“Uh oh,” crackles Rand Siegfried’s voice over the intercom. “There goes A.D.D. again.” He chuckles, “I think we’ll have to do something about that.” And just like that, the sky drops away and we’re in a brain-floating dive in pursuit of Bob Elliott’s Legend Cub.
“A.D.D.?” I grunt from the front seat—now we’re pulling some G’s. Elliott’s olive-drab L-4 look-alike scribes a curving arc down toward some rafters afloat on a river that winds through the Louisiana trees a thousand
feet below. He’s making a strafing run and has no idea we’re closing on his tail. “We call him ‘A.D.D.,’” says Siegfried, “for ‘Aviation Deficit Disorder,’ because he’s functionally incapable of staying in formation for any length of time. He’s just got to go play.”
|Darin Hart, cofounder of Legend Aircraft, leads a yearly pilgrimage of sorts from the Legend factory in Sulphur Springs, Texas, to Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Fla.|
Siegfried jukes and slides Mickie, the Cub he built with his daughter McKinley, in on Elliott’s tail. Now, Siegfried has decades of experience in a variety of aircraft. He’s also part of a well-known flying family of classic aircraft owners. (See “The Flying Siegfrieds,” from Pilot Journal July/August 2008.) Still, little chicken Jimmy sitting on my left shoulder cries, “Hey! What if Bob pulls up sharp right in front of you?” Chicken Jimmy has a point. Elliott’s beautiful Cub is pasted right smack in the middle of our windscreen. And our hapless victim has no clue we’re right and tight on his six.
Before long, he sees us, and the tail-chasin’ skirmish is on—just one highlight from one of the greatest flying trips imaginable. There are six planes, cruising along at a leisurely 100 knots in a happy gaggle of Legend Cubdom. The purpose is to get the planes to Florida. The purpose is also to have a heck of a good time.
Darin Hart, sponsor, trip leader and cofounder of Legend Aircraft, leads the pilgrimage every year from the factory in Sulphur Springs, Texas, to the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland, Fla. His Legend Cub (www.legend.aero) has been a solid success since he first made this flight in 2005 with the prototype—and promptly sold 16 at the show.
Tale Of The Tail
I had flown an earlier leg with Oran Boyett in Tweetie, a company ship. Boyett, who teaches Legend Cub customers to fly, had some valuable taildragger tips. “One fundamental thing to remember,” he said as we left Texas, “is to not let the tail go first.” Taildraggers can get into trouble quickly for one simple reason: The center of gravity is behind the main wheels. When a taildragger starts rolling, the mass of the tail wants to swap ends with the nose. Imagine throwing a dart, feathers first. The pointy end flips 180 degrees. In a taildragger, that flip is called a groundloop.
How to avoid such embarrassments? Here’s Hart’s simple mantra: “The number-one thing to do in a taildragger is fly the airplane from the minute you get in it until you tie it down.” Or, as Hart tells airline pilots who are first learning to fly taildraggers, “Those things on the floor are rudder pedals, and you’ll have to move them!”
|This red, white and blue Cub belongs to Floyd and Trisha Ridgely.|
Dick Parsons, a retired airline captain himself, had a heart-valve operation and decided to go the LSA route instead of hassling to renew his medical. He owns a lovely new gold and blue Legend, and knows firsthand that “the Cub does a great job in crosswinds; it’s not really a problem. You just have to keep your feet dancing on those rudder pedals!”
Flying the airplane on the ground is also as much head game as adroit stick jockeying. “One big thing I see pilots forgetting,” says Doug Stewart, 2004 National CFI of the Year, “is to use the correct control position when taxiing. Some student pilots forget to put in any correction at all for the wind. Others often do the correct ‘dive away from wind’ in a quartering tailwind, but then they taxi faster than the tailwind is blowing—which defeats the purpose! I tell my students, ‘If you have a quartering tailwind during taxi, you’ll have a quartering headwind on takeoff—and on the opposite side of the airplane. So, always pay attention.’”
|“A.D.D.” Bob Elliott flies his olive L-4 replica in the Legend Cub group as it heads for Sun ‘n Fun.|
My first takeoff in Mickie gave me ample opportunity to practice “ground flying.” When I got confused about where to put the stick while taxiing downwind, Siegfried reminded me, “Dive away from the wind.” If there’s a strong quartering tailwind from the left, push the stick forward and to the right. Tailwind from the right? Stick forward and to the left. It helps to visualize the control surfaces. The elevator is down, and ailerons are down on the “upwind” side and up on the “downwind” side, which keeps the wind from lifting a wing.
Another pointer from Siegfried: “Keep the stick back for normal taxi.” That keeps the tail on the ground. Think of it as climbing into a headwind. Also, hold the left aileron for a left-quartering headwind, and vice versa for a right-quartering headwind, to keep the corresponding wing down.
Lawnmower Races & Forward Slippin’
At a previous fuel stop, I had dipped into Elliott’s half-gallon bag of candy, and before the tail chasin’ takes me too far down Sickbag Alley, I now beg off and we return to the formation. Soon, we spy a bunch of yahoos racing hopped-up, tractor-style lawnmowers. Later, a fleet of unused mobile homes, thousands of them, fills a field not far from New Orleans. “Your FEMA dollars at work,” someone quips over the radio.
Coming in for a landing later, Siegfried sees that I’m too high over the runway and tells me to do a forward slip. Stewart’s words come to mind: “Most little tailwheelers like Cubs don’t have flaps,” he says, “so you get down with a forward slip. But one problem I see with students is when the pilot doesn’t take a crosswind on landing into consideration. Let’s say we’re flying left traffic, with a crosswind from the right. Typically, pilots like to forward slip with the left wing down and right rudder.”
The problem comes in the round-out just before landing. Because the right wing is up, it’s vulnerable to the right crosswind at near-touchdown speeds. “Now the pilot has to switch to right wing down and swing to left rudder to deal with the crosswind, and all of that close to the ground,” says Stewart. The logical solution: “Pilots need to know which direction the crosswind is coming from, then do a forward-slip in that direction. Then for landing, all you have to do is reduce the amount of lowered wing and rudder. Much easier.”
Danny Broussard, an energetic, amiable heavy-equipment contractor who gave his Legend Cub two names, after daughters Brooke and Brandy, puts it this way: “With crosswind landings, you’ve got to be on your toes and on top of your game. Put the wing down into the wind and hold opposite rudder to keep the tail straight. Now that’s real flyin’!”
|Wranglin’ The Taildragger
Begin your taildragger training with some quality schools and instructors we know about.
|• Andover Flight Academy
Damian DelGaizo, with more than 10,000 hours of taildragger time, heads up this tailwheel school just 50 minutes from Manhattan. Home base is a lovely wooded valley in Andover, N.J. (See “Earning A Tailwheel Endorsement” from P&P February 2007 at our online home.)
• CP Aviation
• Sunrise Aviation
• Tutima Academy Of Aviation Safety
Do The Tail-Jerk
There’s weather ahead; we catch up to the storm somewhere near Bay Minette, Ala., and lay over for a day. A.D.D.’s Skittle-fogged eyes twinkle at the prospect of visiting nearby Pensacola Naval Air Museum, so we all fly on over to Pensacola’s Ferguson Airport, just beneath the gathering gloom for an afternoon in one of the better aviation museums in the country. Pat Bowers, another flying member of the Legend crew who fabricates sheet-metal parts, turns our thinking down the road. “Man, what we want is to get down the Gulf Coast,” he says in his Texas drawl. “We’ll fly down on the deck and you’ll see a real cool show, with sharks and manatees and naked people!”
The next morning, the clouds clear, and we’re off for the last leg to Lakeland. As we pick up speed for takeoff, I push the stick a little too aggressively. “Not too fast!” barks Siegfried. CFI Stewart knows this move all too well: “During takeoff, pilots sometimes wait way too long to pick up the tail…then they pick it up too fast. They accelerate past the point where they begin to have effective rudder control, then jerk the stick forward so quickly that it induces gyroscopic precession, which is a tendency to sharply yaw the airplane to the left.”
“It’s just like a spinning bicycle wheel,” says Stewart. “If you hold the axle up slightly to simulate the nose-high prop shaft angle on rollout, then move the axle quickly down, the wheel yaws to the left. In a taildragger, you transition rapidly from a three-wheel to a two-wheel stance, so the forces are stronger.”
So, when to raise the tail? “You feel it in the rudder,” Stewart advises, “when the pedal action stiffens up a bit and you start to have control. That’s the time to bring the nose forward…but smoothly.” One caveat: “Conversely, if you raise the tail too soon, before it’s flying and before you have rudder authority, then you won’t have full control and will be more vulnerable to crosswind.”
Once & Future Cub
Sailing 200 feet above the Florida Panhandle surf, following the sandy arc down to Lakeland, we rise and fall languidly, lazy butterflies joined by an invisible line. There’s no better flying than this. No stress, no constant ATC chatter, no tweaking every last knot out of the mixture.
Just seat-of-the-pants, windows-open, low-and-slow, classic Cub flying. We wave at sunbathers and swimmers on the beach. They wave happily back.
I think of the three days of good company and good cheer. Of chasin’ tails over the dark green tree farms; banking our way around one misty cloud bank after another; chasing our reflections across dead-tree-populated swamplands. How big and wonderful our land is. How diverse its people. How soothing and beautiful its countryside. And how grand indeed to take it all in with this miracle of Legend Cub flight.