Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

From Russia With Love

Soloing a Yak 50

Back home at Santa Monica Airport, Ted went over procedures, and I spent a few sessions taxiing and performing run-ups. As I eased 359FG onto the active, I remembered what it was like to solo as a student and also to take the first test flight of the aircraft my husband and I had built several years ago. My voice tremored as I acknowledged my takeoff clearance and eased in the throttle. A mental note popped up, “Left rudder as needed, let the tail come up.” By the time the tail was up, we were ready to fly. With just a skosh of back pressure, I was airborne, and up came the gear. After a sweet takeoff, I flew over the beach and toward the barn for some solo air work. There’s an ag strip near where I keep my horse, and I simulated some landings, giving myself a field elevation of 1,500 feet.

Inbound, I began to get tense over the landing, and I revisited Ted’s description of how he wheel-landed. I was more used to three-point landings with my hours in the Pitts, but trusting his instincts, I opted for his instruction, “Patience and soft hands.” Gear came down at just under 200 kph or “clicks” on downwind, and aiming for 150 clicks over the fence, I reduced my throttle to four “potatoes” to achieve a stable rate of descent.

Bummer! I realized too late that I was slightly fast and touched down hot, got a couple of pretty innocuous bounces, powered up and came around again. This time, I nailed my airspeed, touched down on the numbers, popped the stick slightly forward to keep the tail off the ground and let the speed bleed off before the tail dropped cooperatively to the pavement.

Ted and I chuckled to each other about the role reversal as we backed the Yak into its hangar. While I had admitted how nervous I was soloing, he had shown nothing but confidence in my abilities. Once I was back on the ground, though, he confessed that he had been nervous, too, and laughingly said, “Now I know how you felt as my instructor when you soloed me in your airplane.”

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