18 September 2014

Astore Air to Air

These air to air shots of Tecnam Astore, which I flew at the end of August, come from NZ Aviation News editor John King and retain his copyright. Expect to see some higher resolution copies of these in the October issue alongside my review.

Flying a Rolls-Royce

Last week I flew a Rolls-Royce. Or to be more specific, I flew an aircraft powered by a Rolls Royce engine.

As much as I would have liked to claim said engine belonged to the Trent turbofan family, this wasn't the case. It was actually a 4 cylinder Continental piston engine, designated the Rolls-Royce O-200A, and manufactured under licence in Britain.

The powerplant belonged to Piper Super Cub, ZK-BQY, an Ardmore based taildragger which I have been taking some lessons in to recement the basic tailwheel principles after 900 odd hours flying tricycles. The last time I'd logged anything other than a nosewheeler was in Andrew Hope's Citabria, ZK-CIT, way back in 2007.

The reason I felt the need to do so was the realisation that my skills needed a definite brush up after accepting an offer to soon be flying another much larger Ardmore based taildragger. I don't want to mention the aircraft by name just yet, although if you've visited Hamilton Airport within the last week, you might have noticed it sitting outside on the western apron minus one of its propellers...

Anyhow the main difference between the taildragger and the tricycle design is it's directional stability, or apparent lack there of. With the centre of gravity positioned aft of the main landing gear, the design is inherently unstable during the takeoff and landing phase. When only the main wheels are in contact with the runway surface, the natural motion of the aircraft will be to swap ends on itself, with rearward weight wanting to pivot itself around the tyres.

There are a few tricks and tips to managing this, all of which involve very lively rudder inputs- almost a constant dance of the pedals as my instructor worded it- in effort to prevent a ground loop.

Raising the tail from the ground also provide its own challenge, with the relative slipstream from the propeller providing little response from the lower elevator and rudder control surfaces at slow forward speed.

Lesson one was to override my natural instinct to hold the stick back upon landing, deliberately checking forward instead to keep the tail flying for as long as possible upon touch down, maximising steering authority from the airflow past the rudder. The style of landing is known as a Wheeler landing, and I'm told is the more controllable option when compared to a Three Pointer landing.

This was done by applying full power, lifting the tail, gently pinching back on the stick to break ground, then reducing the throttle, relanding, holding the tail up, guiding myself as straight as possible down the centreline, before increasing throttle again and repeating the takeoff. This process was repeated up to four times along the length of Ardmore's 1300m sealed runway, before climbing away to join the circuit as per normal.

The whole process requires a much higher level of focus to be maintained when compared with driving the likes of a C172 on and off the deck, but felt rewarding when I pulled off touchdowns that didn't cause my instructor to cringe. More work will be required before I'm up to standard, but I'm looking forward to the enjoyable challenge!

Air to Air with BQY, last summer during an Auckland Seaplanes photoshoot

12 September 2014

Healthy Bastards Bush Champs 2015

Registrations are now open for the 3rd annual Healthy Bastards Bush Pilot Champs this coming summer at Omaka. The cost is $50 for one entry into either the Precision Landing competition or the STOL Takeoff and Landing contest, and an extra $25 if you would like to enter the second category.

Visit marlboroughaeroclub.co.nz for more info.