Monday, 5 August 2013

Tail Wheel Conversation Course - First Lesson in a Piper SuperCub

So yesterday August 4, 2013 was only my second experience in a tail wheel aircraft. The first being that wonderful trial flight in the Tiger Moth. During the week I had read the literature the Tiger Club had given me in preparation for my first lesson and was I quite raring to go. It was a lovely warm day down at Headcorn and even at 9:30 in the morning the temperature was up around the 25 degree mark. Visibility was great with a few scattered cumulus clouds and there was to be a gentle crosswind from the left on the active runway [28].

After a comprehensive briefing regarding the handling differences and a walk around where my instructor went through an explanation of the various 'this does this and this does that' we were set to request taxi, takeoff and make our way down to the south for some general handling.

For fear of stating the blooming obvious, initial handling on the ground felt quite odd really. The tail wheel is directional with a free castoring feature depending on what you just did in the turn. The brakes are applied via your heels and in my opinion although effective they are not quite as easy to "jump to" as the ones on the Cessna that I am used to. Perhaps this is just it though, i.e. it is just 'different'. I guess time will be the judge of this.

So then, taxi and take off were fairly uneventful but as I thought the cub felt quite laboured in the climb. This is the baby version with only 90 hp to be fair. I noticed quite quickly also that the nose attitude is quite low when wanting to fly straight and level and that is something to get used to. I naturally flew too slow or ended up climbing on occasions as I was too nose high. Eventually once this registered in my brain then it was a simple corrective action to consciously keep that nose down.

So then, we did some standard and steep turns and some stalling and a PFL (Practice Forced Landing) and then it was time to do some side slipping. This is where you have an angle of bank applied via the ailerons while simultaneously applying opposite rudder. I hadn't done much of this before (in fact it was only once as I remember it well) and so this was something else to learn. We did some slipping towards various ground features until it was time to come back into the circuit and do some for real... on final approach.

The reason why this is an important thing to master in the Cub is that in our case (in this model) it doesn't have any flaps and so by side slipping you can, if you are too high and in danger of overshooting, lose altitude effectively in order to reach your intended touch down point.

We did a couple of circuits (my first at Headcorn) and I experienced my first landings in a tail dragger. As a first attempt I guess they were not too bad really. After all I was not used to this physical size of aircraft, a stick and a tail wheel all combined so it will naturally be case of trial and error until I get the feel for it. 

On the last one (we only did two), following a reasonably good landing, I probably would have ground looped had it not been for the fast reaction of my instructor who applied brake in time. Lesson learned.

In summary, I was very impressed with the Cub. Yes it feels somewhat underpowered and a bit laboured but the view is really very good. Not just around and ahead but there is a transparent ceiling to it allowing extra unobstructed views of above (see below).

Steering, well lets just say I'll have to get used to that. Thats really what I am doing this for isn't it?

I really enjoyed my time at the Tiger Cub (flying the Tigers Cub) and felt good driving home knowing that I had set myself a decent challenge in my learning to fly story.

Brakes On 09:55, Brakes Off 10:50

HOURS = 50:10 DUAL + 21:00 PIC [P1]
Total Time = 71:10

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