Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Solo in the re-engined Cub

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 67 degrees, wind 040 degrees at 6 knots

My friend Mike sent me a text message on Saturday morning that said he and Dave had been flying in the 85 hp Cub and the engine went out on them. In the days since, he's told me the story which essentially is that they were just turning downwind in the pattern, the plane started to shake as the engine lost power, there was a little smoke coming from leaking oil hitting the exhaust pipes, and Dave took the controls and dropped a lot of altitude very quickly and landed the plane safely. I saw the old engine in the hangar at Stewart last night before we went up in the 172 and you could clearly see where some of the bolts on a cylinder had sheared off. Parts wear out, even in airplane engines, and this simply appeared to be one that had reached the end of its life.

Obviously the most important thing is that they landed safely and even managed to bring the plane back to Earth in perfect flying condition. But another thing that resulted from the whole event was a new engine going into the Cub. It already had very respectable climb performance, especially when flying solo, but let me tell you that with the new motor up front that plane wants to climb, climb, climb. I was literally turning crosswind before I hit US-42, which is right at the end of the runway. Take a look at the GPS track if you don't believe me!

Another slow jaunt around the immediate local area - I love the Cub

Given what I said last night about the spectacular weather we're having, I want to be up as much as I can to take advantage of it. I didn't leave the office until about 6:30 tonight so I headed straight to Stewart. The wind was somewhat variable but, on average, was indicating a left crosswind of about five knots for Runway 8. After taxiing down the grass to the end and waiting for a landing plane to clear the runway, I pushed the throttle in and was off the turf in about 200 feet. No matter which way I looked - front, back, or to either side - it was clear I was climbing very quickly to pattern altitude. I'll be honest, on all but one trip around the pattern I ended up high by the time I turned downwind because the climb was so fast.

Going back to the first takeoff, I climbed out to the East and up to 3,000 feet for some steep turns. One to the left followed by one to the right, and I hit my wake as I transitioned from one to the other. Then I pulled the carb heat and pressed down for full right rudder as I held the stick to the left for a speedy descent in a forward slip. I switched to the other direction partway down. Looking at the GPS track (which isn't the most accurate thing ever, so these numbers are only ballpark) I registered a descent of around 2,600 feet per minute. Throwing those flat sides of the Cub against the air is a sure-fire way to drop like a rock.

Now down at 2,000 feet I flew around for a few minutes, enjoying the crystal-clear skies. Visibility was superb although the lowering sun did provide plenty of glare so I couldn't see all that well to the West. After a few minutes I flew back into the pattern and set up for a normal landing. It was good, just a slight bounce as I touched down in a three-point configuration. Back at the end of the runway, I held the brakes while applying full power for a short field takeoff. This time I think I was off the ground in 100 feet and after a speedy climb I was on downwind - and way too high.

I decided it would be a good time to practice an engine-out landing (my tribute to Mike and Dave) so I pulled the carb heat and then brought the throttle to idle about 5 seconds before I was abeam the numbers. As I banked the plane into a left turn towards the runway I simultaneously applied right rudder and additional left aileron to go into a left-turning forward slip. This brought me down very quickly while holding my speed low enough that I was able to transition out of the slip on short final. All that fun flying was rewarded with a perfect three-point greaser onto the soft grass.

One final lap around the pattern resulted in a decent landing, but it wasn't the best of the night. I intentionally added a little power as I crossed the threshold so I could land further down the runway to shorten my taxi. As I was flaring the plane started to sink too fast and I added in about 100 rpm. Just enough to lessen the descent and allow the plane to touch down with only a gentle thump on to the grass. The sun was already below the horizon when I landed so that's all the flying I was able to get in tonight. If this weather keeps it up, though, I'll likely be down in Waynesville at least one more time this week.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 125.0 hours

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