24 May 2008

Getting comfortable with the beast

May 2008 Today, 24th May, turned out to be perfect flying weather. It was a contrast to last weekend with winds gusting to 25 knots - pretty much all of it cross-wind! Needless to say, few people ventured into the sky then.

While M-14P radials are in fact very reliable and rugged engines, I still wondered if there would be difficulties starting following a two week hiatus. So I was pleased the engine started immediately on the first attempt with the obligatory cloud of smoke.

Upon reaching 4500 ft over Warragamba Dam, it was time to run the bird through its workout session. On the previous sortie two weeks ago, DZY pulled a maximum of 4Gs during the workout. For this workout, the beast and I pulled first 5Gs, then later 6Gs, through a series of manoeuvres.

Following the workout, I rolled the big bird onto its back and let the nose fall past the horizon on descent from 4500 ft to 2500 ft. To avoid shock cooling the engine, I closed the engine shutters before throttling back while the bird descended. Approaching 2800 ft, it was time to roll back upright again in time to level off at 2500 ft.

The next task was to identify reference points on each wing for use while conducting a forced landing due to an engine failure. Taught to me by a former RAAF fighter pilot, Noel Kruse, this forced landing technique uses suitable reference points on the wing to fly a descent along the surface of an inverted cone whose tip is attached to the desired touchdown point.

I set up for the practice forced landing using an initial start point suitable for a Alpha (Robin) 2160. It didn't take me long to realise the beast wasn't an Alpha 2160 while gliding. I had to abandon my first attempt when the bird descending like an overfed Christmas turkey, couldn't even reach mid-base leg. Although I expected a fair amount of drag from the large paddle bladed propeller, I was surprised it had such an effect on glide performance.

On my second attempt, I used a row of rivets even closer inboard from the wing tip as my reference point. This had the effect of bringing the initial start point closer in to the desired touchdown point. Although I was able to make mid-base leg this time, the Christmas turkey still couldn't stay up long enough to make the touchdown point. So around I went to climb back up for another attempt.

My third attempt saw me choose a row of rivets even closer inboard from the wing tip - between a third and halfway in. This time, I was able to line up for a short final and so I extended the landing gear. That ruined things. The big bird seemed to have gained a ton when the descent rate picked up. So I abandoned the attempt and headed off for home and a later discussion with Noel.

Following an uneventful landing and exit from the runway, I called the tower to wish them good day. After a pause, the controller replied saying that he had been distracted while admiring my lime green helmet. He also warned me to keep the keys to DZY safe because it seemed that quite a few people wanted to take the bird for a spin!

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