I’ve never done any ski flying before. In the winter, a plane on skis can go a lot of places. With visions of loading up the family and some XC skis to head north (Maine?) to land on a lake and do some XC skiing, I’ve started forming plans to mount skis on the Bearhawk.
I recently posted a few questions about selecting skis for airplanes on an airplane forum to assist in my planning. One of the pilots on the forum, Karen, offered to take me ski flying when we could get together. It wasn’t long until there was a ski plane gathering forming at her home strip of “Crow Island” (8MA4), in Stow, MA. I called her up and arranged that I would fly into Minute Man (6B6), just a few miles to the north, and someone would pick me up and bring me to Crow Island. I couldn’t land at Crow Island because I don’t yet have skis on the plane and they don’t plow their runway.
I flew down this morning and before landing at Minute Man, did a low pass over the runway at Crow Island. As I was approaching the runway, one of the other guys, Rene, who knew me was also arriving. He knew places to land at Minute Man with his skis, so he offered to pick me up and bring me back.
At Crow Island there were 8 or 10 ski planes, burgers, dogs, stew, cookies, flying and much jaw flapp’n. Generally a good time. As promised, Karen let me try some ski flying. She put me in the front seat of her Legend Cub and we did a few landings. The main thing to learn about ski flying isn’t the flying. That’s the same as wheels. The main issue is managing the plane on the ground. There are no brakes, very little steering and the skis tend to go straight. Oh, and no reverse either. Since Crow Island’s runway had been dragged smooth and packed down by snowmobile, it wasn’t too difficult. After a few landings, Karen complained that I was flying her plane better than she does and offered to let me take it around alone. Cub’s are light planes at around 800lbs empty. Because they are so light, the weight of a single person has a significant effect on the performance and feel of the airplane. It was fantastic not only getting to do a little ski flying, but to also fly a Cub solo.
Later in the afternoon, the Rene gave me a ride back to Minute Man. After dropping me off, he taxied back to the end of the unplowed runway for takeoff. Then the more advanced ski flying lesson! He had trouble getting the plane turned around to come back up the runway for takeoff and ended up with one ski sinking in deep off the edge of the runway where a small birch “bush” had created a bit of a “spruce trap” (birch trap?).
I hiked down the runway to help. He used a hatchet to clear the brush that was in the way. We tramped down the snow so that the plane could more easily ride on top of it. And we dug out under the “high” ski to level the plane a bit.
When that was done, another guy pulled down and back on the upper wing while I (with snowshoes) got under the lower one and lifted with by back. The plane easily powered out and was back up on the runway.