Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ticket To Ride

Earning a sport pilot license: Part I

ticket to rideEnough trash already. This endless washboard-road turbulence promises to reintroduce me to the hot dog and greasy fries I just ate. Note to self: Next time, have an avocado salad.
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Reality Bites
My first challenge was the CT’s false horizon reference. The visibility is fantastic, but the button nose and curving glare panel I had found so cute have a downside: When you think you’re steering the bird straight, it’s pointing off dramatically to the right.

Taxiing to runup, I wobbled like a mongoose all over the yellow line.

“No sweat,” Lampson offered affably, “everybody has that problem. You’ll get used to it.”

After run-up and my first, awkward radio clearance with tower, I managed to line up on the runway. I tentatively fed in power. We surged forward—the CT accelerates quickly—and the airplane floated right off before I was expecting it.

I leveled close to the deck from old ultralight habits until I saw 60 knots or so, then let the stick ease back, and we climbed at a fighter-like angle for the blue and 1,000 fpm on the VSI—cool!

Fearless Leader called my attention to the yaw ball—it was way off center. This bird likes lots of rudder. After a routine series of stalls, slow flight, turns, landings and more—the classic First Flight Full Monty—I was just beginning to speak CTLS-ese. But I clearly needed Lampson as translator.

Then that greasy lunch and turbulence got me. After two hours, I asked if we could land. I rounded out and kind of bounced the CT onto the tarmac. Not terrible, not great.

After debrief, I reflected on the flight. The CTLS isn’t an all-forgiving Cessna 152. It’s a sophisticated airplane. It adverse yaws into turns and needs lead rudder, something I, as yet, have little skill for. It pulls a great power-off glide, so landing setup is different—I consistently came in too high.

The controls—in particular, a stiff throttle—seem firm for my tastes. I’d like a lighter feel, so I’ll have to adjust to that.

Otherwise, I love the airplane. It’s unique, feels strong and true, and I’m eager to know it better. Like my late father said about piloting and life: You have to fly the airplane. One thing is now clear: Solo seems like a long way off. A long way off indeed.


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