Citabria

Finally got some weather nice enough to take the Citabria out. Sandra wasn’t in, but I went out with another instructor. Definitely a challenge taxiing. The angle of the wings makes the plane weathercock much worse than a tricycle gear plane. On top of that, the wheel that turns to control turning is at the back of the plane, so it doesn’t help it turn as sharply. 

We went out to the practice area to do airwork. We did slow flight, then stalls. Stalls in this plane are a bit more challenging because it’s so much less stable than a Cessna. You get a wing drop really easily if you’re even a little bit uneven. The fact that the throttle is on the left, and the control stick is in the middle didn’t help with that – I’m used to controlling the throttle and control surfaces with opposite hands. After that we did a spin. I’d done spins only a week and a half ago, in the 172, and I’d seen a spin in the Citabria the time Tyler took me up to do aerobatics, so Matt didn’t bother demonstrating one, just had me go straight ahead into it. The Citabria spins beautifully, like Sandra promised, and stops spinning just as abruptly when you pull out. The controls are more sensitive – makes the Cessna seem a little dopey.

On the way back, just for the hell of it, Matt asked if I knew how to do a roll, and I kind of remembered, so he refreshed me and demonstrated one. Then I did one, and it was so much better than the couple I did with Tyler – I figured out why I was going into a corkscrewy barrel roll coming out of it before. Now that I’ve had more time in the plane, I know how much pressure it really takes to work the rudder – I wasn’t giving it full rudder input. I’ll get this aerobatics thing yet.

I can flip the plane upside down and back up again, but I can’t land the damn thing. *g* I only did two landings today, neither completely by myself, but getting there – just need more practice. It’s a pretty big transition, and this thing doesn’t have flaps. For the pilots reading this who understand what that means, I’ll say it again – this thing doesn’t have flaps. It’s kind of like being used to having three tools to help you do something, but they took away one. You can use one other tool, but it doesn’t work the same way. It just means you have to be a bit more precise in where you’re turning final, to give yourself the right amount of distance to slow down and drop altitude.

I’ll get there. Tailwheel checkout is apparently around ten hours, and most of that’s circuit practice. Then I can start aerobatics training. It’s possible I might end up having to go out to Steinbach to do that, but if I do, it’s not a long course. I’d love to learn the Pitts too – if you look up youtube videos of the Pitts, you’ll see what that sucker’s capable of.

But there’s one more thing about today worth mentioning, and that was out in the practice area. There are some sights that are once in a lifetime things. Today the cloud ceiling was broken around 9000 feet or so, depending on which METAR you were looking at, and it might have been different out at St. Andrews. But there was another layer of clouds at 30000 feet that was just patchy, not enough to constitute a ceiling, so we were allowed to fly between and above them. So there we were up there, rolling and spinning through gaps in the clouds the shone white with the sun. It’s one of those once in a lifetime moments, where I just thought, I can’t believe this is real.

Only it’s not going to be a once in a lifetime moment. I may not know what the weather will be like from one day to the next, but one day in the future, it’ll be like this again, and one of those days it’s like this I’ll be flying in it and loving every minute.

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Reasons To Hang Around A Flight School Looking Bored

So, I had a whole update post that I had ready for today, but I’m going to save that for another day, because I just had too much fun today. See, when have time between lessons, and you’re sitting around at your flight school studying, or watching planes land, or otherwise looking like you have no pressing engagements, every once in a while somebody says, hey, do you want to come sit in on a lesson with another student, we have an empty seat in this four seater plane. That happened last week, when I got to ride with them in the Seminole while another student got a multi-IFR lesson. That was fun, got a bunch of nice pics of Winnipeg from above. They did a couple of engine failure simulations. We saw a bright yellow an red water bomber, and the instructor picked the moment the student was most distracted by it to cut the left engine.

Today though, it was the Citabria. And it wasn’t another student’s lesson, it was one of the instructors doing his aerobatic instructors rating. And yes, this is going exactly where it sounds like it’s going. The Citabria is a plane with tandem seating – two seats, one behind the other. The instructor sits in the back, so he’s practicing flying from the back of the plane, but for weight and balance, that plane can’t be flown without someone in the front seat – the balance would be off. It’s fine to have just one person in it, but they have to be in the front seat.

Oh my gods, it was so much fun. I was a little nervous about it at first, until we did the first loop, and then it was just pure fun. Loops, rolls, barrel rolls, hammerhead turns, cuban eights, and a snap roll – also known as a “holy shit roll” because there’s no lead in to it, and you can do it when your passenger’s not expecting it. (No, I’m not planning on doing it to my mother when she comes to Canada and I get to take her flying – I swear….)

I assumed I was just going to be a body along for the ride, but since this guy was already an instructor, and he’s supposed to be learning how to teach someone else how to do this stuff – yep, I got to take the stick (Citabria has a stick instead of a yolk – it’s old school) and I learned how to do a loop and an aileron roll (not expertly, by any stretch, but we did not die and the plane was upright at the end without the instructor’s help).

I have officially made an aeroplane go upside down.

(On purpose.)