Friday, August 12, 2011

Hood work, yadda, yadda, yadda... Stearman!!!

Plane: Cessna 150 / Stearman / Cub, 85 hp
Instructor: Dave
40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 76 degrees, wind 110 degrees at 3 knots

Today was all sorts of fun - but we'll get to that. When we were at the airport last Saturday I booked time with Dave for this evening. I last completed a phase of WINGS in September 2009, so I either had to complete another or complete a full-on BFR by the end of next month. Since I already completed two out of of three of my required flight activities back in March, it made the most sense to go up with him and finish off this phase to extend my BFR currency by two more years.

Flight Tracks - Cessna 150 (red) / Stearman (green) / Cub (blue)

I had reserved the Cub but realized this afternoon that part of what I needed to do included hood work. Luckily the 150 was open, so I swapped rides and we hopped into the tiny Cessna. Hard to believe, but I haven't flown a 150 in nearly a year - that's what I used to always fly, nearly half my hours (98+) are in 150s! Anyway, after reacquainting myself with that tiny cockpit we took off and flew up to 2,500 feet over the lake.

Dave had me put the airplane into slow flight with 30 degrees of flaps, level at about 2,700 feet and hanging on the prop at 35 to 40 knots. I held the ailerons level and used the rudder pedals to turn us in a few circles. Then I pushed in the power and raised the nose until we had a nice break into a power-on stall. That went pretty well, so power to idle and two power-off stalls followed. The last one was one of the best I've ever done - a couple taps of the rudder and the nose dropped and the remained wings perfectly level at the break.

After all that, it was time to strap on the hood and do a little instrument work. The last time I went under my hood was my checkride in 2008, so needless to say I was overdue for some practice whether or not it was part of my WINGS activity. I won't say I did great, considering the lack of training and practice, but I did manage some decent turns and climbs. Obviously I've got a loooong way to go towards my IR. Dave then had me lower my head, tossed the airplane around, then had me recover for unusual attitude practice - always fun. I think he had me in a nose-low attitude once and an extremely nose-high attitude twice.

He asked for a landing just past a specific point on the runway, so I set up for a short field approach. Extended downwind, then all 40 degrees of flaps and 50 knots on final. Manage airspeed with pitch and descent with throttle. I was hanging on the prop as we crossed over the edge of the runway but we hit a tiny bit of lift and I touched probably 50-100 feet past my intended point. Still good, but I enjoy the challenge of a spot landing and would've liked to really nail that one!

Stearman + Grass = Perfection

Back in the office, Dave said he had to put the Stearman away. For those not familiar with the fine folks at Red Stewart Airfield, putting the Stearman away equates to a trip around the pattern and a free ride if you happen to be there at the right time. After over three years flying there, I was finally at the airport at the right time!

He explained how to climb in and I have to say it was easier than I expected - the cockpit was more spacious than you might think, too. The radial engine coughed to life and the smell was oh-so-vintage-airplane-good. Dave handed me the controls and had me taxi down to the other end of the runway. Needless to say, compared to a Cub, you really need to do S-Turns to see out of this thing on the ground!

I think I looked the part...

I did all the preflight checks and run-up, then taxied onto the runway. Dave was also on the controls but I managed to get us off the ground and climbed slowly at about 85 mph as we made our way around the pattern. Abeam the numbers, throttle back to about 1500 RPM and a descent at around 85 mph again. Dave said to give her a little forward slip on short final to really see where we're going, so left stick and right rudder and we lost some altitude and airspeed and I could see the grass strip out in front. With some more help on the controls, I brought the stick back all the way and we touched down somewhat softly. They really don't lie when they say it flies just like a big Cub.

So yeah, that was fun and awesome. The view was incredible - nothing like the air whipping past the wires and being able to see in every direction. No way I could come close to flying it without a CFI onboard anytime soon, but I did get to fly a Stearman this evening. 'Nuff said.

Gotta love the view from downwind - the runway's under the bottom wing

After all that fun, I still had the J-3 booked because that's what I originally was going to fly in with Dave. It really was too beautiful an evening not to fly some more. I figured I might as well take it around the patch three times for currency purposes.

A hot air balloon was launching on the field right when I took off, so I immediately side-stepped to the right of the runway to give them some room. If you watch the video below, you'll see me wave the wings to say hello a few different times as I fly past the balloon. Every landing was a monster slip power-off approach, partially because I thought they'd look cool with the fisheye lens and partially because they're just so much fun. The final landing was intentionally long to save some taxi time.

A little video fun - only at Stewart can you fit in 3 takeoffs and landings in 0.3 hours!

Between the finally-nice, fall-like flying weather and getting to fly three different airplanes there's not much else I need to say about today. Just one of those glad-to-be-a-pilot evenings. And, to be a little more specific, glad-to-be-a-taildragger-pilot. Sorry, but you'll never convince me you can have fun any cheaper or better than a Cub with the door open. Well, maybe in a Stearman - but then I'm not so sure that cheaper part applies.

Flight Tracks: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours / (not logged) / 0.3 hours
Total Time: 205.1 hours


  1. Sounds like a GREAT day of flying!!!

  2. Wow! ( 3 planes in one day ... Amazing!!)
    BTW, flying a stearman is on my "bucket list"

  3. ^ Technically speaking, it was more like 3 planes in 2 hours! ;-)

  4. But I'm sure you would've stretched it to all day if you could have!