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Conversion training

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I've long debated as to whether I should get my tail wheel endorsement. Well, today being so perfect with clear blue skies and no wind, I bit the bullet and ventured down to Adelaide Biplanes at Aldinga airfield. At 11.30 I booked my first lesson for 1400 hours, 2 o'clock pm for the uninitiated. That gave my nerves a couple of hours to really get twitchy as I would be flying with Martyn Smith, owner and CFI with A.P.. A man of perfection by all accounts. Actually, he a very nice man and I enjoyed his method of teaching. Martyn has a couple of CubCrafters Sport Cubs (CC11/100's) on line and after 30 minutes or so of discussion, I made my way out to get familiar with this lovely little tandem seat tail dragger.


The preflight was straight forward with no real surprises and then it was time to climb aboard. Now, at 66 I don't count myself as old but, being fairly new to retirement, I'm still very laid back and bit of a couch potato. Consequently, when I tried to lift my leading leg up and over the door sill and the control stick, I lost my balance and kicked the panel fairly hard. Luckily it's all metal so no damage done except to my pride. Eventually I was in with Martyn behind me and the fun was about to begin.


For those of you who haven't tried taxiing a tail dragger, it ain't easy. Push the pedal and expect it to turn, only it don't. Add power to 'blow it round', yes, it'll go but won't stop turning when you think it will. Oh, and those new fangled things called toe brakes...S**t.


Eventually I got the hang of it, sort off. Managed to follow the taxi way and do a couple of intensional 360's but by now I was sweating profusely.


Time to take off. Stuffed up my radio call but lined up more or less in line with the runway. Martyn took over until we were airborne, like 5 seconds after opening the throttle. Gee it got off the ground so quick. I barely registered that the tail had lifted before the mains cleared to sod. Climb out was no match to the Jabiru that I normally fly but the controls were sooooo sensitive. Think a turn and it happened. Of course my co-ordination wasn't crash hot but Martyn said later that I did a lot better than many others. After some general handling practice, including stalls with lots of use of the electric trim control (went the wrong way on several occasions), it was time to attempt a landing or three. Oh BTW, full flap stall is at about 25 miles per hour and benign. Similar to a Jab but oh so much slower. Now the idea of a 3 pointer landing is to adjust your height and speed so that you stall it onto the ground without breaking it. Easy. Yeh, right.


Down wind speed set to 55 mph, a much tighter circuit than I'm used to, but it leaves me too high. Set up a nice side slip, height falls away without drifting off the center line and kick it straight as we go over the fence. I don't know what speed we touched down at as I was looking at the far end of the runway, but it was so gentle. Not perfect but it really was easy and I was amazed at myself.


We did another couple of circuits and called it a day. All in all, I am so happy how it all turned out. The only down side was that at 6ft, I found the pedals a little close which caused my legs to ache somewhat. I thought the rudder was a bit heavy but Martyn says that I was probably fighting with my own feet.Gotta loosen up.


The SportCub is a really docile plane, when there's no wind. Martyn says it'll all change when other forces try to take control and I'll have to learn about reverse controls to avoid being tipped over. Maybe I'll have another go later in the week when we expect a change to come though. Can't wait, but he's fully booked up for the next couple of days. I wonder if he'll let my fly his Wacco Biplane when I've got my endorsement? DREAM ON.









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Well done, tailwheel training opens your eyes and makes a lot more interesting aircraft available to you.


It does get easier, but it is something you can never take for granted. In a tailwheel aircraft it really is true about the flight starting before start up and ending when the aircraft is tied down or hangared. They are not forgiving of lapses in concentration!



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Guest High Plains Drifter

Doug, if you say you are looking to buy a Waco, you'll probably get a free ride ;)





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Nice try HPD but Martyn is a very astute man and certainly wouldn't fall for that one. He has a Durine Turbulent hidden away somewhere, maybe I'd be more successful asking for that. We'll see.



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  • 3 weeks later...

I had to set the alarm in order to find that 7 am actually exists but yesterday was it was important to be up early for my second lesson in a tail dragger. As I drove down to Aldinga, I was reminding myself of how to steer the plane whilst taxiing. Keep those feet active with little dabs to left or right, then center the bar and if necessary, use the toe brakes very lightly. The morning was brilliant and the picture of thick clouds sitting on the hill tops and rolling down into the ravines and valleys was spectacular. I was tempted to go back home to get my camera but I was here to fly, not look at the scenery. At the airfield there was virtually no wind and only a couple of early birds already up and flying.


I did my pre-flight as Martyn finished his coffee then it was times to go. This time I found taxiing much easier and only left the taxiway once. As we headed for 03, the main paved runway, I said to Martyn, " I haven't used a paved runway before". "And you're no going to today either" was his reply. "we're using the grass along side. It's a bit rough but just land level with or past the keys and you'll be fine"


What he didn't tell me was that there is a small hole about 100 feet up the strip. On take off I hit it just as we had flying speed and the plane leapt into the air as if on a catapult. I kept it airborne and settled into my climb of 65 miles per hour(American standard). Martyn said my first downwind leg was too wide and he gave me a visual marker to overfly next time round. It was also too long? I was flying my normal circuit as per the Jabbie I normally fly. Anyway. I settled into the 55mph landing speed with one stage of flaps and pulled off a half decent landing on all three, opened the throttle and hit that bloody hole again. Up we went only this time we were below flying speed so a quick recovery of my wits, a fast tap dance on the rudder bars to keep us off the paved runway and all came together for another climb out. Thankfully the Cub has large wheels and good suspension so Martyn wasn't at all worried about what to me, seemed like a bloody crater across the strip. Oh, by the way, another 100ft or so there's a cross runway that also acts as a launching ramp for light aircraft. This is not a problem unless you land long as I found out on my third landing when I hit both.


My circuits were now very tight and became oval rather than oblong."You're here to learn how to land, not fly cross country" was Martyns comment. On base/finals it was like flying a fighter in that continuous curving decent with the nose pointing down and the screen 3/4's filled with ground. More of a dive than the Jabs flat and level decent. It's just a matter of setting the 55mph speed with one stage of those big flaps which act more like an air brake, even more so with 2 stages, and then align and flare, keeping your eyes on the far end of the strip. Being a tandem seater, your peripheral vision is sufficient to just your height. Directional control is so easy with a very sensitive rudder and my 5th landing was an absolute greaser. Unfortunately not all the following were as good but at least I'll not damage the plane, holes or no holes. I even achieved one un-intensional wheeler. Having done 11 touch and go's it was time to call it a day. Still I'm booked in for Tuesday, but with a different instructor, so I'm sure time will drag until then.


I've got to say it again, the Cub Crafters Sport Cub is a beautiful aircraft to fly and I just love that 'diving approach'.



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Well written. I'm pleased to see that your time isn't being wasted with wide and rectangular circuits. With Cubs, low level and close-in racetrack circuits are the go. By making a descending 180 turn onto final, you are also learning how best to fly a bad weather circuit and approach - 'killing 2 birds' etc...


In our SuperCub, (which is bigger and heavier,with 160HP), we use 50KIAS + half flap for the initial 'base', and on the final part of the turn onto final, we go full flap and adjust to 40/45KIAS. With a stalling speed of 'around' 32KIAS, this still satisfies the 1.3 x Vsf numbers.


And, if you have 'toe' brakes....lucky you. We have diabolical 'heel' brakes - which require considerable dexterity in your leg movements.


safe flying,



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