formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October 4, 2011 In the Pitts part 1

The Liberty Gazette
October 4, 2011
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: The FAA Safety Seminar scheduled for October 29 must be one of the most popular offered through “WINGS,” a voluntary continuing education program for pilots. Credits are accumulated by attending approved programs and logging certain types of training. Hot off the press came the invitation to join aerobatic champions and world record holders Debby Rihn-Harvey, Joy Bowden, Bruce Bohannon and John Dunbar for a day of spin training. The seminar would be held at “Flyin’ Tiger,” Bruce’s airport south of Houston. Lunch provided. Seminar free. Arrange flights individually with one of the host instructor pilots.

A spin is a stalled aircraft spiraling down. With proper training pilots learn to recognize when they are about to enter a spin, and procedures to recover from this abnormal situation. It is required training for all flight instructors and many believe it should be required of all pilots.

I hadn’t flown with Bruce before but several of our friends have, although I’d flown right over his turf strips–a turn point in the Galveston Air Rally earlier this year. I’d seen his highly modified RV-4 about five years ago at the Reklaw fly-in – the RV that holds all altitude and “time-to-climb” records save one. Bruce holds 35 speed and altitude world records, and his experience includes many races won at Reno.

For this spin training seminar he was offering time in a Pitts S2B, a two-place tandem bi-wing airplane. It had been too long since my last acro fix so I quickly shot Bruce an email: “Put me down for one of those slots!” But the next morning I had one of those “OY!” moments, the kind where you’d kick yourself in the head if you could. What was I thinking! The fourth annual Tennessee Valley air race, speed dash, and punkin’ chunkin’ contest is October 29th! Even if we weren’t racing, competing with other race nuts to see who can splat a pumpkin on a port-a-potty is totally worth the trip! As quickly as the realization about the scheduling conflict had set in, the Plan “B” solution came just as fast. I would just call Bruce and re-schedule – tomorrow! Why wait till October 29?

I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the basics the last time I did any aerobatic maneuvers, but the last couple of times was in a Super Decathlon, a very different airplane than the Pitts. Still, recovery from a spin is basically the same: full rudder deflection in the opposite direction of the spin, push the nose down, and reduce the power.

Parachute strapped on, me strapped in we cinched every belt until they wouldn’t cinch anymore. Bruce hopped in, closed the canopy, and we taxied down the dry ground to the end of the runway. A little “systems check” we call a run-up, and off we went. This runway is 2,300’, the longer of the two, and we were in the air about halfway down. All 260 horses galloped the little red and white bi-wing up over the trees and up, up, up to the blue sky. The few puffy cumulus were well above us so we climbed to 3,000’ and I began to become familiar with the flying characteristics of the Pitts. Check in next week for the roll-by-roll of my inaugural Pitts flight, and Mike’s long awaited return to a Pitts. Till then, blue skies.

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