I didn’t write up lesson #4, but it went well. It’s nice to get back to more stable, summertime weather conditions. It makes it easier to practice turn coordination. Lessons 4 and 5 were all about that. Very precise turn coordination. Setting a bank for a turn, but making sure the nose stays fixed to a point on the horizon until the bank is complete. It’s harder than it sounds.
In the Cessna 152, you can forget you even have rudder pedals, except when you need to do a slip, which you never really need to do since you have flaps. Anyway, in the Citabria, unless you coordinate an aileron input with rudder, the nose will actually yaw (very substantially) in the opposite direction of your input; bank to the left, and the nose yaws a good 20 degrees to the right, opposite the direction you want to turn. The reason for this is that to bank an airplane, you’re decreasing lift on the wing that you’re lowering and increasing lift on the wing you’re raising. Decrease lift, decrease drag; increase lift, increase drag. The drag differential causes the airplane to yaw in the direction of the highest drag.
But it’s even more complicated than that. Due to the forces caused by the rotation of the propeller counter-clockwise, the plane has a built-in yaw tendency to the left. In fact, the vertical stabilizer is offset just a bit to counteract this. However, when you’re coordinating turns, it means that when you turn to the left, only a teeny bit of left rudder is needed, whereas, when you turn to the right, you’ve got to step into it pretty good. That is, if you want to execute perfectly coordinated turns, and who wouldn’t?
So, it was a never-ending series of turns this way and that–at shallow banks and steep banks. I’m happy to report that I performed 45 degree banked 360s in both directions and kept the altimeter pretty much pegged at 4,000 ft. Jim was pleased with that.
We also did some slow flying. It’s amazing how slow you can fly this thing, and with the nose pitched up perhaps 30 degrees above the horizon. You can actually fly around just kissing a stall, and each time it starts to break, just the slightest bit of forward stick brings you right back to the edge. These exercises are quite important because it’s important that you know what it feel like when you’re are about to stall.
Takeoff and landing are getting much better. I was given an article on "Taming the Taildragger Pilot," written by Bud Davisson, which was immensely helpful. For the time being, when I get off center line on the runway, my primary focus now is to just get the airplane going straight, and not worry about getting back on center line. If I can tackle the correction and make it go straight, I will eventually be able to prevent it getting much off center in the first place.
I’ve started doing the radio work, and I pretty much do all pre-launch and pre-landing checklist and procedure items without prompting. Today, on approach, Jim commented on how well I was doing on the glide slope (probably my chief talent, as I’m accustomed to gliding) and decided to relax and do some sightseeing. So, as an instructor, he’s getting more comfortable with the skills I’ve learned so far and my judgment.
I’m very pleased. A week ago I was a bit discouraged. Now, I’m at the next level and moving forward.