Meynard’s Basic Aerobatic course was almost over. I now had 9 hours of taildragger and aerobatic time, nearly 3 hours in the last sortie alone. On graduation day, I practiced vertical maneuvers — loops and hammerheads.
Then came the graduation exercise.
Graduation day was CAVOK after rain the previous day, and we regrouped for a briefing. Meynard wanted me to string four maneuvers together:
– A spin from straight and level, no altitude gain before spin entry! Recover after one turn and dive on original entry heading, pulling back to climb into a . . .
. . . Loop, pulling 3.5 Gs up and over, relaxing back pressure to round out the top. Pull out of the dive into level flight for one second, then haul 4 Gs to climb vertically to a . . .
. . . Hammerhead, diving vertically in the opposite heading, then pitch up 30 degrees for an . . .
. . . Aileron roll, rolling 360 degrees non-stop and recovering straight ahead.
Then, 180-degree competition turn, and do it all again.
The video above is a similar sequence flown by Meynard during the same flight. He took it easy, yawing slowly into the spin, and skipped the loop to keep energy up. Check out the G-meter in the video :-D
Then, before a tail slide snatched at the controls, kick left full rudder to yaw the airplane 180 degrees from straight up to straight down.
But there was also right aileron to spoil lift on the faster wing on the outside of the turn, and forward stick to defeat gyroscopic precession from the yaw. All three axes were in play.
I dove vertically to 150mph, looking over the prop at rapidly growing houses.
Then, 3.5 G pull to recover opposite our entry heading.
Suddenly the Basic Aerobatics Course was done. In 10 flight hours I had logged 27 landings in a taildragger, and, oh, I guess about 12 minutes of straight and level flight :-)
The more Gs I pulled, the more my grin hurt!
I never felt more fulfilled about flight.
I had earned confidence, seasoned with discipline, and drizzled generously with fun!
Meynard, with his disciplined, deliberate precision and his confidence during high-G unusual attitudes, earned my deepest respect and admiration. He is one of those people in the world I wish would never grow old.
From my ten hours and five flights in the Decathlon, the leg I remember the most was homebound from Tanauan, on Day 3.
With pure exuberance, we inverted the airplane, in level flight. The setting sun ‘climbed’ into the ground above, a sight only aerobatic pilots can enjoy.
The cackling laughter says it all.
(I got used to a flight suit, and know now why thigh pockets zip down the side, not the top. After seeing knee-board spring clips, charts and checklists float up during my first inverted negative Gs, I dug out my old flight suit and strapped, velcroed and zipped my cockpit detritus :-) in its pockets.)
I was very pleased with my landing in Manila that day.
“Oooh, you’re a taildragger pilot now, Tonet,” cooed Meynard. I exited the active, leaned the mixture and slowed the airplane to a crawl. I didn’t want it to end.
Meynard sensed my mood, and the softly soaring words of King James’ Psalm 103 came over my headset.
My friend Windwalker, who was born to fly, told me that flying reverses the aging process by the amount of time spent airborne. Listening to Meynard, I understood where Windwalker got that epiphany.
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is restored like the eagle’s.
In the distance, runway lights sparkled like a Christmas tree.
I taxied to Airworks, shut the airplane down, and we climbed out. Above, the evening sky’s starry duvet slipped over us, comfortingly. We were done.
Posted from Berlin, Nov 11, 2008.