Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Return to Power.

Fresh with excitement of having just passed the glider test, I was looking forward to getting into a single seat glider again and trying some soaring as conditions looked to be good (judging by the amount of bumps I flew through during the flight test). But then a different opportunity presented itself when my examiner (who also happens to be a check out tow pilot) asked if I wanted to get some dual time in a Citabria. Considering that flying the club’s Citabria was one of the main reasons that got me into gliding in the first place, I said “Yes” rather quickly.

We talked about towing procedures, rules and emergencies as we were waiting for a glider line up to diminish as we were planning to do couple of non-towing circuits first. But the conditions were good, private owners were rigging their gliders the line was getting busier not quieter, so my first flight in a Citabria in over a year was an actual tow.

I did not fly the take off of course, but I got to fly the tow when we were at a safe height and I flew the rest of the tow up to release, the letdown, the circuit and the landing. It was initially overwhelming to try to fly with the glider attached as I was still getting used to where all the instruments were. Having flaps and carb heat added some issues as the Citabria that I flew in previous life had neither and I had to be reminded to deal with those.

But it was with the landing that I experienced the most difficulties. I would have not thought so, but take off with the glider in tow was not all as difficult as the landings w/o the glider. I thought I used to fly tight circuits at my previous field, but compared to them the circuit in the tow plane was much higher and shorter, I felt rushed, uncoordinated, was coming in too high and too fast and landing well long.

During initial briefing, my instructor pointed out that there was water in the second half of the runway and that I better land either short or long. Thus forewarned, on my first landing I splashed right in the middle of the biggest puddle sending fountains of water and grass few feet in to the air and drenching the plane. I then tried to repeat that same performance two more times but my instructor had a better foresight and took controls earlier flying us over the puddle.

As I kept trying to improve my landings, I kept thinking “I’ve already been there” reminiscing about my taildragger training and my first landing attempts. At least this time I knew they would get better. Landings aside, I was able to do the rest of flying with less and less prompting, so I felt like I was making progress.

Flying the power plane again felt very different compared to flying the glider. It was interesting to be at the other end of the rope for a change. It was challenging too as flying the tow plane with all other planes and gliders in the circuit required much higher level of skills and concentration that I ever needed flying my little Citabria out of the quiet airport on a hill. But despite the challenges and differences, I loved all of it and can't wait to do it again.

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