Tuesday, July 06, 2010

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!

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