Test Flight - JP
TEST FLIGHT NUMBER 1
Finally. After two years of having to drive 80 miles to a friends place to get my flying fix
in his plane, I have bought my very own ultralight. A nice little T-Bird single place with less
than six hours on it. The bright yellow sails look like they just came out of the box, the muffler
on the Rotax 277 doesn't even have any rust on it, and looking over the airframe there's not a
scratch to be found. All of this and a great price to boot.
It just doesn't get any better than this.
How true that statement is I was about to find out.
With help from my friend Dennis we had the plane loaded on the trailer and on its way to its new
Three days later the T-Bird was ready to fly. Unfortunatly it had rained for the past two days and
the field had several inches of water on it. The poor little 277 struggled through the sometimes
deep puddles but just couldn't gain the speed needed for take-off. My first flight in my own plane
would have to wait until drier weather. Besides, I wanted to dry off and get the smelly brown
stuff off of me.
Did I mention that this was a cow pasture?
The next weekend the weather was perfect.
Dennis has several hundred more hours airtime than I so we decided that he should take the plane
up first to see if there were any problems with it.
After three touch and go's he says it handles great, but is a little slow on getting up to speed
Now its my turn. My first flight in my very own ultralight!
I taxi to the end of the field, turn, and all 28 horses scream to life as I push the throttle all
the way forward. As I bounce across the field I think of how great it will be to fly whenever I
want. I also think of how long its taking to get airborn as the plane lifts off. Great. Now set
up good climb rate.............this thing doesn't climb anything like a drifter, I thought as the
really big tree kept getting bigger.
Ok, no problem, a shallow turn to the right and the tree is history. The only problem is that I
should have more altitude than this. Dennis had no problem clearing that tree. HHmmm.......
Dennis weighs in at about 145 and I'm pushing 215 lbs. I wonder what the problem could be???
No time to worry about that now because those power line are moving very fast!
My first thought was of the landing gear hooking the top wire. NOT a pretty picture.
There is no way I'm going to clear those wires. DIVE!DIVE!DIVE! I knew that I could make it under
the wires. WRONG! I split the difference and went right through the middle. Right before I hit my
only thought was " This is gonna hurt ".
This is how things went from there...
I was hanging in mid air with the top wire about 8 inches in front of my face. (Thank goodness for
the tube that runs from the nose up to the top of the cage in front of the pilot. if this had been
just about any other plane I would now be shorter by about a head.) Engine is still full throttle.
About this time the middle wire (neutral) breaks and the plane leaps forward and makes an imediate
right turn. A lot has to be said for the T-Bird's low speed handling ability, because even after
a full stop in mid air I was still able to set up a controlled landing approach. That is if that
fence post hadn't been right where my wheel could hit the top of it. Enter another sharp right
turn. Even setting down sideways the plane handled well. Now lets get off the throttle before I
run into that pine tree or fence. Too late. I hit both. Fortunately I wasn't going very fast.
After all of this I ended up with not even a scratch.
The T-Bird recieved only one bent strut (the neutral wire did this) and a rip on the leading edge
of the right wing (my little run-in with the fence).
During this flight I made mistakes;
I didn't expect something to go wrong. I should have.
I expected performance similiar to the the Maxair Drifter that I had all of my experience in even
though the T-Bird only had a 28hp. engine.
I should have aborted the take-off as soon as the field started getting too short to make a safe
I hope that this story helps someone else not make the same mistakes that I did.
I did do two things right during this flight;
1) I didn't panic.
2) I FLEW THE PLANE! Even though things went wrong I remembered to Fly The Plane.
Without those two things you might not have ever read this story.
TEST FLIGHT NUMBER 2
I spent Sunday afternoon working on my plane with Dennis replacing the right wing fabric that had
been torn in my previous flight. ( see "Test Flight Number 1" )
After we finally got everything together, Dennis took it up for a test flight and everything
worked right. ( Dennis flew the plane because 1) the field was short and 2) I am on the wrong side
of 200 lbs. and he isn't )
After the test flight we decided to fly it to another field I had available because the field it
was in was to short for me to take off out of. Dennis was able to fly it out of the field because
he weighs less than I do. So I drove my truck, Dennis flew the plane and we talked back and forth
on the radio. About half way here Dennis' radio quit working, so now we have no communications. No
big deal right ? Normally it wouldn't be a big deal but this wasn't normally..... After I
realized that his radio wasn't working I pulled off of the road to wait for him to catch up.
As I sat there, watching Dennis fly towards me, I was thinking about how quiet the plane was even
though it was only 80 feet above me. ???????? 80 feet ? !!
Now why was Dennis flying so low ??? By this time he had passed over me and I notice that the
prop wasn't spinning!!!!?!?!
This is sort of how things went through my mind :
- Dennis is flying very low...and getting lower.
- The prop isn't turning so the engine must not be on. What a strange place to turn the
engine off ?!
- Getting lower. engine off. OH S**T HE'S GOING TO LAND ON THE HIGHWAY !!!!!!!!!!
- GET OUT THERE AND STOP TRAFFIC YOU IDIOT!!!
That's pretty much what I was thinking as I punched the gas and sped down the road to where
Dennis was going to land hoping that I would get there in time to stop traffic so he wouldn't
crash into a car head-on. Fortunately there weren't any cars coming from behind me. As I rounded
a blind curve I see Dennis dropping below the tree level just barely clearing power lines crossing
the road and another set of wires coming up fast. With a display of great skill/luck? he sets the
plane down in the right hand lane giving the oncoming driver a sign to " Please stop. I'll be done
here in just a minute. ". Luckily this was in a 45 mph zone and the oncoming driver proved that he
had been awake during the defensive driving part of drivers ed by applying his brakes and pulling
over to the side of the road. Whew! Perfect touchdown. Now let's stop the plane.
First let's do a quick review.
Everything is going great, right?
- The plane is on the ground.
- Traffic is stopped.
- And the plane is still rolling.....
As the plane slows down and the air stops moving across the controlling surfaces that bent tail
wheel starts to come into play.
Oh, did I forget to mention the fact that the tail wheel had a slight pull to the left ? OOPS!
Anyway, as the plane begins to slow it makes a sharp left hand turn..... Remember the part about
stopped traffic? on the LEFT side of the road ? Good. They were still there !!! .........Again
Dennis shows his great luck.. this time it could have only been luck.... and misses the stopped
car by inches.
By this time I had my truck stopped in the ditch and made a mad dash across the road to help
move the plane. Of course I began pushing as Dennis was only part way out of the plane resulting
in a bump or two on his part and a few choice curses directed at me. Needless to say the
adrenaline/pucker factors were running high by now.
We were able to move the plane across the street to a store parking lot as soon as the traffic
cleared and get the whole story from Dennis......
Shortly after his radio quit working, which, by the way, was operating off of its own
battery, the engine also quit. Strange huh?? About this time Dennis decided that now was a good
time to get his priorities in order.
First forget the radio. Who wants to broadcast the sound of a seat cover being sucked up anyway.
Second, find a place to land. Let me backtrack for a moment.....
As Dennis was circling the field after take-off all that I heard over the radio was
"Sure are a lot of trees. Sure are a lot of trees. Sure are a lot of trees out here." Needless to
say we were in a very large forest.
Back to the story..............
As he was looking for a place to land he realized that there was only two choices.
Dennis managed to walk away unscathed. The plane was not damaged. And after calling a friend
with a trailer and 45 minutes of work, we had the plane disassembled, loaded, and on its way to
its new home.
- - A very nice lake. Which could get very ugly on touch-down. Or...
- - A heavily traveled highway. Going on the assumption that people are more likely to move out
of the way of a plane trying to land than the lake would be. He chose the highway.
As of yet I haven't put the plane back together to find out what went wrong. But that is the
next thing on the list. As soon as I can talk Dennis into making another trip to my place to lend
After last weekend that may be a quite a while.
MORE BAD NEWS:
Someone left the gate to my yard open. No big deal right?
It was the gate to the cow pasture that I use for an airstrip and the cows decided that the grass
in my yard was greener that the grass on their side of the fence so they helped themselves. Still
no problem. I really didn't want to mow anyway. Apparently one of them had an itch [can you see
were this is going] and decided that my little T-Bird was just perfect for scratching against.
Now the elevator hangs straight down.
Fortunately only a few bolts and tube connectors broke so repairs will be reletively cheap.
The cause of the engine failure:
The jet needle was adjusted to the lean position and the engine overheated and siezed.
My engine is now running smoothly with its new piston. I have also invested in a nice set of
gauges to keep an eye on things. It sure would have been cheaper if I had thought to buy the
Now if I could only get the parts supplier to send the right parts for the elevator I could get
the plane back in the air.
More stories to follow as they happen............
........unless my luck changes and nothing goes wrong. ;)
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