Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Light-Sport Chronicles: Befriending The Enemy

We have met the enemy...and he is us

“Minute Man traffic, light-sport one three four X-ray entering downwind for runway three, Minute Man.”

My flying pal, part-time rock-band lead singer John Lampson, says, “I’m likin’ it. Speed, descent rate—everything looks great.”

John wears many hats: He’s also a busy CFI at Premier Flight Center ( at Hartford-Brainard Airport (HFD) in Hartford, Conn., and he even has a full-time job. He trained me for my sport pilot license a year ago. [Read Jim’s “Ticket To Ride" series.]

Today, I feel good, though I’m a bit rusty: It has been several weeks since my last flight. That break came courtesy of New England fall weather and my moth-eaten wallet, i.e., minimal flight funds.

Our ride is a snappy CTSW. I love the SW. The sporty predecessor to the CTLS I got my ticket in is snappy, solid and lots of fun to fly.

So here we are on short final, a bit high—I turned base too soon. Hate it when I do that. Having John riding shotgun is a real confidence booster after my layoff. He simply loves to fly, and happily gives flight instruction even when he’s not being paid to do it. Quite a guy.

“Looks like you’ll need to slip it in,” he suggests. Too true. Minute Man’s single 2,770-foot, aged, somewhat mangy runway looks even shorter from this high angle. I push rudder and counter bank for a fairly aggressive slip to go with the 30 degrees of flaps. John advises, “Better do it steeper or we won’t make it.”

I’m not so sure, but if my guardian copilot wasn’t aboard, I might already have gone around by now anyway, so I steepen the slip. Out of the corner of my eye, I see his hands hovering over the stick. Don’t sweat it, amigo, we’re good.

“Watch your speed,” he cautions. Dang, this slippery little SW picked up five knots when I wasn’t looking. Now we’re halfway down the runway, still six feet off the deck.

It’s not alarming. There’s still 1,300 feet of runway. Airspeed is about 50 knots. We can do it.

I uncrank the slip and ease the stick back for the flare. John says something about right rudder, but it doesn’t register in my consciousness.

More back stick, speed falling off and... “Right rudder,” says John. “Watch your drift!” I feel his hands on the stick. I push the right pedal, tepidly: I don’t see any drift. “More right rudder,” he says, “more rudder—it’s going left!” Then, just before touchdown, he says, “Go around, go around.”

Surprised, I hesitate, sure I can land safely, then push the throttle lever forward too briskly, but the trusty Rotax roars to life strongly and smoothly, and up we jump.

“Man, I thought we had it made,” I complain, feeling a mite stepped on as we turn crosswind. “I think you’re babying me today, rock-star pilot.”


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