Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Saturday, June 25th

Saturday morning started earlier than Friday morning. I got up at 5:10 so I could wash my hair under the hose and generally clean up. I'm sure the others who would be arriving soon would appreciate it. I decided to stay at the patch and guard the planes while the others went to breakfast at Linda's. I had about an hour to myself to sit and watch the sun come up and listen to Rush's "Hemispheres" CD. It was great, just as always. The arrivals started right at seven O'clock or so. After the initial two or three that got there right about the same time from different directions, they arrived about one every 15 minutes or so until there were nearly 20+ aircraft parked all over the place. I saw two Challengers, a couple of Quicksilver MXLs, some Quicksilver MXs and various hybrid Quicksilvers with different modification kits made by Mark Smith. There were always at least four or five in the air practicing touch-N-gos, giving rides, taking lessons, or just plane hot-doggin' for the fun of it. At around ten O'clock, I went flew to the Henderson (Kentucky) county airport to view an almost completed affordaplane built by Don Taylor. It was a beautiful construction of an airplane and I am very happy I chose to go see it. I don't believe I'll be building one. Too much work. When I returned to Marks, all sorts of planes were on the ground. From the air, it was similar to a kaleidoscope on the ground...random patterns of assorted beautiful colors! Like an idiot, I didn't take a picture. I landed and gave up the plane to others who were chompin' at the bit to get some flying time in and I really have had my share up to this point. It was just as hot on Saturday as on Thursday and Friday. Lunchtime came and Mark cooked hamburger and hot dogs for all.

In the afternoon, I decided to try the GT400. I was the last of the "new people" to fly this plane, by my choice of course. Andrew (Crazy Hot Shot Andy) was first, of course. I can't remember if Kyle or Louis flew it next, but they both were before me. I was a bit intimidated, but not as much as the previous day when all the others flew. I figured I could fly it, but I knew it would require more of me than the MX that I own. One big difference...It had a yoke instead of a stick. I have never flown with a yoke. Also, the throttle was on the right instead of the left. I didn't see this as a problem, but others (probably Steve Gould) said it was something to take notice and be aware of. I had heard all the other new GT400 pilots asking questions, so I knew the approach speed to shoot for when landing. Like an idiot, I forgot to ask what to use for a climbout speed before flying. Steve showed me where to set the flaps for takeoff and instructed me to leave them on for my first landing. Electric flaps...what a nice touch! This GT has electric start. I love that! Strap in, get comfortable, then hit the start key and taxi out! Since a yoke has a wheel, if you stick a wheel in front of me, I perceive that it's supposed to turn the plane on the ground. Imagine my surprise when I turned it and the plane kept going straight. "Rudder pedals you idiot!" as I realized I was still in an airplane and not a car. After that everything was fine. The takeoff was pretty uneventful, but I did notice that flying a plane that's twice as heavy as what I'm used to takes up more runway...duh! Climb out was shallow, which was my doing because I didn't know the stall characteristics of this plane. I made shallow banked turns for the same reason. I made a really Looooong downwind leg and a shallow turn for the base and final which were really just one 180 degree turn. The windshield was very dirty and it was a hazy day, so it was difficult seeing the runway, but I did the best to guess where I wanted to touch down. The approach was way more shallow than what I would normally fly with an MX type airplane. I'm sure with practice, I could make them quite a bit more steep, but I was just trying to make a decent return to terra-firma this time around. As I dropped below 100 feet above ground, it looked like it was going to work out fine...I would find out in just a few seconds that the hard part was already behind me. As I flared, it seemed the wheels would never touch down. Airspeed was near 20MPH when they finally touched. I hit the brakes (yeah, brakes are a nice thing to have) and turned around at the end of the runway and taxied back for another takeoff.

After being airborne the second time, I slowly retracted the flaps and watched the airspeed climb! My last flight didn't get above 45. This flight, until I throttled back on climb-out, I was approaching 65MPH! (I told you I was making shallow climb-outs!). I cruised around at about 55 and tried out the maneuverability of this beast. "S" turns about a road (as I found out with this weekends different type check flights) are my favorite way to asses the flight characteristics of different planes. With my very little experience, I didn't feel comfortable trying to get this plane to match the steep turns of the MX series, but I did bank about 40 degrees. This plane was gentle, yet snappy. It was completely predictable. I was able to space the turns at what I would guess to be 150 yards apart on the straight road I was using. I thought this was pretty good for such a fast, heavy airplane. I'll bet crazy Andy (or Mark or Steve or Tommy...damn near anybody for that matter) could turn this brute in 1/3 or even 1/4 less space, but I wasn't going to push my luck. After the S-turns, I climbed higher to test the stall speed. I didn't know if this plane would spin, but I didn't want to find out either, so I didn't press my luck. As the airspeed needle slowly went under 20MPH, I could feel a bit of shaking, but there wasn't any break. I didn't want a wing to tuck under with my big 20 minutes of flight time with this airplane, so I stopped trying to make it stall. I figure if it wouldn't stall at 20, it was going to be difficult to inadvertently stall on approach, so I stopped the stall testing and headed back to the patch. I set the flap and approached a bit steeper this time, but still it was pretty shallow. Damn windscreen is still dirty. On flaring, I kept pulling back on the yoke more and more, waiting to feel the wheels touch. I never did! I hit the brakes and immediately slowed down, so I knew I was down, but I thought that was incredible. I've never greased a landing so smooth as to never feel the wheels touch! What a fine landing plane.

About five O'clock, Several people started to gather at the water runway where the floats were laying on the ground. Then the Grey Navy plane taxied over to the pond/runway and I knew that was the place to be and walked over to help install the floats. Of course Mark had to test out the structural integrity of the installation and proceeded to show off how well he could taxi, then positioned himself at the far end of the runway and gunned it, taking off just feet before the end of the water runway. It was awesome seeing the modified MX fly with floats. Mark turned and landed, coming in over our heads and plopping the plane onto the water, then turned around and took off again. He circled and landed once more before giving up the plane to Tommy, his nephew. Tommy looked like he was having fun as he took off and purposefully splashed stinky pond water over us onlookers. He landed, taxied then took off again, splashing us again before landing and shutting off the engine. Guess who was next...who else...Andrew, the blossoming jet pilot. After a bit of briefing, Andrew got pushed out into the pond and started taxing flawlessly. Of course, everything Andrew did was perfect, as usual. He took off and landed twice, with no problems whatsoever. Then Mark asked me if I wanted to taxi. I opted to wait and watch as many people who were going to try out the floats. I wasn't really sure I was going to do it. Kyle spoke up and after being pushed out into the pond, performed his two take-off and landings just as well as Andrew. When he beached the plane at the end of the runway and got out, nobody else wanted to try it. It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I opted to try it, despite my nervousness and trepidation.

I strapped in and was shoved out just like the rest. I did a circle in the runway just fine and started taxiing to the opposite end and turned around. I did a high-speed pass down the pond strip getting planed out and then cut the throttle, but I didn't do is soon enough to be able to make the turn at the end of the pond and I snagged the edge. After being pushed back out by several on the bank, I taxied to the downwind side again, only to turn around and get snagged on the bank again. Since I was all alone at the opposite end of the runway, I had to free myself. I shut off the engine, climbed out on the float, pushed off, then got back in and re-fastened the belt. Then I pulled the rope from the seat, starting the engine before hitting the opposite bank backwards. I was a nervous wreck by this time and completely humiliated and embarrassed by my lack of water taxiing skills, but I was going to go for it. I advanced the throttle to wide open. I felt the floats get up on the step. The end of the runway was approaching, but nobody else had problems getting airborne before the end. Nobody else had taxiing issues either. I eased in some back elevator...more, a bit more....and the plane broke free, and I was flying with no problems. With the floats attached, the airplane was about 150 pounds heavier, and it certainly felt like it. Still, it flew very well. I made a pattern to the left and made a LONG downwind leg to allow me plenty of time to setup the landing. Since the runway was relatively short, you wanted to touch the water as close to the start as possible, but you surely didn't want to touch down in the grass. That would be par for me...hit the bank, miss the runway...blah, blah. Judging the correct power setting for the proper descent was a bit more difficult. Hell, for me, judging the correct descent was difficult! As I got closer, I jockeyed the throttle a bit, but it was clear to me that I would touch down in about the right spot. As I touched the water, I bounced, but not too terribly bad...OK, I bounced two or three times. I had done it! Now I was going to do it again! I carefully (and successfully) turned around and headed back to the far end of the runway, once again successfully turning around. I gunned it and the second takeoff was just like the first. This time instead of doing a left pattern, I flew out straight and did as tight of a turn as I dared with the heavy floats attached, and I set-up for a landing from the same direction I took off. Others had done it this way also and I didn't want to be left out. My approach was a bit steeper since I had less time to descend and the landing was just about the same, with a bounce or two. Still, I didn't bend any tubes or rip any fabric, so I guess I was pretty successful at float flying. I'm sure if I had an hour or so on the river to practice, I would get much better at landing. But of course, leave it to the young bucks like Andrew and Kyle to show me up by not hitting the banks! Good job guys! You are both excellent pilots!

Dinner time came again, and the hot dogs and hamburgers were excellent. Yum, Yum, eat'um up! After dinner I cracked open a beer so the flying was over for me. From what I hear, Steve-O and Rohn were up flying damn near dark:30. From some of the pics I've seen in the Yahoo "Quicksilverultralightowners" group, it sure looks dark! Steve said that if somebody wasn't really familiar with the area, they might not have been able to find the landing strip. Glad you guys made it back OK! When it got dark, I realized that I was so busy having fun that I had neglected to take a single picture on the busiest day of the fly-in. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.

Kyle and Andrew were making plans for Andrew to come visit the hotel so he could take a shower, just like the night before. Rohn was standing with them and he was staying in a room also at the same hotel. I harassed Andrew about not being able to rough it and doing without a shower. About that time Rohn told me I was welcome to stop by and wash off under the shower in his room. It took me all of about 3 seconds to accept, at which time Andrew harassed me back about not "roughing it". Louis and Charlie also made plans to go to Evansville and get a room so they could shower and sleep on a bed for the night, but were planning on returning in the morning. I got my stuff together and Andrew and I left in our respective cars to go to the motel. The shower was wonderful, let me tell you...cool and clean. I finished quickly, got dressed and said goodbye to Rohn, as he was going home and not coming back to the field on Sunday. I went back to the patch and brushed my teeth and said goodnight to Steve, who was also staying out at the patch for whatever reason, and I hit the air mattress and was shortly off to sleep, even before Andrew made it back.


Post a Comment

<< Home