Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New Plane

I've been flying as long as I can remember. I had a couple of uncles that were pilots and one even managed an airport. Some kids liked going to the park, I like airports.

Skip ahead a few years and I decided it was time to get my pilot's licence. I did the usual flying in 152's and 172's. One day while getting ready for a flight, I saw a Decathlon taxi by. I started asking around and sure enough, it was available for rental. I soon had my tailwheel endorsement and soon after that was flying aerobatics. I got to spend many years enjoying this type of flight.

But, things change and the owner of the plane decided to sell it due to health issues and I was looking for a new plane. I can't afford a $50,000 Decathlon, so I ended up looking at ultralights. Nothing against Quicksilvers, but I really didn't like flying a rudder-dominant plane. Just didn't work for me. I looked at Kolb Firestars, but really wanted to stay in Part 103 (Ultralights). I saw an Airbike and after asking around, found this is about as close to 103 as you can get. Besides, it's a cool looking plane, and it flies like a real plane - just a little slower.

The airbike flies at around 55 mph, and stalls at about 27. It is very open, your feet are outside of the cockpit. It is a very simple and very cheap plane to fly. They use small 2-cycle engines that are very efficient to operate.

I searched on Barnstormers and finally found a good plane at a decent price and was actually relieved to find it was close to my area. I sold my motorcycle and made arrangements to pick up the plane. I rented a U-Haul truck and drove to Dallas. We removed the wings and loaded it up, the entire tail of the plane was sticking out. We got plenty of fun looks on the way home!

Anyway, after keeping it in my garage for a month, I found a place in the country to hanger her and got it set up again.

I've tried the fast taxi and bunny hops, and felt that I was getting comfortable. There are no 2 seat versions of this plane anywhere near me and to be honest, don't know if they could lift myself and another large guy. So, it was up to me to teach myself.

Last Friday, I had a friend and his parents come out. By the time they arrived, I'd already done a few high-speed taxis and planned on doing a few more. I checked the plane one more time, I climbed in (on?) the plane, buckled up, put on my helmet and had my buddy fire it up - it has a rope you pull, like a lawnmower.

I lined up on the runway and fired in the throttle. I soon realized I was drifting sideways and I knew that I was off of the ground. I was running out of runway and had to make a decision quick. I could pull the throttle or go all the way. I chose the latter. I was off and climbing. My first flight was unintentional. At first, I was a little nervous, but that quickly turned into sheer excitement. I finally had my own plane and I was flying it. What a rush! I flew by the field a few times and then started climbing. I went up and did a few power-on and power-off stalls to find the operating envelope. It was a thrill. The plane stalled clean - straight forward and very gentle.

I made my first approach and decided to scrub it due to excessive speed. On the second approach, I slowed down a little and made it in nicely. My first flight was over and plane and pilot were both in the same condition they were when they left the ground. Can't ask for better.

I also made my second flight that afternoon and it went as well. Can't believe it, my own plane.