The Project Police Do Aerobatics

Bob Waldmiller

Originally published June 1993

When I go to an EAA event I always like discovering new things; new planes, new people, and new experiences. At our most recent event, the EAA Chapter 49/1000 fly-in at Rosamond Skypark, there weren't many new planes, but there were a lot of new faces--some of whom had the opportunity to catch an airplane ride thanks to some generous pilots. And like all EAA events, generosity was evident everywhere. For example, after the fly-in, we had plenty of help cleaning up and finished the chore in a little over an hour! It's things like this that make EAA events so much fun--people are considerate and they know how to have a good time!

And boy, did the good times roll...and loop...and spin! I was one of the lucky ones who managed to catch a ride with Chris Wank in his Decathlon during the fly-in. Since I was sorely in need of some tail-dragger time and hadn't hung up-side-down from my seat belt in over a week I was due for some excitement.

In an act that resembled Jimmy Franklin's Comedy Cub routine, I made my first ever takeoff in a tail-dragger. But in my case it wasn't just a routine. In fact it was rather unnerving. However, Eric Hansen said he, and everyone else watching, enjoyed the entertainment so I might just put a comedy Decathlon act into my airshow routine...someday. The aerobatics lesson went quite a bit better, however, and I may have actually achieved the "I know enough to keep from killing myself and with practice I might start scoring zeroes on my maneuvers" pre-novice level of competence. Still, I enjoyed every minute of the experience--thanks Chris!

Meeting new people and playing with new airplanes has its moments too. A week before the fly-in at Rosamond, I had the opportunity to fly a Yak-52 with a pilot named Sergie who was a former member of the Russian Aerobatic Team. Sergie didn't speak English very well so I handled the radio while he handled the plane. I asked him to fly some of the sequence he flew at Camarillo a few weeks before and let me tell you, he's good...really good!! He drew vertical lines with the airplane that were absolutely straight up or straight down. He could stop the airplane from rolling or pitching without the slightest hint of overshoot. Then, for his amusement Sergie would let me fly the Yak through a maneuver like an aileron roll, or a roll off the top of a loop. Well, he asked for it so I gave him everything I had. Sergie laughed. He would've said something if he could've thought of a good joke in English. I countered his laughter by uttering the most vulgar word I could think of in Czechoslovakian, "Lomcevak," I said.

"Ok, I show you lomcevak," he responded. At which point he attempted to disorient me. I kept track of his control inputs as best I could and watched the horizon tumble all around the airplane. I had a pretty good idea which way was up throughout the maneuver but I hadn't a clue how to get the airplane straight and level again! What a blast!!!

After a few spins, upright and inverted, Sergie let me fly the airplane back to the Taft-Kern county airport. Now you have to realize that this particular aircraft still had all its Russian made instruments in the cockpit and everything was in metric units and marked with the Cryllic alphabet. Furthermore, the only Russian I know is "Da" and "Nyet" which I learned while watching Hogan's Heroes. So with all these factors rapidly multiplying under the pressure of flying the Yak into the pattern at Taft, I was desperately seeking the answer to a rather irrelevant question. I wanted to scream, "What the hell is pattern altitude--in cubits?"

Like the saying goes, all's well that ends well, which it did! So, looking back on all the events that took place last month I must admit that it was worth it to discover these new flying sensations, meet new people, and make a few more friends. Being involved with the EAA and the IAC has made much of it possible for me. It's educational, it's fun, and the rewards far outweigh the amount of effort required. So get in there, participate when possible, and win one for the Gipper!

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Revised -- 22 February 1997