I’d met Andrew back in September when I interviewed him for the Plane Crazy Down Under podcast. Nykolai had been sitting in the cockpit during the interview, much to his delight. Andrew had said if I ever wanted to do some aerobatics I should give him a yell and while we stayed in touch, I’d never had the spare cash to take him up on the offer.When Kitt started suggesting an aerobatic flight and that she’d put in most of the funds, I immediately contacted Andrew and we were on. I chipped in a few extra dollars and we also arranged a flight for Nykolai, his first ever aerobatic flight and his first flight in a “real” aircraft (tail dragger, radial, inline seating – it just doesn’t get much better :) On the day we showed up on time and met Andrew at his hangar at Coldstream airport (YCEM). We helped prepare the aircraft in the hangar and then get it out around some of the other craft it shared space with. Once outside Andrew completed his preflight and we got Nykolai strapped in. He was nervous, but very excited (as was I :)
After warming it up, Andrew taxied out, took off and we were left to hang out. I caught up with Tom and his Luscombe 8A as he was getting ready to fly off to Sheparton (YSHT) for one of their fly-in lunches. Not long after Tom left, Andrew returned with a VERY happy Nykolai in the back seat. When I popped the canopy and asked him how it went, he replied:
“You’re right, dad. Life *is* better inverted!”
That’s my boy :)Andrew took him through some good introductory aerobatics and he pulled +4G / -1.5G. He also had some stick time and Andrew reckons he’s a natural. Looks like we may wind up with a race to see who gets their license first :)
Once Nykolai was out and relaxing in the shade, I strapped in and got ready to go. I had plugged in my audio recorder so I could get our discussions (and my inevitable “Yaa HAHs!”) and had that strapped to a knee board so it wouldn’t go anywhere. As I’d done for Nykolai, I made sure I had a few sick-sacks on board so they could be easily reached if needed. I was counting on the psychological aspect of having them easy to get to meaning I wouldn’t wind up needing them. Good theory, no?
I had also made sure I had some food earlier so I wasn’t flying on an empty stomach and had lots of water to drink so I was reasonably well hydrated. All good ways to help keep your stomach from taking over and cutting short a good aerobatics session.
Once everything was ready, we fired up the engine and headed out. Andrew did a low power take-off as Coldstream is a gravel strip & he didn’t want to get any chips in his prop. He’d managed to collect a couple back in September during the airshow when I met him and had only just had the prop repaired.
After a nice straight climb-out to the north we headed over King Lake area and Andrew handed me the controls. I flew it around a bit as we headed over to a place where one of Andrew’s friends had an airstrip. It’s a very responsive aircraft and doesn’t require much stick movement to get it where you want it. Definitely an aircraft where you *think* what you want to do and before you know it, it’s doing it. Quite different to the Cessnas & Pipers I’ve flown before and even better than the Alpha I was last doing aerobatics in.
The panel layout was not your usual one as there was a big space in the middle where you could stick your aerobatic sequence diagram using Aresti notation. The instruments were scattered around this space and it was easier to use the outside world as my reference with occasional checks of altitude & airspeed as we flew about.
Andrew took over when we got closer to the strip and we did a high-speed pass along its length, laying some smoke to say “HI!” Andrew pulled back the revs as we came down and along the runway so we wouldn’t annoy the neighbours with the noise.
After this we went back over the hills near King Lake and got stuck into some aerobatics. We eased into it with a few chandelles, loops, barrel rolls & aileron rolls, then got into a few more manouvers including cuban-8’s, an immelman and some others. All up it was great fun and had lots of inverted flight. We pulled about +4.5G / -1.5G and had a blast.My stomach was letting me know it was around but it was in no way ready to let it all go. Still, we decided some straight & level was a good idea and so we headed over to Lilydale airport, joined the circuit & landed. Runway 36R at Lilydale feels like quite a bumpy strip (it’s grass) and a couple of the bumps got us airborne again until we slowed down enough to just ride over them. Andrew taxied over to the fuel pumps and put some more in the tanks as he was going to fly another person after me and wanted to be sure he had sufficient on board.
We departed Lilydale on 36L and were able to do a full power departure thanks to the grass strip. It was also a bit bouncy but not as noticeable as the landing on 36R.
Once in the air we headed off to the King Lake hills again and started into some more aerobatics. This time we did a few series, linking multiple manouvers together in a routine. One of the highlights was an avalanche which is a half loop with a snap roll at the top. Great fun.
After this lot of aeros I’d pulled +6G / -1.5G and we’d had a blast. Andrew suggested we go & do some “fun stuff” so we flew flat out & (relatively) low level up an empty valley then headed over to the lake near Maroondah where we did another high speed run up the lake but at higher level this time, venting some smoke as we went. Woo hoo!From here Andrew handed over the aircraft to me again so I could fly us back to Coldstream. We were in the circuit and on base leg when he took over, not least of which was because I was getting way behind the aircraft and not managing height & airspeed properly. Andrew reckoned I was doing fine for someone who hadn’t flown an aircraft in ages but I felt rather embarrassed as screwing up so badly. Oh well – better luck next time.
Andrew made a great landing and we taxied back to the hangars to shut down. All up we’d been gone for about 1 hour & 20 minutes yet it felt like no time at all. We’d done the best aerobatics I’ve ever had in my life and I’d had a go at flying the fastest & most responsive aircraft I’ve yet had a chance to control. Wow. As I said to Kitt later: “Best birthday present EVER!”
Now to save up some money so I can go & do it all again :)