The Liberty Gazette
December 2, 2008
December 2, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Linda: The hill country beckoned with its winding rivers, lakes with sand bars and an abundance of ranches for grass landing strips: the perfect place for a Piper Super Cub, and a perfect time of year to get that tail wheel endorsement in my log book. Skimming the tree tops along the banks of the Llano River, a few herds of cattle, deer and wild pigs were witness to part of my first experience in a Super Cub.
Ken Wittekiend owns and operates ProMark Aviation Services in Burnet, Texas and while he offers the usual gamut of flight instruction in a Cessna 172, I think it’s the Super Cub he loves the most; and I can understand why. You may have seen the yellow 1959 tail dragger at Liberty in May during the Neault benefit fly-in when Ken flew it in support of the benefit. I first met Ken a couple of years ago at a Texas Aviation conference and have been planning to spend some time in Burnet, but several times we scheduled a weekend something came up and canceled our plans. This time, however, it all came together.
Mike: The tail dragger (so called because there is not a nose wheel, but two mains and a small wheel at the tail) sits slanted down when on the ground, and the center of gravity is aft of the main landing gear. These days most new pilots train in an airplane like a C172, with a nose wheel.
With the free-castoring tail wheel that can make for some exciting landings if one hasn’t learned in a tail dragger, hence the requirement for a special log book endorsement to fly one of these. If you don’t keep them straight the tail can have a way of swinging around in front of you. Time was when all airplanes were tail draggers; DC-3’s, Stearmans, etc. But new designs, dubbed “tricycle gear”, moved the center of gravity forward, reducing the threat of ground loops.
Linda: It’s hard to pick out highlights because Ken makes the whole training fun. Flying low over the Colorado River, campers waived their hats and I rocked the wings in reply. There wasn’t much of a cross-wind to practice landing in, so Ken had me do a long, fast ground roll up on one wheel in simulation. Fortunately, one of our ranch landings would be just in time… as the two large glasses of water from lunch were taking effect. Ranch owners, Len and Beth, a ranch hand and a dog came out to greet us as we taxied up. There is no graceful way to enter or exit a Cub, but under certain circumstances, one can do it quickly when necessary. As long as I missed the fresh patties, Ken found my predicament amusing.
Six hours and 20 landings on grass strips, sand bars, cow pastures and ranches, having once ripped my jeans in an ungraceful dismount, earned my hoped-for endorsement with high praise from an outstanding instructor. I highly recommend his training programs, whether for IFR proficiency, beginning flight instruction, or the fun Super Cub; and it’s hard to beat the scenery. I can’t wait to take Mike there. He needs some fun flying like that.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.