Friday, June 01, 2007

Root cause determined!

Yes, you're heard it many, many times here before: I sometimes have a bit of a bouncing problem with my landings. I've oft wondered how I developed that problem, having never really been a sufferer of it before. Easy to blame the airplane, it is, but not wholly satisfying for a believer in the old adage that it is a poor workman that blames his tools. Well, I have a new, equally self-serving theory, which I will share with you shortly.

We've been suffering through what I've taken to calling the "Dog Days of May" of late, with a stalled high pressure area bringing us day after day of hot, hazy weather, the type of sunny gloom normally reserved for August. Absent the August humidity, thankfully. But still, it's not the type of thing that makes my shoulders itch for the feeling of a pair of wings attached, and the freedom of tossing myself and my mount enthusiastically into the inviting sky. Last night, however, the itch returned, and no manner of hazy muck was going to dissuade, so Papa and I went for a canter around the pasture. The tower being closed as is normal after 1930 and the winds being essentially naught, we made our way to the runway being used by the solitary touch & go plane in the pattern, which for the detail-craving reader I will identify as runway 22.

With the very, very light breeze, the takeoff was stellar in its quality, and the ensuing cruise about the local area was smooth and uneventful. I was entertained by listening to the tower frequency, which after the tower closes at 1930 reverts to being the CTAF frequency. 'Tis amusing to listen in on the gaps in other's aeronautical knowledge. The first example was quick to arrive: "Cherokee [whatever] is 7 miles southwest, inbound touch & go, right traffic 22." I hear (and see, as I can watch this kind of thing from my front porch what with my home being in such close proximity to the airport) this all the time: pilots that are so in the habit of being assigned right traffic by the tower that they forget (or as I suspect, were never taught) that the pattern reverts back to the standard left traffic in the absence of the tower. In fact, this very situation came up in my BFR last week, and I'm proud to say that the CFI riding with me was slightly crestfallen that he failed to catch me in this little "gotcha." In any event, I quickly keyed the mike and mentioned to the Cherokee pilot that me might reconsider and use left traffic, what with the tower being closed and there being another airplane in the pattern that was correctly using left traffic.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not overly pedantic or a stickler for the rules. It's just that I was planning on a landing or two at the grass runway airport a scant 2.5 miles west of Bolton, and didn't relish the idea of touch & go traffic out there with me. Selfish, yes, but hey, the law was on my side.

This (finally) brings us to my epiphany on the topic of bouncy landings. This particular grass runway has the somewhat dubious honor of having been the first runway I ever landed on during my tailwheel transition, the theory apparently having been that it would be easier than a paved runway. I'm sure there's some validity in that, in general, but in the specific I now contend that I was not well served by this selection. The thing is, you see, that despite a perfect approach and touchdown, I ended up bouncing my way down the runway. Why, you ask? Well, the thing is that this runway undulates. It's wavy. It is not smooth! In fact, I contend that as a result of the various waves and dips in this runway, it is impossible not to bounce. Now, what with first impressions being lasting impressions and all, I think I have determined why I still to this day bounce my landings: the idea that an RV-6 cannot be landed without bouncing was my first impression, and I have suffered from that idea since.

Of course, this theory only works if I bounce all of my landings, and such is demonstrably not the case: I greased the later landing back at Bolton. It was a 9.5, I'm telling you. Just a brush of rubber against the runway, a slightly perceptible spinning up of the wheels, a very slight touch of forward stick to plant Papa firmly onto terra firma, a nice tail high rollout to just short of Alpha 3, and a smooth turn onto the taxiway. In front of a gob of folks gandering from JP's Ribs, too. Ah, a grand performance in front of an audience! One could get used to that!

And before we part, another interesting application of aeronautical prowess heard on CTAF:

"Cessna Caravan [something or the other ALPHA JULIET, 7 miles north, straight in runway 22."

"Skyhawk 266 left downwind 22, touch & go."

"Caravan Alpha Juliet, we'll slow down a bit and let you go in front of us."

Me (thinking, not saying): Well gee, that's awfully big of you. Maybe you ought to consider flying an actual pattern, just like the rest of us.


  1. Dave, I have to tell you, I like your blog a lot, and I visit often.
    However, I wish you would change your header picture. Every time I see it I imagine that bike of yours slipping and crashing against the trailing edge or top of the wing, leaving who knows what kind of damage behind. Let's not tempt fate, shall we?

  2. Actually, it already happened once in the hangar, but fortunately they damage was limited to an easily removed black scuff mark from one of the handgrips. Still, procuring a kickstand is on my to-do list.

    The banner will change eventually, once the right picture comes along. I want to get one up there with the wheel pants and nose art. Flying season is in full swing, so there will be a lot of photo ops for the next few months, possibly even a nice air-to-air.

  3. Real nice Blog. I have also built a clc kayak and an RV6. Keep up the work, it is so much fun to take off in the morning and float in the afternoon. There are building photos on webpage for both projects.

    Ted Gauthier
    Pontiac, Michigan

  4. Ted -

    I see from your web site that I wasn't the first to figure out that safety wire pliers work great for twisting those copper wires!