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.
"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.
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.
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