December 2001 Issue
Hey, Watch This
We caught the one-upsmanship early this time, but will we be so lucky next time around?
Freed at last from the tyranny of “enhanced Class B” airspace, the VFR-only Citabria virtually leaped into the sky despite a load that was nearly at max gross weight.
We reached 500 feet well before the Cessna 172 that had taken off from runway 7 in front of us and we were cleared to make an early left turn for a northwest departure. This was a far cry from the almost iron-fisted display of IFR flying that had been the order of the day for nearly six weeks, adding to the sense of freedom. Tapping into the karma, I slowed the airplane and opened the window. Noisy, yeah, but worth it.
Once clear of the ECB, I we undertook some moderately aggressive aerobatics. My passenger, also a pilot, didn’t have the stomach for much, so we diverted to a nearby uncontrolled airport for some pattern work.
He flew the first pattern, a stately affair more in line with the Cessna 172 he normally flies. It was clean and competent, with a decent landing even though he hadn’t flown a tailwheel lately. Then it was my turn. I turned it up a notch, staying high and tight in the deserted pattern, then aggressively banking and slipping to the threshold.
I think he got the idea.
On his next pattern his turn to the runway was nearly a wingover. I don’t know whether the excessive bank was due to the fact that he wasn’t familiar with the sporty handling or whether we had unknowingly entered into a game of “Hey, watch this!”
I wasn’t much in the mood to find out, and was somewhat relieved when two other airplanes showed up to put an end to the more aggressive part of our game. We both flew a few more sedate patterns, with wheel landings and three-points, and then we moved to a nearby grass strip for a taste of nostalgia. I operate mostly from pavement, and I’m always amazed when I’m reminded how nicely airplanes land on a well-maintained dry grass strip.
All too soon, it was time to go home. I left the airport with a satisfied smile, glad to be free to fly on my terms instead of someone else’s. But at the same time, that brief bout of one-upsmanship gnawed a bit. We nipped it in the bud this time, but I can’t help but think of the variety of situations in which such a momentary lapse of reason might be all it would take to find grass in the windshield rather than in the tailwheel springs at the end of the flight.
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