ground crew perspective:
Seeing something work that you and your friends have labored over
for months and in most cases years, is a thing of beauty. Only someone
who has done this can understand the feeling of accomplishment and
joy of seeing a project perform as you expected it to on paper. When
it performs better than expected there is a bonus elation that can't
be described. So many ideas put into motion and coming together toward
the goal of flight is fulfilling and just an awesome sight. You forget
all the little set backs of "ok, now how do we get this to fit
and function properly?" Now it seems like it didn't take so long
after all because you are watching the wheels clear the ground and
keep going. All the little "tweaks" and minor adjustments
are a pleasure since you have just watched your baby fly. Group thoughts
are turning to "how can we make it better and faster?"
The Special II's
day was really the first warm almost Spring day we've had and it happened
to fall on a Saturday. The morning was still fairly cool (ok it was
cold) when we showed up at the shop to get the Special II on the trailer
for the hour ride to the airfield. After four months of building it
was time to put it to the test. Since the Special II is basically
just an enlarged version of the Special I (single seat) we knew how
it should perform. After we arrived at the airfield it took us a couple
of hours to put on the wings and adjust the landing and flying wires.
We dumped in five gallons of gas and were ready to fire up the Rotax
503. She fired on the first spin of the prop and I throttled her back
too far and it died (my fault). On the second spin of the prop she
fired right off and held steady. After a little warm up time and a
check of the instruments Roger started putting on his flight gear.
In a few more minutes I was untying the run up rope and the Special
II was heading out onto the airstrip. Roger did his normal taxi checks
including several 360 degree turns to insure the steering system was
good. I now was transformed from ground crew to photographer so I
was heading down field with my camera to film those first hops. At
this point I was quite nervous and excited. Roger rolled her to the
end of the runway and without hesitation pushed the throttle to full
power. After about 6 hops up and down the 2000 foot runway Roger brought
her in for a once over before the first flight. Back to ground crew
duties. After a thorough inspection of the airplane she was fired
back up and Roger was on his way back to the end of the runway. Once
again when he reached the end of the runway and lined up he fire walled
the throttles without hesitation and was quickly moving down the runway.
Acceleration was quite brisk, surprising me a bit. I had to add some
rudder quickly to get the plane to straightened out but soon had her
tracking straight on the mains. I was not watching the airspeed but
I knew I passed the 50 MPH take off speed in just a few hundred feet.
I pulled the stick back slightly and she jumped off the ground to
about 20 feet. Ok, time to wiggle the wings and whoaaaa....... this
is the Special that I remember. Note to self....she banks quick with
plenty of control so let's be easy with her for now.
Here comes the
end of the runway so what's our speed? Ok we're cruising at 90 MPH,
wow... she does feel strong so let's go. Ease the stick back, now
we're climbing out at about 70 MPH. A quick once over the gauges,
everything is good. About a minute and I'm at 1000 feet where I want
to start my pattern work. Alright I have plenty of altitude, she turns
good with little stick pressure. Ok, let's release the stick and see
what happens. She goes into a slight dive with "no hands"
but I think I can trim her out with power. As I push the throttle
forward she trims out at about 6000 rpms which I think is a little
high so we'll need a small elevator trim tab later. Alright, relax
a bit and let's start our checks.
Hey, I'm flying
a biplane. All is feeling good so let's slow her down a bit. Time
to think about my landing. Slowing to about 50 MPH (my approximate
landing speed) she feels good with a nose high angle. Everything is
stable, I don't want to go any slower until I go for real altitude
and find her stall speed. 50 MPH feels good for now. Power back up
and let's go around for final. Approaching at 80 MPH time to throttle
back. Now I'm descending at 90 MPH. Ease the power back more, don't
need to get too fast. Man this plane is fast. Power all the way back.
Ok, I have too much speed but I also have a 2000 foot runway. Just
round her out and hold her off. Good, just hold it, stick back.....and
touchdown. Whoops, I forgot to look at my airspeed. Very exciting.
There's my ground crew. Hope they didn't see me bounce it too high.
Time to look her over and keep flying. Can't wait to see how she does
with a Rotax 912!