The next day I wrote a little report for Dough Reeves
www.vansairforce.net, here it is:
Schlichtenhorst's First Solo In His New RV-4
"...here is a report of my first solo in my newly completed RV4.
A little background: D-EEES first flew on March 04th this year
with an experienced professional test pilot (RV4-builder as well) at the
controls with no problems at all. 5 days later my buddy Georg, flight
instructor and Tempco Swift /Yak experienced, but not RV-addicted took
the ship up and became familiar with it very soon. So there had been 2
pilots in that RV, but the poor builder still on the ground….
I build the RV during a 4.5 year period and 4059 hours, started in
August 2002 with no flying license and no aircraft background. As you
might guess, there was a lot of things to learn building it, as well as
there was a bunch to do to get my license at the local airstrip. In May
2004 I earned my motorglider license, while at home the empennage and
wings had been done. September the same year I extended the license to a
full PPL with hours in Cessna 172, Diamond Aircraft Katana, Robin DR400
and Piper PA 28.
With all that done, I was eager to complete the RV asap and put flying
to the backburner. All in all I arrived with a completed RV4, 45 hours
of flight time and no taildragger experience at all except the old
motorglider I learned with 3 years ago, last stick-time in August 2006.
So quiet obvious not a very comfortable cushion to do my first solo. I
had a plan in my mind how to get prepared, something like: First fly
something, step up to a PA18, get some practice with another taildragger,
go to an airport with at least 3000 ft runway and so on, but things
11th of March: I was hanging around at the hangar and suddenly an RV9
came in, he read about the first flight at vansairforce.net and wanted
to say hello. I talked him over to pick me up and let me feel out the
handling of the 9, because I thought it would be quiet similar to my -4.
As a benefit, Georg took the -4 and we made some air-to-air pics. Wow,
big improvement, the poor builder flies side by side with his holy cow
We have March and the weather was amazingly good for this time of the
year, only 3-5 knots wind straight on the runway and the forecast told
us that it will stay that way all week long. I’m a little too heavy to
jump into the rear seat of my RV, but Georg would be a passenger well
within the envelope, so he suggested to sit behind me and ‘talk me
down’. Yes, memories came up from bad movies……but the RV ran well,
weather was perfect, the instructor was courageous (crazy??) and I KNEW
that I learn best the hard way, so I took a deep breath and jumped in.
Sun was going down and the wind disappeared, peaceful silence
everywhere, time to change that and fire up the engine.
Taxi was no problem, I read about taildraggers a lot, was prepared to
give right rudder and had a clear picture of what will happen, pushed
the power lever slowly forward and…..****, what’s up, too much input on
the rudder, correct, overreacted, poor Georg with no rudder an no
throttle behind me, corrected again, wow, very sensitive, tailwheel
still on the ground, another correction, runway halfmarker passing by,
all of sudden the preacher-like voice of Georg : “Just a little forward
stick, let the tail come up and take it away at 60 KTS, I have control,
you have the rudder”.
Said, done, airborne!
OK, that was a big surprise, no comparison to the old motorglider, the
rudder inputs of the RV are just 1/10 to the inputs the motorglider
asked for, lesson learned. We climbed out and when I took a short look
to the airspeed indicator we where going 120 KTS and up, up, up.
Impressive! Time to feel out the controls: Aileron very light, and
extension of your thoughts like the promotion DVD told me a 1000 times,
elevator stiff, trim sensitive, time to slow down and lower the flaps.
70 KTS, 1200 revs, first notch, and I had not enough power to pull it up
to second notch, asked for help from behind, second notch. Lesson
learned: slow down to 65 KTS, engine to idle, no problems with pulling
flaps to 40 degrees. As soon as the engine turns more than idle there is
too much pressure to get the flaps out. No problem if you know that,
OK, now the hardest part: Landing. Meanwhile the sun was down to the
horizon and we decided to come in 09 instead of 27 because you hardly
where able to see something against the sun. Pattern was no problem, I
had the numbers from Georg’s flights and added a little extra margin for
the passenger, over the numbers with 65 KTS, only the toes on the pedals
to avoid breaking, flare, flare, and that thing flew forever, eating up
the runway, settled down a bit to hard, bounces up again, down, OK, now
KEEP IT STRAIGHT, hey, STRAIGHT I said, ****, left, right, and all of
sudden I slipped off the right pedal, ****. Voice from behind: Go
around, full power, accelerate, more, don’t take it up, build up speed,
more, gooood, now up and away…..puh, another try….OK, feet up into the
pedals, that will never ever happen again! We touched down on Monday,
Tuesday,W ednesday the next time, snaking down the runway, but we made
it home. That night I was barely able to get some sleep, I was sure that
I will never be able to manage that beast………
As I knew from my former flying lessons it’s best to go on as soon as
possible to avoid the feeling of fear that can easily build up when you
are sitting at home, thinking about what went wrong too long, so we
arranged another lesson the next day. Monday, no one at the airport, no
visitors, friends and so on. We made 5 landings and they came out better
each time. Georg showed me how to stop bouncing when he pushed the stick
forward just a little ‘on impact’ to keep the tail up, let the speed
bleed off and settle down gently. I tried it by myself and had the
picture with the third landing. That evening I was sure that I will be
able to do that on my own in summer. I had a much better night.
2 days ago we had another lesson, made three landings (not a single good
one, but takeoff and landing was straight with a little bouncing at
touchdown). Georg told me to make a power off landing out of 2000 ft to
get a feeling of what to do if something goes wrong. I came in with that
RV glider, touched down and we both decided that I can do it on my own.
10 landings with my instructor behind me, that was MUCH faster than I
ever expected, but I was trusting that airplane a kind of a childish way
that I never felt for any aircraft before. I spend so many hours with
every part of it, it MUST KNOW that it’s me at the controls and it will
be kind. Weather was, blue sky, wind straight in with 10 KTS, no gusts,
so this is the day.
Takeoff run was beautiful (for me), trim to neutral was perfect. I
pulled the stick back, opened the throttle, pushed the stick at little
forward after 100 ft, let the tail come up, had no problems to keep it
straight, even had time to look at the airspeed indicator and took off.
MAN, THAT THING CLIMBED OUT. I tried to climb out shallow, but
nevertheless it was more ballooning than flying and I flew solo the
first time, sitting on MY wings, looking out of MY canopy, touching the
levers I build, staring at the panel I designed and was feeling like
Leonardo Di Caprio in the movie “Titanic”, standing at the ships nose
with open arms and yelling out “I’m the king of the world!”.
These are rare days in life, which you will remember forever. All those
people along the way, friends by now, came to my mind, all the countless
hours in the shop, mostly fun hours, all those bureaucrats that couldn’t
prevent this to happen, all in all a feeling of deep satisfaction.
Landing was a little thrilling as ever, the by now familiar bounce that
I have to work on said hello, but I came to a stop without brakes with a
lot of runway (OK, 2500 ft overall length, plenty for an RV, but just OK
for the rookie..). A big hug for Georg, a biiiiig grin that will need
some plastic surgery to remove and a big day in life.
I will attach the picture of my first landing, it looks so beautiful,
you would not expect a soaking wet guy at the controls…:o)
Edit: (See the PICTURES link)
Cheers from Germany, Dirk