There has been a dearth of airplanes around to fly, so I was quite excited when maintenance on the RV-4 was finally complete. Since I have not been flying much, I felt rusty enough that I wanted an instructor to fly with. His schedule, my schedule, and the weather all finally worked out this Saturday morning.
I was not as rusty as I feared, though I was a bit timid with the airplane at first. We practiced maneuvers in the air (air work) for only a short time before heading over to Nashua to brush up on landings and talking to air traffic control.
We ended up spending most of the time working on wheel landings. These are a slightly harder landing where the plane lands a little faster up on the front two wheels rather than fully stalled with all three wheels contacting around the same time. We did enough landings to make my head spin. All the bad ones had some amount of bounce. My impression is that messing up a wheel landing more often results in a bounce whereas messing up a full stall landing has equal chances of dropping the airplane onto the runway or bouncing. Furthermore, the RV really likes bouncing. Even Tyson had troubles with it when we first bought the plane. So in the end, I was quite happy to have made two very nice wheel landings. Further proof that I was not nearly as rusty as I thought. As I flew around the pattern and remembered the airplane better, I loosened up and enjoyed playing with the airplane more.
On the way back home, my instructor said “hey, let’s do a roll.” I think aerobatics are nifty, and I even got a ride with another neighbor in his competition aerobatic plane once. But recently, I have been absolutely terrified whenever Tyson does a maneuver where the horizon isn’t nice and properly horizontal in the windshield. So, I was not so sure about doing a roll, and continued mumbling unenthusiastically as my instructor talked through the sequence of control inputs needed.
When it came time for the demonstration roll, as the horizon started rotating, I panicked, screamed, squeezed my eyes shut and grabbed for whatever I could get a death grip around. Unfortunately, the easiest thing to grab in the front seat is the rod closing the canopy, which really is not the strongest thing. I realized this while clinging to it, but there was no way I was letting go until we were upright again. Well, my instructor then managed to cajole me into doing one. I figured there were two options for how it would go. Most of the control inputs were to start the roll. During the roll, all controls stayed constant, so if I freaked out, I just needed to make sure my death grip did not move anything and my instructor could probably spot the horizon when it came around again and stabilize the airplane. The other option was that maybe aerobatics are kind of like car sickness and they are better when you are driving.
Luckily it turned out to be the latter. I very gingerly eased the stick over into the roll. The horizon did not blur into a wild rotation, but instead proceeded around at a sedate pace. I was able to see it coming back upright and correct the airplane to straight and level flight. After a brief break, I executed one more with less anticipatory anxiety.