Meynard’s Basic Aerobatic Course runs to 10 hours of flight training, plus briefing, de-briefing and a bit of ground school, depending on how much the student already knows of aerodynamics… .
WE went flying immediately! 😛
Flight training is done in the Bellanca Super Decathlon, a taildragger. So I also got my tail wheel endorsement!
Stabbing was an elusive concept, so Meynard grabbed my flight suit and stabbed me, plunging a knife into my heart again and again!
“How do you STAB?? Do you leave the knife there? No! You stab, pull out, stab, pull out, stab again! STAB the rudder, Tonet! Short stabs, left, right, neutralize!”
Stab? Neutralize?? Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, with rudder pedals!
At first, the Decathlon meandered forlornly across taxiway lines. When I learned the stabbing thing, taxiing became fun! I even learned to pirouette the airplane in place with rudder and power, parking like a sh*t-hot REAL MAN 😛 Meynard’s stabbing analogy was the key. As always, he knew exactly how to teach to slow student… .
Take off was also an epiphany. Full throttle, count to three, then stick full forward to raise the tail, quick rudder stabs to keep the nose centered, and rotate at Vr. It takes longer to read that sentence than to get airborne.
The view ahead on takeoff was alarming, like I was shoving the prop onto the runway! But the horizontal stabilizer can’t rise too high against the airflow, so a prop strike was unlikely. I quickly learned that pushing the stick forward to arm’s length got the tail up just right.
By the second day, I could center the prop spinner within the 10-inch wide centerline painted on the runway. All net, the basketball not even touching the ring 🙂
Landing a taildragger earns big bragging rights. It was like landing any other airplane … until the tail wheel touched down. The airplane does not know it is a taildragger until the tail wheel starts rolling.
Then it got VERY busy! Stabbing the pedals, firm stabs at first, then more authoritative kicks as airspeed bled off. The wind was constantly fencing with the empennage, the tail wheel threatened to swivel all the time, and I didn’t stop stabbing that airplane until I killed the engine at the ramp.
We did 20 landings at Clark in two days, and more on the narrow Omni runway. We did wheel landings on Day 2, ‘flying the engine’ to touchdown on the main wheels, keeping the tail up with full forward stick even as we slowed to a fast jog. On one landing I asked why the tail was taking too long to touch down, and Meynard exclaimed that it had been down for a few seconds already, and could I keep the pedals alive, please??
We liked the second Omni landing best – centered on an asphalt strip just 15 meters wide, braking hard to exit after just a 500-meter roll.
“You gloating braggart,” noted Meynard.
We also flew to the Tanauan grass airstrip. Meynard briefed for visual patterns and low passes a few feet above the runway, no landing, then back to Manila.
But on the fourth approach Meynard redeemed the first 50 years of my life by telling me to go ahead and land. I pulled the power and she nestled on the grass. It turns out taildraggers love grass! With little friction, the wheels could skid sideways if necessary, and there was less chance of a ground loop around a point.
We flew back to Manila. Out of sheer exuberance, we put her through an aileron roll, then inverted flight. Then I put her down on runway 13’s centerline, done for the day.
“You’re a taildragger pilot now, Tonet. That landing was all yours, I had no inputs.”
That was the sweetest note of the 10-hour symphony that week. Except maybe for the verses from Psalm 103 that Meynard recited as we taxied on the long taxiway at sunset. But that’s a story for next time.
Next: Two grown male adults rolling around together on VIDEO!