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Feature Article

Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC

Always Learning

For my birthday this year, a buddy of mine gave me a flight at Attitude Aviation in Livermore.  They have all sorts of high-performance, aerobatic planes and he suggested going in either a Pitts or the Waco. I am super-excited -- we haven't gone yet -- and the gift spurred me to look into seeking my tailwheel endorsement.  The last certificate I earned was my Flight Instructor certificate.  Since then I've received some flight instruction during checkouts for different airplanes, but it's been a while since I've really taken on something new.  My first flight in a Citabria reminded me of how much fun learning to fly is! 

I am sure there are some pilots who hop into a tailwheel plane after learning in tricycle gear airplanes and get it right away.  For me, everything took a lot more focus, so much so that when I called ground after getting the ATIS, I had to be reminded what letter was current since I was working so hard to keep the control stick in my lap.  Doing turn after turn in the traffic pattern, I gradually found getting into a rhythm and starting to enjoy myself.  The visibility of the tandem-seating and actually being seated on the longitudinal axis changed my perspective and added to the fun.

During the preflight briefing of my first lesson, my instructor said there are a few things that are a little bit different about tailwheel flying and one thing that is completely different.  Wheel landings have you pushing forward on the stick and adding power as you're landing.   I didn't understand how difficult it would be to challenge my muscle-memory until we started working on this type of landing.  As an instructor, I sit for hours in the traffic pattern, spring-loaded to react to a student who fails to round out or who pushes the nose forward after a bounce.  Now, I was supposed to be doing exactly what was so verboten.  No wonder it's been a challenge getting those right.

While I'd like to pursue my CFII, multi-engine, sea plane, etc., with a 14-month old at home it's going to be a little while before I dive into those.  The tailwheel lessons have reminded me that there are more ways to expand my horizons than just new certificates.  I've got my book on learning the G1000 on the bookshelf, so after the tailwheel I'll finally pick that up again.  Everyone says the private certificate is a license to learn.  I'm glad that I've been reminded just how much fun learning new flying skills is.