Carlo and I flew our brains out in the last two days of my home leave. People would ask, “Where are you going?” We would say, “Up.”
We worked the airplane hard. Short/soft field takeoffs and landings, mild aerobatic workouts in strong winds, stall series.
Woodland airfield. Home of the Angeles City Flying Club. Magical Never-Never Land. A friend, Hagee, said it best: “Ah, Woodland – chock full o’ pilots and nary a Captain among them, blessed be.”
Counting the extensions and overrun, Woodland has about 670 meters of grass runway, right up to the concrete wall that could rudely end anyone’s day.
It’s the combination that student pilots often theorize about in flying school –- Short and soft field. A Real Man’s takeoff. Special techniques, and all that. We are taught the theory in school, practiced it once or twice. Then the instructor checks that box, and we never think about it for years. Until one day we are on wet grass with a tailwind.
One day, Carlo and I loaded ourselves (170 kg of father and son), 98 liters of avgas, plus books, laptops and flight bags into the airplane.
Tailwind, of course. And wet grass, like Medusa’s tresses – clutching, clinging, dragging wet grass.
The airplane never got to flying speed. Near the end of the runway, Carlo and I inhaled deeply and sucked the airplane into the air. We missed the concrete wall only because the earth’s rotation and the moon’s gravity, plus clean living and a good heart, shrank the wall as we staggered by.
Carlo and I reviewed our short/soft field procedures with Jay, the resident pessimist at Woodland. (Pessimism is good in aviation, cynicism even better.) Carlo and I worked the technique until we could get the airplane airborne at max gross with a ground run of just 360 meters.
That exactly matches what the Cessna 152 Pilot’s Operating Handbook says for our density altitude, no wind and a dry grass runway.
Cessna did that book right. Not bad for a 33-year old airplane.
Yesterday, solo with full fuel, I was off in 250 meters. I surprised myself, the airplane, and Jenny the hangar dog, who was waiting for me to lift off abeam Hangar 3. That’s how good looks like – 250 meters.
“Note 1: Short Field technique as specified in Section 4.”
We’ve cracked that code.
Full throttle as we roll onto the runway. There are birds here that nest in humps and burrows on the grass. So we lift the fragile nose wheel right at the start.
At Vx, 55 knots, the airplane lifts off by itself. Magic.
Airborne. But there’s more work to do! The airplane is in ‘ground effect’. There is extra lift and less induced drag here, due to the fluid dynamics between the wing and the ground.
If we climb now, we will lose the extra cushion of lift and settle back to the ground. Think about it. It’s like landing again, but at the far end of the runway. Remember the concrete wall.
So when the airplane levitates into the seductive lift of ground effect, we lower the nose and skim the runway. We flash by Jenny, the village idiot who asserts her canine territory by running to the runway when an airplane goes by.
We accelerate in the embrace of the ground effect, pushing hard for Vy – best rate of climb speed.
At Vy, 67 knots in this airplane, we pull back to climb.
And boy, do we climb! We can sustain 700 feet per minute to 300 feet. Flaps up, and voila! We are flying.
Posted from Manila, Jan 6, 2012.