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“JEEZ, DON’T GROUND-LOOP IT!”

 

“Jeez! – don’t let it ground-loop!!!” Shrinking from the baggy-eyed bully as he grabbed the controls, I glared at him. “Hey wait, dammit – ground loop?!” He relaxed his grip as we rolled out, giving me back the rudder to steer the wheels (and the yoke to manage the ailerons). And explained. Quietly. He got hold of himself. “A ground-loop is an un-commanded sudden spin-around on the runway, possibly yanking us off of it and wreaking havoc with dipping scraping, wingtips – caused by after you’ve got the plane aligned straight to the runway – the wheels still are not.” Cigarette Breath frowned at me. “Your car can’t crab-sidle down the street, can it? Neither can the plane. Straighten the rudder to straighten the wheels, babe, use your feet to straighten the rudder!” It had been a cross-wind landing – the wind was blowing in a bit from the side; I was learning how to handle that. We had been to another airport to do some learning… there breezes had been directly on our nose. He always liked to go where he could buy a hamburger, to indulge his pot belly. My lessons appeared to be his transportation to said burger joints. I was disgruntled. At least I liked them too – juicy ones.

Well – the wind seemed always to be drifting in from the side. Crosswind landings are a critical part of the flight lesson syllabus. Do you crab? (angle the plane to point into the wind as you descend on final approach to the touchdown point, then last second rudder the plane straight to put wheels to the concrete), or do you slip it? (cross-control the ailerons so the craft slices down through its descent to touchdown, kind of like a knife leaning on its edge) and tip-toe the touch-down with wheels straight – the wheel into the wind touching first? I chose crabbing and didn’t straighten out in time, so grumpy Bubba grabbed the controls. Good thing. In time I developed the right technique. I learned so well that for my Flight Exam I had to find a runway with a crosswind. Almost couldn’t land in a direct headwind. Those were the days. In fact, in the earliest days of aviation, planes used pastures. There were no runways per se. One could always head directly into the wind. Crosswind landing? No such thing.

But that ground-loop. A friend who was taking lessons with me did one, on solo (by herself), scared herself right witless and never went back to the airport. Ahhh, she shouldn’t have been flying anyway, if a little sudden whip-circling on the runway could scare her off. Yes, she could have been hurt. Nobody said you couldn’t get hurt, doing this. “If it cain’t kill you, it ain’t a sport.”

Oh, the ground can indeed rise up and smite you. You have to learn not to let it, to earn the glories of flight.

2 Responses to Ground-loops?

  • I assume you are back from your adventure travels. Nice story. I think of you often when towing in the Bird Dog although it is more often done in the Pawnee. I still have the 210 but prefer to fly stuff with a little wheel in the back. Why don’t you and Hal jump in yours and make a visit to your old stomping grounds? There are still glider folks around you know…..I’m sure we can find a place to rest your heads.

  • I forgot to add I did my tailwheel training and endorsement in a Stearman with a 220 HP Continental, so not much power. My instructor insisted on crosswinds of 20 kts before he would sign me off. No groundloops but all the controls to the stops and your story reminded me of our flights early in the training.

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