Horsing Around in the Citabria with Ben Phillips

I went out with Ben Phillips this afternoon and horsed around the Acro Camp Citabria (N7636S). I still have lots of bad habits by Ben’s estimation, but I fly with Ben mostly to have benefit of his estimation, so it’s all good.

Five takeoffs and landings. Three of them to a full stop. So I’m again current to fly passengers in ASEL, be it tailwheel or otherwise. I think my work in the TG-7A has broken me to some extent of stirring the coffee on landing. Still some stirring, but nowhere near what I used to do.

And, perhaps coolest of all, Ben gave me the go-ahead to take the Citabria out solo. It might strike you as counterintuitive, but I’ve never been cut loose in a tail-dragging airplane. Lots and lots of time in them, but never solo. I have lots of solo time in a tail-dragging motorglider, but nothing about the TG-7A’s taildraggerness counts in the airplane world. I got my tailwheel endorsement from Dan Gryder in the DC-3 in 2008 and I’ve flown movie stuff and competition acro since then. But never frequently enough at any one place to get turned loose in the airplane.

My landings were pretty decent today. Not perfect by any means. The first one was a little ugly, even. And the wind was nearly calm. I know the difference between what I’m authorized to do and what it would be smart to do. So I’ll be back to fly some more with Ben when we can get a good crosswind with which to play.

In the meantime, my clothes smell like Citabria. It’s a good smell.


Acro Camp Sneak Peek 04: With Friends Like These . . . – Video Episode Show Notes

Despite the aggressive schedule around here (glider training, trying to find a new acro ride, doing really cool legal work for the best clients on the planet, etc.), I managed to get some time this weekend to do some editing on the movie.  The result is this sneak peek, “With friends like these . . .”

The campers at both of the Acro Camp shoots were very collaborative and supportive of each other.  But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t at least a little laughter with (okay, at) each other when stuff went wrong.  And stuff is bound to go wrong when you’re learning to fly an aircraft whose center of gravity is behind the mains.

In the course of logging all of the footage, I’ve noted when both IPs were in aircraft and noted opportunities to synchronize the conversation across both cockpits.  Usually based on ATC calls or radio communication between the aircraft.  This was one such pair of sequences.  I loved the big bounce on Jim’s wheel landing and I loved the reaction that it got from Barry and Lynda.  I lined them up this evening and voila!  Tailwheel magic!

I’m actively working on putting together more time to get the film edited.  It hasn’t been easy, but I’m making some real progress.  Watch this space and the new Acro Camp web page (in development) for more news and updates!

Airspeed Video Episode – Spins with Barry

There are the show notes to a video episode. You can watch the episode in the viewer above or by clicking here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/airspeed/AirspeedSpinsBarry.m4v. Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free.

It’s time for another video episode!

I wanted to go up with Barry to do some acro to condition for the T-38 ride that happened on the 13th. Unfortunately, the Super D is no longer on the line at Oakland Flight Academy for financial reasons, which leaves only the Citabria. And the Citabria, not having a constant-speed prop, is limited to spins as far as acro goes. (And, even if we flew it fully acro, we’d be limited to positive-G maneuvers anyway.)

No problem. Spins are plenty fine to stimulate my vestibular system.

And, as long as I’m flying, it make sense to take along some cameras, if only to shoot B-roll for Acro Camp. This time, I took up a three-camera system so that I could show not only the view of the cockpit but the control inputs and an unobstructed view of what’s ahead of the airplane.

And it was a chance to try out the Multiclip functionality in Final Cut Pro, which is perfect for this kind of parallel-track editing (three cameras and an audio channel).

Like it says in the intro. DO try this at home. It could safe your life. Or at least improve your confidence in dealing with unusual attitudes. But be sure to do it in a duly certified airplane with a qualified instructor and in compliance with all of the regs.

Spins with Barry

I have a really cool Air Force ride coming up in California in a couple of weeks. Think helmet, mask, and speed jeans. (Yeah!) And, although I’ve filmed other people doing aerobatics a lot lately, I haven’t flown a lot of aerobatics. Out of respect for the crew chief (and personal pride), I decided to get up and crank an airplane around for an hour or so.
So I scheduled the Citabria and Barry for a couple of hours. We went out and did some falling-leaf stalls, an incipient spin or two, and then some genuine spins. Good kill-proofing no matter who you are and I highly recommend doing it at least once a year. And it was also enlightening in terms of the control inputs required. I really over-controlled the first couple of recoveries, but got pretty good about just relaxing on the subsequent recoveries.

And, of course, I hung some cameras in (and on) the airplane. I might use some of the footage as B-roll for Acro Camp. But the primary use is likely to be an episode about spins. The in-cockpit camera leads this post. This one is a view from the wing camera. This is the first time I’ve flown a forward-facing wing camera with no airframe in the picture. I think it worked out beautifully and I’ll probably shoot more with this POV. The only change might be that I’ll land abnout five feet to the right of the centerline so that the camera (mounted on the left wing strut) is directly over the centerline, this giving the viewer a sense of floating in over the center of the runway.
I also flew a camera mounted directly above my lap to show the control inputs associated with the maneuvers. The stick disappears below the dash at some points, but the angle generally gives a good view of the controls. “Knees and nuts!” as my CAP NESA MAS instructor likes to say.

I’m off to the Battle Creek Airshow tonight and hope to get out to the balloon launch first thing tomorrow morning. Thus, I leave you with these teasers. More soon from Battle Creek!

Inverted Again!

This is a regular blog post. Check out the other posts for show notes and links to show audio.

I finally got inverted yesterday for the first time since November. Yeah!

About 1.7 hours with Barry Sutton in the Citabria yesterday. The mission was to get up and start rebuilding my aerobatic tolerance for the 2009 season and then continue with tailwheel training in the pattern.

We started with wingovers of varying degrees until I was getting her up to about 60 degrees, burying the wingtip, and still pulling her out well below the yellow arc. The idea with the wingovers was to get some sense of energy management back after not having flown the aircraft for months. Six or eight of those until I was nailing them pretty well both left and right.

Then we looped her. I do so love the loop. If I’ve been having problems, it’s been that I’ve relaxed the pull too early on the way up. Mostly, it’s getting a feeling of what it’s supposed to look and feel like in the airplane. This time, I think I nailed them pretty well. Good steady pull on the way up with only a little bit of letoff as I floated over the top and then begin the pullout as the horizon comes through the top (!) of the windscreen.

On the back of the last one, I actually felt like the airplane rotated a little around its lateral axis. Not sure if that’s good (too much pull and stall risk?), but it was an interesting sensation. This is a very capable airplane and we had plenty of altitude in which to recover, so I wasn’t worried. Additionally, I’m getting pretty good at managing the energy in each maneuver. On each of the last two or three loops, I kept the airspeed out of the yellow while still being pretty smooth.

Barry says that the loops were good and round and probably looked impressive from the ground. In fact, he says that the average layperson would assume that we had out cheeks in our laps pulling gees. Heck, I think it’s impressive regardless, but understanding how it’s different in the airplane from what you see on the ground is an added benefit of doing this. I get a lot better idea of what I’m seeing at airshows.

Aerobatic tolerance is about 20 minutes. Rotten. But I’m glad that I’m starting in early. I’d like to have it up to an hour of moderate aerobatics by early June. An organizer at one airshow that I’m covering this year says that he’s going to vet media riders in a Pitts S-2C before turning them loose to get media rides from the performers. Okay. (1) a Pitts S-2C ride is a great ride even if you never get past the vetting and (2) as long as I get to shoot and record in the Pitts, I’m good. Although I really do want to be the iron-stomached media rider who can handle whatever the performer throws at him.

I had a chance to try out the new camera rig. It performed very well. No gee-induced issues and the mount (from Pegasus Auto Racing Supplies) held the camera exactly where I wanted it. I put it on the tube to the upper left of the panel as seen from the front seat. The wide-angle lens gave a satisfactory breadth of view of the cockpit, but the sensation of motion wasn’t what I was looking for. I think I might need to mount it toward the center so that you get more outside view and get more of a sense of the aerobatic maneuvers.

The camera proved easy to operate from the pilot’s seat. You can’t see the controls from the pilot’s seat, but they’re fairly easy to operate by touch if you’ve futzed with the camera a bit on the ground first.

I managed to goof up the audio recorder during startup and didn’t record the intercom audio for this flight. So I’m going to have to use this footage for something else. But it’s good footage nevertheless. I’m looking forward to playing some more with the camera to figure out what works best. In any case, I don’t want to wait until it’s a really good flight opportunity to try to work out the bugs. I’ve just recently been approved by the Air Force for a really cool opportunity and I want all of the hardware working flawlessly when that gets scheduled.

I have the new MacBook Pro and I’m getting acclimated to it. I’ll be installing the video editing software soon and I’m looking forward to posting some exampled of the in-flight video soon.

More aerobatics and tolerance-building coming up! Stay tuned!

More information about Sutton Aviation:

Sutton Aviation, Inc.
Oakland County International Airport
6230 North Service Drive
Waterford, Michigan 48327