Why I want to learn more aerobatics

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why my spin training lesson was so enjoyable. I think it comes down to feeling that much of my current regular training is fear-oriented: don’t get too slow, don’t get near a spin, don’t retract the flaps too fast on a go-around, don’t deviate from the centerline, don’t bank more than 45 degrees. This isn’t a criticism of my instructor; much of that fear is self-imposed due to the newness of the experience and the awesome responsibility of controlling a large machine in the air. And those warnings are about avoiding dangerous boundaries and, in some cases, experiences that have killed other pilots. Further, I understand that as a beginner, those boundaries need to be very conservative. But it’s taken a while to move past induced terror to some degree of familiarity, and that is a stressful place to operate in.

Spin training was different. Even though we were doing things that *should* have felt terrifying, it wasn’t scary at all. It felt like pure play. I got to just fly the plane. The plane was so responsive that I felt smoothly in control, even though all the controls were different from what I’m used to.

This has inspired me to do a bit more “flying the plane” while I’m doing solo practice. I’ve experimented with finding the true best rate of climb (when it’s just me in the plane, the speed is much lower than Vy!). Now I can sense when the plane starts to climb or descend by pitch changes in the engine noise. I *still* want to get better at sensing (lack of) coordination (why is that so hard???). I really like slow flight, with that feeling of breath-held tiptoeing, careful attention to rudder, and oh-so-gentle turns, because I can feel that the plane is in an altered, nearly wobbly state.

I also try to come up with variations on the things I regularly practice, to see whether there’s a boundary there or just an unexplored option. I ask my instructor first, to ensure I don’t do something stupid: “Can I try power-off stalls with no flaps? Can I try a power-off stall recovery without using the throttle? Can I practice coordinated rolls?”

But ultimately, I want to learn more aerobatic skills and really feel where those boundaries are. This article captures some of what I’m looking for:

“Aerobatic training will give you a feel of what it’s like to be at the edge of the envelope, and you will eventually be able to feel the changes as the aircraft passes in and out of its flight envelope, thus reacting appropriately and therefore avoiding any life-threatening stall or spin accidents.” From Why fly aerobatics?

Instead of “just don’t do that”, I can learn “here’s how that happens, what it feels like, and how to get out of it.” And maybe even “here’s how to do it on purpose”, like Patty Wagstaff :)

So now I just need to finish off my pilot’s license, and then there’s so much more I can learn!

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  1. Leigh Torgerson said,

    November 12, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    (Knew it already.)

    I saw Patty Wagstaff in Oshkosh at the EAA Fly-In in 1994, and fell madly in love with her ha ha – what a pilot!! She gave a great talk about how she prepares for aerobatics. She can pull more g’s than you’d believe, and did a horizontal OUTSIDE loop (negative g’s) just a few hundred feet above the runway, and about 10,000 pilots standing on the taxiway (had to have a pilot’s license to get in to the pit area) all groaned out loud at the same time.. It was awesome! Anyway, I love the enthusiasm and curiosity you exhibit with your flying!!

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