The g-forces squeeze me into my seat as Meynard takes us through a loop, an aileron roll, a spin, and a hammerhead. I follow him on the controls, trying to keep up with the intricate rudder movements. P-factor and engine torque really come into play in aerobatics. My perspective shifts from ground to sky to ground and back again as the plane gyrates through the air.
Then, before I know it (and before my head has stopped spinning), it’s my turn. Meynard walks me through the instructions for an aileron roll. Okay, straight and level, raise the nose 30 degrees, firmly push the stick all the way to the side, and whooOOOOOO!!!!! Move over, Maverick!
Now this is flying!
One of the things I didn’t realize about aerobatics is the importance of ground references.
Loops, for example, are best performed over a road. Line up with the road, check for traffic, lower the nose for speed, and haul waaay back on the stick (a yoke would never do for this kind of work!).
Ease up on the back pressure for a moment across the top, to round it off,…
… and then haul back again until you’re level, using rudder vigorously all the way to stay lined up with the road.
Those motorists are getting quite a show!
Afterwards Meynard asks if there are any other maneuvers I’d like to try. I immediately ask if we can do an oscillation stall.
An oscillation stall requires quickness, fine control, and confidence with low speed flight.
To do it, you slow the plane to just above stalling speed, reduce power, and pitch up to hold altitude until the plane stalls. Gradually, no sudden inputs, so that the plane doesn’t snap.
Then use the rudder, not the ailerons, to keep it level. If you use the ailerons, or are slow on the rudder, the plane will fall off on a spin. If you do it right, the plane will mush downwards, nose up, just past the edge of a stall, wings and rudder wiggling slightly. The maneuver is also known as the falling leaf. It’s used as an exercise in aircraft control and stall recovery. I have a knack for doing it perfectly – in the 152.
In the Decathlon, it takes a bit more getting used to. The nose sloshes indolently from side to side as I twitch the rudders. Meynard’s instruction here is minimalist and elegant. He does one himself to demonstrate that the Decathlon prefers BIG rudder inputs at low speed. After that, I have the Decathlon purring like a kitten as it flutters downwards like a big yellow leaf. Yes!
We fly part of the way back to NAIA upside down.
Meynard and I do a quick debrief with Dad watching. I give myself a three out of five – I have a good grasp of flight, but I need to learn to fly by the seat of my pants, instead of chasing needles.
Meynard wants to see how I fly the Cessna, so before I know it, we’re over the practice area again, this time in 1513.
Posted from Manila, April 7, 2009
Photos of Meynard’s Decathlon at 2009 Hot Air Balloon Fiesta are used with permission from a photographer who refuses to be identified. Yet. Watermarked and copyrighted.