Friday, January 14, 2011

Dual in the Cub in the snow

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I-MGY-40I
Weather: Overcast, 27 degrees, wind 180 degrees at 7 knots

It seems as if no matter how hard I try to avoid it, there's always a sizable gap in my logbook this time of year. Some things are certainly out of my control but it's always a busy couple of months. Even though Gina and I tried to fly the 172 last month, mechanical problems prevented that $100 burger hop. However, back from 10 days in Japan and South Korea, I took advantage of a rare Friday off to log some Dual with CFI Dave. I slept over 12 hours last night but I felt it was prudent to go up with an instructor after that big of a time change - plus, it's never a bad thing to have a CFI in the front seat to put you through the paces.

We chatted for a few minutes in the office since I haven't seen Dave in a while. That tends to happen when you haven't flown in two months. The airplane looked good and my inspection was quick (though I didn't rush it, even the frigid cold!) so I hopped in and we got the engine turning. There are no skis on the Cub right now, just the standard tires, so I managed a pretty decent soft field takeoff. In a J-3 that means you don't push the stick as far forward as in a normal takeoff so that the tail rides closer to the ground and the airplane lifts off in more of a three-point attitude.

Nothing too exciting, just some highlights from today's flight over the snow

I brought her around the pattern once to make sure I still had a good feel for the airplane and landed pretty softly on the snow-covered grass. Satisfied, I flew over to Wright Brothers to knock out some landings on pavement. You can't do that without an instructor and it's good practice!

On short final (maybe 100 AGL, probably lower) for Runway 20, Dave abruptly pushed the throttle wide open and my first reaction was, "I'm not too slow!" Then I saw him pointing - there was a twin flying straight down the runway in the opposite direction, pointed directly at us. At first I thought he was landing (opposite the current flow of traffic) but, as I sidestepped and climbed to the right of the runway, we realized he was happily flying straight and level down Runway 02 at about 500 feet AGL. Didn't seem like the smartest thing to do but we were NORDO so I obviously couldn't have heard if he was making any calls. He never budged while flying level over the length of the runway - I have no clue if he ever saw us. The lack of any maneuvering to avoid the bright yellow Cub over the numbers does seem to indicate that he did not.

It's a great lesson on both sides when you think about it. It's 100% legal to fly NORDO and we had entered the pattern properly for the runway in use. He could have been making radio calls announcing his intentions and may have assumed the field was empty since we certainly weren't announcing our position over the radio. In both cockpits, you still have to see and avoid and ultimately can't rely on anything else for collision avoidance.

I re-entered the downwind and landed uneventfully, albeit a bit hard. The visual of the edges of the pavement meeting the grass tend to make you feel like you're lower and I flared a few seconds early. Mental notes were made - I knew to expect that from prior experience but it still seems to take one time to re-calibrate my brain after all my grass landings in the Cub. We went around the pattern two more times and I did better. The last landing was a total greaser. All were definitely a lot better than the last time I took the J-3 to MGY.

Only about 0.5 hours had elapsed on the Hobbs so I asked Dave what maneuvers we should practice. We ended up doing just about everything. I climbed up to around 3,000 MSL after departing Wright Brothers (I spotted the same twin flying under us, seemingly below pattern altitude, on our way out of there - really don't know what they were doing today...) and did two power-off and two power-on stalls, doing possibly my best-ever job of keeping the wings level at the break on all of them. Then I did a few steep turns - I wasn't satisfied with the first one but I tried again and hit my wake while holding altitude much tighter.

I've never done Chandelles before so this was a prefect opportunity to request that Dave show me how to do them. He demonstrated twice and then I did three. The Cub flies (and stalls) so slow that the whole maneuver goes by very quickly. Regardless, it's nice to now know the proper way to fly this Commercial maneuver and I'll be able to practice them in other airplanes in the future. Never passing up an opportunity to have some fun in the Cub since we were now up around 4,000 MSL, I pulled back on the stick, kicked in the left rudder, and away we spun. I recovered quickly with right rudder and pulled out of the dive with only about 300-400 feet altitude loss. Spins are fun! :)

The snowy landscape below was pretty to look at and I captured a bit of it on video as I flew us to Stewart. Back in the familiar confines of the home drome, I landed three more times on the soft field. I made one approach as a simulated engine-out and, as usual, managed to land softer in that configuration than in a usual stabilized approach. For the final lap, Dave told me to touch down next to the three cones and I upped the ante - I told him I'd go for a power-off 180 accuracy approach! Abeam the three cones I pulled the throttle to idle, used a slight forward slip on final to bleed off airspeed and altitude, and touched down within 50 feet of passing the cones. Take that, Mr. CFI!

Today was literally the exact day my PIC currency expired; as of tomorrow, I would no longer have the required three takeoffs and landings in the previous 90 days. It was nice to extend my currency with a full hour of practicing most of the maneuvers in the PTS. I also made sure I did a few things you're not allowed to do in the Cub without a CFI on board - namely, landing on a paved runway and spins. All in all, a thoroughly well-rounded afternoon of flying.

Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 181.9 hours


  1. Always a great feeling to be back in the saddle! Sounds like a good work out and some fun flying.

  2. Yeah I was certainly overdue, though it couldn't be helped much with everything last month and all the travel here in the New Year.

  3. Steve, Glad to see your still at it. I just had my Com Check ride last week. It's been almost a month since I had mine out. Just too cold without heat.

    Be Safe,

  4. Awesome, man - happy to see you've kept at it as well!

    Yeah, no heat in this weather is the definition of insanity.