Your first airplane and your first kiss. Good or bad, you’ll remember them always.
You may be in the throes of primary training and quite possibly sick to death of yanking and banking your 172, or your Champ, or your Cherokee. But one day you’ll think of that trusty steed and be nostalgic for those days when you were bumping around the pattern trying to nail a perfect landing. That first airplane is the one that opens all the doors for you–the one that shows you what you’re capable of doing as a pilot.
You might even get to revisit those days, as I did last week.
When I started on the road to a pilot certificate, the local flight school had the standard Cessna 172s and Piper PA-28-180s, but it also had a small fleet of Socata Tampico TB9s–low-wing 160-hp four-seat trainers manufactured in France. The TB9s came by the nickname “Slow-Pico” honestly, but they were stable and fairly easy to fly. And they had cool gull-wing doors on both sides. They looked like sports cars–like something John DeLorean would have designed if he’d been an aeronautical engineer. They looked fast, even if they weren’t.
I got my ticket in a TB9 and continued to fly them until 2005, when the flight school decided to update its fleet with glass-cockpit 172s. I estimate that around 300 of my 700 or so hours are in TB9s, and I have around 10 hours in the TB9’s big sister, the Trinidad TB20. When they went away, I missed them for awhile, but I moved on to the Piper Archer and, eventually, to the Cherokee 140 I own today.
Last week I climbed back into the left seat of a TB9 to take a flight for a story that will appear in an upcoming issue of our sister publication, AOPA Pilot. N28216 is actually one that I flew quite a bit in primary training. It’s still based here at KFDK, although my other love, 5557J, has since moved on.
Sitting in 216’s left seat was both alien and familiar, all at once. On the takeoff roll, I was a little heavy-handed on rotation and got a blip of the stall horn (shades of my student days!). The power-off stall was as gentle as I remembered; the power-on stall everybit as jaw-clenching. (The airplane doesn’t want to stall, and you seem to hang vertically for long moments until the break finally happens.) Coming back into the pattern, I again reverted to the good old days and was too high on the final approach. I wondered if I’d thump it on to make my trip down memory lane complete, but thankfully I did not.
That flight triggered a lot of memories. My checkride…my first flight with passengers…a trip to Ocean City, Maryland, with my two children…all in a TB9. The little gull-winged airplane started me on a wonderful journey. So treat your trainer kindly. You’re gonna miss it when it’s gone.–Jill W. Tallman