tweets from AcroCamp were, “Sitting in the FBO waiting for my turn to go fly upside down....” and "I knew this was going to happen. My stomach is starting to roll in anticipation of flying. I'm NOT nervous. I'm NOT nervous.” But then, I knew from my previous experience doing spins in a tomahawk that sometimes the “leading up to” made the actual “doing” that much worse. My twitter friend, Pilot2B, sent me this illustration as encouragement. [Sorry, the bumper sticker is only available in the greasy side down version.]
Barry took me out first to a Citabria to head out to the practice area. A Citabria is a two place airplane, which I'm used to, but with tandem seating, which I'm not. For Acrocamp, the camper was sitting in the front seat and the instructor in the back. The airplanes were fitted with cameras right in our faces, as well as on the wing strut to get a better angle. Additionally, our Lightspeed headsets were recording our every word. [Just so everything I’m saying here can be verified.] Once we were strapped in (did I mention we were wearing parachutes?), and the reality of what I was about to do came pressing down on me, one of my buddies, Will Hawkins showed me a little video he had on his iPhone.
Now who wouldn’t want to go fly aerobatics after that?
p.s. if you don't know who the woman in the video is you must not be involved in aviation AT ALL other than reading my blog. Go to her website and then come back.
Barry is also a helicopter pilot and he compared a lot of what he was telling me to do in the taildragger to flying a helicopter. First, there’s a stick (not a yoke as in most airplanes) similar to the cyclic in a chopper - which demands a light touch – don’t want to stir the soup making the airplane do what you want to do. Second, the rudder pedals also demand small variable inputs. Just as in the helicopter, I had to tell myself to RELAX and unclench my thighs, bend my legs, and use just my toes. Lightly. Whatever it takes, and no more.
After takeoff we climbed up to altitude and leveled off. I had to do this, not the autopilot, as I am used to using. Barry had me look out the left window and align the camber of the wing with the horizon (to start) and wow, what a different sight picture. There was sky and ground everywhere. Compared to the forward view in what I’m used to flying, I saw what should have been a 20 degree nose down pitch. I kept climbing flying out to the practice area because I kept wanting to get the nose somewhere toward the horizon. Had to remind myself to look at the left wing (this comes into play a lot in aerobatics as you’ll see later).
What the sound recorders won’t pick up during this portion of the flight is the little voice in my head. There was a scaredy-cat in my head saying, “I can’t do this. I can’t. I’m going to open my mouth and use my out-loud voice and just tell Barry I want to go back to the airport. I quit.” Only, I couldn’t form the words. Paralysis? I don’t think so. It was really the not wanting to pull up to the hangar doors and have everyone ask me why I was back so early that made me keep my mouth shut so no such words were recorded. The camera might reflect this drama playing out in my face, though. Not sure I want to see it, though. And my Facebook post when I returned was, “Just finished my first flight in a tail dragger, the Citabria. At first during the flight as the airplane was just kind of burbling in the sky, I thought, "man, I can so not do this." But I am motivated by thinking there's just no way I am going to go back there in defeat.”
But I also had a group of Facebook friends looking out for me. I couldn't let them down, too!
Kris: you can do it! :)
Jan: You GO, Girl!! Once you've had that taste of taildraggin', you'll never think twice about it. It's REAL flying. By the seat of your pants, literally. My first tailwheel flight was last September, got my endorsement in January, and now I'm taking acro lessons! Wait until you solo in the Citabria for the first time - you will be soooo excited. YOU CAN DO IT!! :D
Sarah: I grew up in a PA-12 Super Cruiser and a PA-16 Clipper. All these little tri-gear airplanes are like lawnmowers compared to a real airplane. :)
Michelle: Go Lynda...you can do it.
Robert: Can't go wrong if you have Don or Barry in the back. I got my first tailwheel flight in with Don last year.
Ken: I learned to fly in tail draggers...
Cheryl: That's my girl! See me sitting there in MY citabria! I love that airplane! Kam: You're a fearless woman and an inspiration to me. Thanks for these status updates!
Linda: Got my tailwheel a few years ago. You CAN do it!!!! And you'll come to love it!
Denise: But you MUST! Some of us are out here living vicariously through YOU!!! YOU GO GIRL!
Martt: Hang in there... you're gonna love it, I promise : )
Lou: Congratulations on finding out what those foot rests are for!! Once you've dragged your tail you'll realise tricycles are for babies!!
I'm trying to keep these chapters brief, so next post I'll cover the actual maneuvers...