Saddled up at around 8:30 am. Once settled in with the instructor, I started the engine for the first time - nothing to it. It cranks right up. Called the tower and requested taxi for takeoff, then headed out to the runway. Taxiing is not a whole lot different than it is in a nosewheel plane, although it's harder to see directly in front since the engine is out there blocking the view. I imagine it's quite a bit harder on a windy day - we only had 6 knots or so of wind. I like the way it turns on the ground - it feels completely different since the steerable wheel is way back behind me instead of out in front. It reminded me of how weird a helicopter feels compared to an airplane. It also took a little effort just to find things on the new instrument panel. Four years of habit are going to be hard to break.
The end-of-runway engine run-up was straightforward, nothing too different from what I'm used to. That done, it was time for the first takeoff. I held the brakes and ran the throttle all the way up. Released the brakes and right away had to get on the rudder to hold it straight. This is a habit I had gotten out of after four years in the Tampico. It has the engine offset a few degrees to the right to minimize the need for rudder on takeoff. After zig-zagging down the runway trying to get used to the responsiveness of the rudder we were off and flying. At that point, the work was done and I could play a little. Once in the air, it's just like any other airplane, except a LOT more fun to fly. We headed out to the practice area and did a few stalls and slow flight, mostly so I'd know how it handled when we slowed it down for landing. It retains its solid feel even below 100 knots - I half expected it to get kind of mushy on the controls, so that was a pleasant surprise.
The weather was pretty hazy so I had a hard time keeping track of where we were. Good thing I practiced using the GPS last night - I was able to dial in Madison Co. and get my bearings. After a few minutes of just flying around seeing how fast it would go (155 knots) we headed to Columbus Southwest, which is a grass runway airfield just a couple of miles west of Bolton. The instructor told me we'd do my first landings there because it's a lot easier to control on grass than concrete. The grass allows the tires to slide side to side much easier than concrete, which helps keep me from over-controlling the rudder. The approach was easy enough since it's easy to gain or lose altitude and hold heading, and it wasn't particularly windy. We did four landings, taxiing back and taking off after each. Each was better than the one before it, but none were very good. The instructor didn't need to take over once, though, which is a really good sign. It's clear why the insurance company wants 10 hours of dual, though!
From Southwest we went over to Madison Co. for gas. This was my first landing on concrete and it was harrowing. I did it myself (no instructor assistance) but I could tell he wanted to take over. I just kept telling him "I'm ok, I've got it," even though I'm not sure either of us really believed it.
After gassing up, I made a pretty darn good takeoff and we headed back to the practice area over Lake Madison State Park. I did some 90 degree banks with climbs, dives, and rudder turns - basically just threw it around the sky for awhile. I managed to find Lilly Chapel in the haze and low clouds (the weather was worse than forecast and was getting pretty crappy by this time) and called the tower. I had been doing really well remembering to say "Experimental 466 Papa Golf," but something about reporting over Lilly Chapel in the Tampico is so ingrained that I replied with "Report mid-field right down wind 22, Tampico 81 Juliet Alpha." Doh!
My second landing on a paved runway was slightly better than my first, but still not what you would want to do in front of witnesses. Taxi back was easy as could be, and I really enjoyed the 90 degree turn to park in front of the hangar. Taildraggers will pivot on one of the main landing gear, so you can make these nifty, tight turns.
Shut down, pushed her into the hangar, cleaned the bugs off the wings, and I was done for the day.
Next lesson is tomorrow at 3:30. I'll be ready!