It’s been a long time since I flew aerobatics with any regularity. Want to know how I know? I was pretty green around the gills and ready to head back for pattern work after only about 20 minutes of aerobatics recently.
But that’s okay. Anything – from acro to simply flying the pattern – takes practice, and the skills and tolerance get rusty if you don’t use them. Even airshow great Greg Koontz told me last year that he has to take it easy as he’s building up to airshow form each season.
I’m planning to cover Air Force primary flight training next month in the mighty T-6A Texan II and I want to be sure that I have adequate tolerance built up so that I can concentrate on getting the story without worrying whether I’m going to hurl in the Air Force’s nice clean airplane.
Maybe you’re not prepping for a flight in a 1,100-hp, JP-8-drinking, four-bladed speed machine, but the principles are essentially the same. It’s spring here in the northern hemisphere and many of us haven’t flown regularly for months. That especially means student pilots whose training was interrupted by winter weather.
Even if you were post-solo last fall and gunning for the checkride when the weather came in, you might find yourself this spring wondering how you ever landed the aircraft. Everything seems strange and there’s more rust on your skills than you thought.
I was pretty disappointed by my performance the first time up in the Super Decathlon this season, but then I backed off a little on myself. Being frustrated is good in that it gets us back to the airport again to work off the last of that rust. But it can be counterproductive if you take it too seriously and let it be a barrier to improving. If you haven’t flown since, say, October, give yourself a break and make it a point to objectively observe your mistakes and identify what’s not going well in your flying. Then make those items priorities on your first few flights of the spring.
All of my training has been characterized by stops and gos because life constantly got in the way. So I have a fair amount of experience in dealing with knocking off rust. And the good news is that I’ve found that most of the rust goes away within about an hour and a half and/or two flights. Maybe not that quickly for acro tolerance, but it’ll come.
And, in the meantime, fights upon which you’re knocking off rust are still flights! C’mon, how bad could it be?
I’m heading out this afternoon to go get inverted again and I’m working on a goal of a one-hour tolerance before mid-May. It’s doable and I have a plan and have made available the time and the energy. So 90% of the battle is won. Plus, I’ve transitioned to the Super-D from the Citabria, which means an additional 60 hp, shorter wings, and more aerobatic envelope with which to play. Immelmans, rolls without losing altitude, knife-edge flight, hesitation rolls – They’re all on the menu now and I’m looking forward to learning to perform them.
Get out there and knock off the rust. You’ll find that there’s not as much on you as you thought and, regardless of your skill level or ambitions, you’ll be flying! (Which is really what it’s all about, right?)