|Bob Streeter, Contributing Editor|
a month of messing with front landing gears and a hard starting engine, I
finally got my Challenger Ultralite plane in the air. I have to thank my
new friend and very good flight instructor, Hugh Wilson (Pemberton NJ) and
all the great folks at Central Jersey Regional Airport for helping make it
possible to trailer my plane back from New Hampshire to it's new home.
95 hours in a Small Cessna, and just two weeks from my FAA check ride when
I would have gotten my private pilots license, I had a heart attack. Not a
serious one, but the FAA doesn't care about that. Between the Diabetes and
the bad ticker, getting a medical approval was going to be a real hassle.
Enter Part 103 (Ultralite plane rules established by the FAA)
Wilson was there today to cheer me on and lend a little ground support.
After preflighting, we had a hard time starting the engine. Turns out that
the sparkplugs were the wrong type. Got the right ones installed and gave
my hand held radio to Hugh.
Off I went to taxi to the end of runway 25 in a rather stiff, freshening breeze of about 12MPH (the wind sock was standing almost straight out) What the heck, I had done this more than 200 times in a Cessna, so I could handle a Challenger - no problem.
I had taken off in Hugh's Challenger Ultralite 2 person plane several times. So this was going to be a snap. I was on a paved runway over 3000 feet long, so I eased the throttle forward and made a few quick rudder moves to be sure my front gear was OK, then gave it full power. The plane rushed forward, I was off in less then 200 ft.
climb out, I hit a bump (air pocket). It jerked my hand all the way back
on the throttle. My heart sank but I pushed it forward and it responded
flawlessly. Hugh was in my ears, "What happened, are you OK?”
I burped and then quickly got away from the airport to practice a few coordinated turns before returning to a way too high, and way too short approach to final. The minute I turned final I knew I was not going to get down on that runway without running off the other end. (I still haven't installed my brakes). So I took the opportunity to practice my forward slip( a way to bleed altitude quickly). Announced a go around at about 50 ft. off the ground. I heard Hugh chime in, "Good call."
I set myself up on the next go around much like I do in a Cessna (1000 feet above the ground, power to glide at 60 mph, turn final at 55, and let it just glide home). The wind was stronger so I got a real test of what it's like to keep a Challenger Single place plane lined up on the centerline of the runway. But I did set it down with a, let's say, definite thud.
in the aviation world, say, “Any landing you walk away from is a good
landing”. I'm pumped and there is a crowed of well-wishers waiting for
me at the tie-down area.
What a rush!! This is the greatest sport!! Almost as good as Skiing.