A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Tyson’s airplane

May 14, 2012
Emilie Phillips

I got to fly Tyson's airplane (an RV-4).

Last Saturday, my instructor and Tyson went out to practice for a bit so my instructor could get used to flying from the back seat. Then it was my turn to fly up front. I could tell my instructor was less comfortable instructing in the RV-4 because he started by listing all the things he could not save me from. That and he asked a half dozen times about which gas tank we were using because he could not see himself.

Landing on grass is a lot more forgiving than landing on pavement, so we headed to Orange, a semi-local airport with good grass runways. It's actually the airport where Tyson and I bought the plane. Compared to how long it would have taken the Cherokee to get there, the RV-4 got there a lot faster. Tyson had let me fly the airplane in the air a little bit from the back seat before, so I already had an idea of how it handled in the air. I still did a little maneuvering to get comfortable

There was another experimental, a Quickie, in the pattern when we got there. It is a tandem wing, which means that rather than having a small tail elevator, it has a second wing a little further forward.

We did two landings on the grass. They went well enough that I decided to switch to the pavement. That did not go quite so well. My directional control was fine. It must have carried over from the Citabria, but I was allowing the airplane to hit the runway a little too hard and bounce back up. I did several variations on that including one where I over corrected badly enough that I started porpoising and the instructor had to save it. Another one we ended up doing a go around. Eventually I declared it time for a break. We watched the sky divers landing on the other side of the airport as we taxied to the main office.

We actually ran into the guy who had sold us the airplane, so we stopped to chit chat a bit. My instructor seemed to think it was kind of cool that he was getting to teach the wife of the new owner of the RV-4 how to fly it. Guess that does not happen too often. During our break, we reviewed the landings and discussed some approaches to make them better.

We went back out freshened up for a second try. This time my landings were much better. I had my instructor count off the distance to the ground so I could get a better idea of my descent profile. The idea is to be flying almost parallel to the runway when you touch it. Then he was silent for a few and I got one perfect. My instructor would have jumped in glee were he not securely attached by his harness. He thought we should just quit there to end on a high note, but I wanted to keep working that approach into my memory, so we did a few more. We were having enough fun we pushed until sunset and I got tired enough that I fishtailed on landing and my instructor had to save it. Then we flew home.

For me, it was a great day because I was learning to fly a new airplane and a tricky one at that. My instructor got to learn how to teach in a new airplane. By the end of the evening, he seemed much more confident is his abilities. And, apparently, he was enjoying the more sporting trip around the traffic pattern unlike in the Cherokee where he corrects me every time I bank more than 20 degrees. Guess different airplanes have different rules.

Flying back home, the setting sun turned the clouds to the west red and pink. To the east, the brilliant full moon was rising through the clouds. We crossed one ridge and found a solid bank of clouds. Descended under the clouds we disappeared into the gloom. On the flight back we discussed different airplanes I have flown. I think right now the Citabria is my favorite. It is forgiving, unlike the Maule and the RV-4. But it is also playful, unlike the Cherokee and Cub which are just forgiving. Once I get better, my favorite airplane will continue evolving with my skills, but for now, both my instructor and Tyson are disappointed their airplane isn't first. I got a little bit lost coming home — combination of coming from a different airport, and a much faster airplane. But I did fine on the landing into Brookline with some coaching. We taxied back to the hangar, and Tyson got a picture of the two of us just grinning from the fun of the evening.