Friday, January 16, 2015

Closing out the work week with Cub practice

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 39 degrees, wind 270 degrees at 2 knots

A hectic week of work was coming to a close, it was nearly 40 degrees in mid-January, and I was just out of Cub currency. It should come as no surprise that I called Stewart and grabbed an available J-3 when I realized I could leave the office a little early. I arrived at the airport around 4:00, preflighted my favorite yellow aerial machine, and Jamie kindly propped the engine to life.

Ready to clear my head of everything but aviating

I knew I was bound to be a bit rusty so it was a prime day for practice. Light winds and a decidedly soft field (above-freezing temperatures after prolonged snow on the ground always result in mushy grass) made for ideal knock-the-rust-off conditions. I took off on Runway 26 and was quickly reminded how much fun a Cub can be. Even with the (lowly?) 65 hp model, I had to level off before turning crosswind; I was already at Stewart's pattern altitude of 800 feet AGL.

My first landing wasn't great - I lightly bounced a couple times as the tailwheel dragged across a couple muddy spots. The second time around the patch was better, though the landing still wasn't perfect. I would have preferred a light wind from the east, actually, since landing on Runway 26 when the sun nears the horizon results in a rather glare-filled windscreen. The air was also a bit hazy this evening so that didn't help matters.

After my second takeoff I climbed up to about 3,500 feet over Caesar Creek Lake. I trimmed the airplane for hands-off flight, checked for traffic, increased the throttle by about 150 RPM, and rolled into a 45-50 degree bank. I made three or four sets of steep turns to the left and the right, improving every time. I held altitude and airspeed spot-on during a few revolutions. I even hit my own wake twice. It always feels good to get dialed back in on steep turns.

Satisfied, I throttled back and pitched the airplane into slow flight, eventually adding some back in once I reached the back side of the power curve. I puttered along at 40-45 MPH indicated, then pulled the nose up and returned the throttle to full power. I pulled back until the nose finally dropped straight down for a nice, clean power-on stall break. Carb heat out, I did a couple more of the power-off variety.

Then I decided to try a falling leaf. After a power-off stall, I kept the stick full back. Following the second (or maybe third) break, I heard the unmistakable "click-click-click-click" sound the magnetos make when you turn the ignition off. I immediately pushed the stick and throttle forward and the engine gingerly coughed back to life. That was enough falling leaf practice.

Pro tip - a 65 hp Continental isn't a big fan of extended idle time when there's cold air rushing past the cylinders at 50+ MPH when it's 30 degrees (at altitude, at least) outside.

I snapped this out the tiny air vent on the port side of the cockpit

I did a pseudo-steep spiral (with partial power - for obvious reasons, I hope) down to pattern altitude and flew back to the airport. The haze made it hard to see much of anything in that direction but I kept my head on a swivel looking for the usual flow of NORDO traffic. Crossing midfield, I made a normal approach and a pretty good landing.

It's pretty rare for me to fly on a weekday in the winter, so I'm quite satisfied with today's practice. Got in some soft field takeoffs and landings and worked through a bunch of basic maneuvers. Best of all, I earned myself another 90 days of tailwheel / daytime PIC currency.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 325.3 hours

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