Flying and More Flying

Well, I was half a page into this entry, got up to get something, came back and it was gone. Vanished. No damn idea what happened. One day I’ll learn never to get significantly into something without always saving–no exceptions.

Well, that sapped much of my enthusiasm for it. I was relating that at last report, I was to be headed out with the chief pilot/instructor to get cleared to venture out on my own, farther than the local traffic pattern. Mission accomplished.

It was tough, though. Len is an old-time, very experienced pilot (type rating in all business jets from Lear to Gulfstream, many hours in all sorts of old biplanes, and even used to fly a Ford Tri-Motor). The task was to put the Citabria is every sort of bizarre attitude and have me recover. We’re talking skating the edge of aerobatic maneuvers. From time-to-time, he’d say, "well, I could have you do [blank] too, but that would require us to be wearing parachutes." These maneuvers came over and over, in quick succession. 60 deg. pitch ups and downs, 90 deg. banks, sometimes with the lower wing stalled, and sometimes in a severe pitch up with the upper wing stalled. He wanted me to recover wings level, minimum altitude loss, airspeed staying in the green, no over-speeding the prop, and (especially) no significant deviation from original heading. That’s the great big tough one, because when wings are banked, especially at 90 deg. the airplane is wanting to turn.

Oh, one more thing. Not allowed to use aileron. Of course, in a stalled situation, ailerons almost always make things worse. Taildraggers have great rudder authority and it’s the last control surface that quits working when airplanes quit flying. Use it. Didn’t know that you could recover to wings level from a 90 deg. bank using only the rudder. I do now.

Anyway, now It’s cross country time. Yesterday, we headed out from Reid-Hillview (RHV), requesting clearance to cross the San Jose class C airspace. Got the proper code to squawk and then got tuned over to SJC tower. They have me pass over the airport at 1500 MSL and unfortunately, no big commercial jets taking off or landing at the time. Goodyear did have one of their blimps out, though , and we passed within about a mile. The destination was Half Moon Bay (HAF), 40 NM to the northwest. But once we got turned over to Moffett Field control, released to go on our merry way, and got to the coastal range, it was socked in with onshore flow between there and the Bay. We had intended to land there and then take the coast down south.

So, we turned south along the coastal range and headed the 20 NM (est. as we’re now off our plan) or so to Watsonville (WVI). Along the way, guess who we pass to our left? Yep, Mr. Goodyear who appears to be heading southwest. Watsonville is a non-controlled field and it was moderately busy with local traffic. At non-controlled airfields, the aircraft all get on the same frequency and essentially coordinate with one another. We landed to a full stop, then took off again. Left traffic. Just as we depart the pattern and get on a SE heading for Salinas (SNS) at 22 NM, guess who?  Mr. Goodyear again. We pull a 360 and then cross his port quarter. A basic ship maneuver, there.

Speaking of ships, did I mention that it took me only about 30 minutes to plan this trip (and we’re not done yet)? I’m a trained ship’s navigator. It’s all the same. Winds? Analogous to corrections for ocean currents. Airports, approach and taxi procedures, airspace, frequencies, etc? All analogous to entering and leaving a commercial port; small and large, quiet and busy.

Salinas is controlled, so I check in with the tower and get my directions. On short final, all is going well, wind straight in, and I figure I’m going to smoke the landing. Only, just as I’m rounding out, I’m suddenly moving laterally across the runway to the left at a pretty good clip. I was a little late on getting the right wing down, but salvaged the landing nonetheless. Not one of my better.

Next, we’re off to the NE. It’s 20 miles over to Hollister (3O7). Another uncontrolled field. Lot’s of collectors. Several P-51s, numerous ’20s vintage biplanes, etc. They have a great little cafe, so Jim and I shut down and grab a bite. While we’re refreshing, we decide to deviate from the plan (again). We’re going to head back to homebase, 40 NM to the NW, but about 5 miles out, there’s a private field open to the public. Frazier Lake Airpark (1C9). It’s a grass field. Ever landed a taildragger on the grass? Oh, yea. It’s fun. So fun, in fact, that I did my first soft-field takeoff and then brought ‘er ’round again for another one. Rather than bring up the tail in the takeoff roll, you leave it down, takeoff nearly stalled (40-45 mph), and then slowly nurse the stick forward to pick up airspeed. It’s really quite straightforward. Not nearly so difficult as it sounds.

Tomorrow we’re doing some soft field and short field takeoff and landing practice.

Monday, we’re taking out the much faster Cessna 172 for a longer cross country to the northeast. RHV to RIU; on to CPU; then a 10 mile detour to overfly my cabin in Arnold; on to O22; then E45; on to MOD; and than back home.

Anyone doubt I’m having fun?

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. Lute Nikoley on July 15, 2005 at 09:44

    Of course you're having fun, I know I would be.

  2. Walter E. Wallis on July 15, 2005 at 09:46

    My first unplanned spin occured, luckily, just 5 feet agl. Landing in a heavy crosswind, I was crabbing, slipping and flaring all at once. The break was low enough that it only carried away the tail wheel.

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