A funny thing happened this weekend. And since the title has already given it away, I'll take a moment to tell the story...

After a non-eventful flight from Reid-Hillview to Avenal (home of the Central California Soaring Club) on Saturday, I landed on runway 13, one of their big (350' wide!) dirt runways. Once reaching the area where it seemed sensible to park, I initiated a left turn and attempted to follow it shortly with a right 180 degree turn to swing the tail around.

But the plane really didn't want to turn right. At all. I figured we might be in a soft spot in the dirt, so I nudged the throttle a bit. It had practically no effect. Since I the propeller was kicking up a fair amount of dust, I shut the engine down and decided to get out and just move it by hand.

Walking around to the back of the plane, I saw exactly what I didn't want to see.

Flat Tailwheel on the Citabria
A Flat Tailwheel

"Aw, crap!" I thought.

Before too long, Loyal (the tow pilot and all-around great guy) had an air tank out to re-inflate the tire. The plan was to pump it up and see if it would hold air. It did initially, so we ventured off to lunch and hoped it would stay inflated the rest of the day.

Alas, it wasn't to be. After lunch the tire was pretty mushy again.

Flat Tailwheel on the Citabria

Some of the locals suggested using a can of the flat tire sealant you often see for sale in auto parts and bike shops. Before trekking of to do that, I called our mechanic for his advice. I was wondering if we might not get away with pumping it up again just before takeoff and hoping for the best.

He said there was no danger in trying that stuff but that it rarely ever works in cases like this. He suggested we pump it back it just before takeoff, perform a wheel landing back at Reid Hillview, and taxi back to parking with no back pressure on the stick. He also suggested that the tire would be ruined in the process, but it had to be replaced anyway.

Fair enough.

But I hadn't done wheel landings for quite some time. And never at night.

Despite all that, I managed to get the plane home safely. My landing was what I'd call a "modified wheel landing" (the kind that starts with a gentle bounce). On taxi back to the parking area, I had to use more power (1,200 RPM) than normal to keep it moving and nearly full right rudder to counteract its desire to turn left. But it worked.

The whole episode turned out to be far less of an ordeal than I had first expected. It was, in fact, a fairly minor distraction in an otherwise spectacular day.

And hey, in a few days I'll be the proud co-owner of a new tailwheel.

Posted by jzawodn at March 18, 2007 10:18 PM

Reader Comments
# Joe Grossberg said:

Maybe the answer is obvious, but ... why not pack a spare?

on March 19, 2007 06:02 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Space and weight considerations mainly. The baggage area isn't that big.

on March 19, 2007 07:47 AM
# Zoran said:

Hello Jeremy,

With deep respect to what you do and what you write, me, reader who reads your blog for years, have something to ask you.

May you add few categories to your blog and split your posts by category, and offer in addition to this main feed, category feeds too.

I am sure somebody is delighted with your posts about aviation, and other people are more into IT stuff. We have limited time and that is why we want to focus and control our inputs. Please, Jeremy help us and categorize your posts, its easier to do it on the source one man for whole planet then everybody for himself.


on March 19, 2007 07:08 PM
# Earl said:

Glad you got back safe and sound. Nice photos.

on March 20, 2007 03:37 PM
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