Flying a Diamond

October 2nd, 2012
I hadn’t flown the Diamond in almost 2 months, which meant I hadn’t flown alone – different kind of confidence.

I dropped off Gen Yeager at the Husky and drove on down. I had learned how to save money on a rental – call ATIS first so I did. Winds calm. Not so sure about that.

Did the pre-flight, got in, followed the checklist and taxied on out. Comfortable.

At 25 end of runway off to the side, there was a fire so I called in – someone was clearing brush and doing controlled burning. No one was there and it was a pretty high fire – next to the run up area so I stayed on the taxiway.

I got on the runway and took off. Calm. I mean me. I was scanning more easily and comfortable. Until….

General Chuck Yeager “jumped” me. Good thing he didn’t have any guns and I wasn’t the enemy. He was on my wing. Then he motioned for me to fly his wing. He waggled me in. I did. Fun! I didn’t get too close, because I was still sorting out my speed, getting back used to the plane, without the added formation flying. I was fine.

Then he put me in trail and turned left. This was cool. I knew what to do and was doing it.

He then told me to take the lead to do a touch and go as they were doing a full stop.

I did as told. Called downwind. Then all heck broke loose. Everyone was in the pattern. Someone called out 45, then downwind. Eventually mentioned me. Then EVENTUALLY asked if the Husky was going ahead of him.

Gen Yeager of course said: No, I’ll go behind you

And put himself in a position to watch this unsafe pilot.

That got my ears up.

I turned early so I could see the guy, and then got a huge lift from the reservoir (ATIS was saying winds calm – sure, uh huh, at the airport sort of – but not on base or final.).

I wondered for a second if I would be comfortable slipping.

I was. And I did.

I didn’t get over the flaps speed BUT I was still too fast at about 70 knots. As I pulled out of the slip at the flare, I zoomed back up again at that speed. I decided I might get down in time but not for a touch and go so did a go-around. I realized I was still worried about the plane behind me, because I seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when I made the decision and executed the go-around. During this process I had reminded myself that being in a hurry effects my skills – so best to take out the cause of the hurry. That effected my decision to go-around, too – let the guy land, but not with me on the runway or in the way.

This other plane was practicing too unfortunately as they were staying in the pattern.

My next time, I got very low but was concerned if I had an engine out and a down draft. I stayed low – (red red on VASI for your reference) and was lifted really high at the reservoir – far more than normal.

I slipped it but again, too fast so when I flared – whoosh – high. I did another go-around.

This time I got really low, the updraft again. I slipped it again, a little slower – but always cognoscent of a potential stall and spin so still to fast. I lifted up at the flare but not so bad. I got it down okay and took off.

When I came around again, I got myself low.

While I was turning and then on final: the other airplane, at the run up area, called departing runway 2 5 and kept talking for a while – but hadn’t taken the runway.

I was darned if I was going around again due to this guy so I called in: I AM on final, please wait.

He acknowledged me and said he would. And did. I watched him and then realized I may be too focused on him, so fly my plane. It occurred to me that if I had to do an emergency landing, if I got an updraft and couldn’t slip it effectively, I’d be toast.

I slipped it and when I flared I lifted up, so I slowed it way down, dropping in, dropped the nose a little to get some more speed, was floating for several 100 feet at about 1-2 feet above the runway. I considered my alternatives. I was sure I could land but would I have enough runway to go around. Probably – I would still have enough speed so it wouldn’t take much runway.

If I didn’t I’d stop, taxi back, take off – probably would need more room to stop. Didn’t want to take the time to taxi back – rather fly.

I decided to land to prove I could get down for an emergency. Well, not to prove it – that’s a bad idea – what if I didn’t have enough room to stop. The reason was to increase my confidence that I could. I also decided I had enough runway to do a touch and go.

So I floated a little more, decreased my speed a little more and suddenly lost all lift and was going to put some power on but thought I didn’t need to and it would put me too far down the runway for a touch and go, when I dropped in.

It wasn’t a very hard landing but it was a somewhat hard little bounce and a little hard landing. I rolled a bit and every sound sounded louder so I considered going in to check the landing gear, but listened carefully and decided it was all normal.

I took off….PLENTY of runway left.

The next time around, I got myself low, slipped a little after the huge lift, took out the slip at the flare, lifted again (still not comfortable getting slow and not sure what speed – how slow I can get before problems, slowed it way down, dropping in a bit fast, so added power, just as I…

kissed the ground, pulled power and rolled out. Woo hoo.

But weird.

Is that kosher?

Sure, but I should still be able to do the slip better. Will practice later.

As I was pulling off the runway, the other plane asked if I was clear yet. I waited two seconds as I rolled off and cleared, then called in: I have just cleared the runway.

I wanted him to know I hadn’t forgotten, just hadn’t cleared, and was glad he asked first.

I#1 told me Saturday at the Air Show at Marysville that that’s what bush pilots do. Drop it in and put a little power just before touching for a smooth landing.

He also told me that 5 kts above stall speed is fine on a slip. We’ll go out and do some soon.

After I secured the airplane, I told General Yeager, who was waiting for me, what had happened and we should check the landing gear and tires. The tires seemed low to me (who hadn’t flown in it almost two months). He looked at it and said the tires were fine and the landing was fine. I had pulled no g’s. I told the maintenance guys – they could get under it – we hadn’t.

They thanked me for telling them and said: You’re probably fine if Gen Yeager looked at it.

Then they told me of stories of other “drop-ins” from higher heights, bigger g’s and all was fine.

I told them please make sure as we didn’t get up under it and it’s a learning opportunity for them.

They did it (while I was watching and while Gen Yeager was talking to the maintenance group at the company next door) – up and under it.

General Yeager had given me his reasoning while they were doing this, which, when they were done, I gave them.

Gen Yeager was right (of course) – it was all fine.


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