probably a fourth of the way down the runway, so I gave it more throttle from my last takeoff. As soon as I leaped into the air, I was shocked at how much I was climbing. It was like a bat out of hell. I must have been pitched up forty degrees and I wasn't even using half throttle.

I realized that I was too high on my second approach, so I gave it some power and climbed back up and went back around. I made sure to start descending before I did the time before and it resulted in another good landing. After that, I made one more trip around the pattern and called it a day.

A few hours later, I was back inside cooking up some dinner. As I was stirring some pasta together, Dave walked behind me to go to the refrigerator...or maybe not. Sure enough, that slight suspicion was correct. In no time, my shirt tail was cut. My name and the date was written on the shirt square.

I am now tailless; just like the Pterodactyl. It was a dream yesterday, but I'm now living the dream. I'm now a pilot!

Learning to Fly (Day 1 and 2)

As I spend time in Pennsylvania with Dave Froble of DFE Ultralights, I've been learning to fly. Since regulations have made it difficult to get dual instruction in an ultralight trainer, there I would have to learn the old fashion way. Jack McCornack, the designer of the Pterodactyl line of ultralights, developed a training syllabus back in the early 80s. Since the ultralight training exception doesn't exist, that's the way I've been learning. It's just me and the airplane with Dave watching to give me advice.

During the first day of training, we took the airplane to a closed runway at Connelsville Airport. I started off learning how to taxi. First it was a slow taxi straight down the runway. I eventually worked my way up to a fast taxi (15 mph airspeed) while doing s-turns down the runway using wingtip rudders only. At this speed, the ground begins to feel fluid. It felt like I was skating on top of smooth marble.

There was a decent bump going across the runway. I had gone across this bump many times and it was never a problem, so I stopped worrying about it. I shouldn't have stopped worrying about it because as I was doing one of my fast taxi runs, I must have hit a steeper segment of the bump. All three wheels left the ground for a brief moment. As this happened, I immediately pulled the throttle back to keep it from flying further than I wanted it to and it settled back on the ground. The hop got me by surprise and my heart rate backs up that statement.

For lesson two, we went to Mt. Pleasant airport. This is a better location because there's less traffic and grass runways. Grass is more forgiving than pavement and since I would be crow hopping (short hops), I might need it. I started off making short hops down the runway. As soon as it lifted off the ground, I killed the engine and landed. Eventually, I was doing hops all the way down the length of the runway.

Lifting off the ground is an amazing feeling. Landing exactly the way you wanted it to is even better! I'm very close to flying the traffic pattern. That's when I'll call myself a pilot!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Internship at DFE Ultralights

There have been a lot of questions as to how I was going to get my Pterodactyl flying. The more I worked on my project, the more parts I found that needed to be replaced. With every part that would need to be replaced comes a cost. Then there was questions as to how I would learn to fly in such a unique and unusual aircraft now that the FAA got rid of the ultralight training exception. All of these problems were accumulating over time and I wasn't sure if I would ever have my Pterodactyl flying. Now, all of these problems have a remedy.

Last April, Dave Froble, the man at DFE Ultraligts who supplies parts and kits for Pterodactyls, send me an email asking me what I was going to be doing during my summer break. I replied and he then offered me an internship at his place in Pennsylvania. I would learn how to work on Pterodactyls, how to determine if parts are airworthy or not, and how to fly. In addition, Dave would give me a place to stay and food to eat. After consulting with the authorities (parents), we bought a plane ticket and I packed my bags.

As I am working (If you would even call it work) in Pennsylvania, I'll keep this place updated.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why Always Fly Blue Side Up?

This morning, went through one of the most thrilling, exciting, and amazing moments in my life! I always knew that flying was fun, but never realized how much better it could get.

This morning, Scott was kind enough to give me a ride to Colombia for breakfast in his Cessna 210. It was a quick, pleasant flight which concluded with pigs in a blanket at the Colombia Airport. The Rancho Murieta pilots fly out to breakfast practically every Sunday (it's our church), so this wasn't an uncommon event. For the flight back Dave threw out the idea of flying me back in his red RV-7. Since I had never been in an RV-7, I thought it would be a nice experience, but I didn't realize that I was about to have the time of my life.

The first thing you realize once you lift off the ground is how fast the plane is going. Our climb speed was 120 mph which is just as fast as the cruising speed of a lot of the other planes I've flown in. Then, I realized that we were climbing at 1,500 feet per minute. Dave told me it can climb at a greater rate, but he tones it down because if he climbs to fast, his ears begin to hurt. Simply put, the RV-7 is a rocket with a cockpit attached to it.

After Dave gave me some stick time, he offered to show me some acro. I had never been upside down in an airplane before, so I didn't know what to expect. It turns out that aerobatics in an airplane is probably the funnest and most thrilling thing you can do on earth. If you've never gone upside down in an airplane, you don't know what your missing. Words cannot explain the feeling you get when flying upside down.

I was giddy for hours after I made it back on the ground. This was my greatest flight of all time! I'm going to have to build a Vans RV-7! It's pure magic!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Profiting From Ultralight Bias

Talk to almost any general aviation pilot about ultralights and they will most likely condemn them. They believe that ultralights are draggy, unsafe, and have poor performance. In some cases, they would be correct but it is clear that they don't know how unique some ultralights are. Ask these folks if they've flown in a modern ultralight and most likely they haven't. In fact, I would bet that most of them don't even know what a modern ultralight is because there aren't a lot of ultralights around.

The Skypup has a 12:1 glide radio (or L/D) which I guarantee will beat a Cessna 150, 152 170, 172, 182 and many other GA aircraft. Of course, the Skypup is a special bird. My Pterodactyl will be a special bird as well and that's all I'm going to say as I'm going to profit from ultralight bias!

Be forewarned, I'm coming!