Yesterday (Sunday) was looking like a potentially good day for some aerial sight seeing if the clouds stayed high enough. The plan was to fly up to the northwest and visit the area around Clear Lake, probably stopping at Lampson Field for fuel and whatnot.

But a funny thing happened as I was half way through a 180 degree turn in the run-up area at the end of runway 31R at Reid-Hillview airport. I felt what I can only describe as a "pop" in the left rudder pedal and then the steering began to feel funny. It was as if the tailwheel had somehow spun around too far or become jammed.

I figured it would straighten out on its own, so I finished the turn and ran through the run-up procedure. But then as I taxied over to the hold line so I could call up the control tower, it still didn't feel right. I tried a 360 degree turn and found that it felt like I'd lost almost all turning authority on the left side. I could still use the brakes, so it was still possible to steer with differential braking.

I suspected that there was a problem with the tailwheel spring and decided it was worth a look. A quick call back to the ground controller and we were cleared to taxi back to parking to check out the problem.

Here's what I saw upon walking to the rear of the plane.

Broken Citabria Tailwheel Chain

The metal fastener that attaches the short chain from the spring to the tailwheel steering mechanism had come off. It looked like a simple fix, so I went to the car and grabbed the tool bag that I just happened to think to bring along.

But after about two minutes of fussing with it, I realized that the metal fastener had actually broken, so there was no way to fix it. We needed a replacement.

At that point I assumed the trip was off and called our mechanic. Much to my surprise, he was able to drop by and repair the problem. As expected, he had spares on hand. The entire repair took about two minutes.

Our mechanic rocks.

Within 20 minutes, we were in the air and had a nice flight up I-680, over Napa Valley, across Lake Berryessa, over to Davis, and landed at Yolo County Airport, (I just like saying "Yolo") right at the time that some parachute jumpers were landing. If you're ever there, check out the little outdoor eating area adjacent to the parachute operation. They've got good beer, not that I could have any.

We dodged a bit of rain on the way there and back, but overall it was a good trip. Hopefully some of the pictures turned out well.

Posted by jzawodn at April 23, 2007 08:26 PM

Reader Comments
# Jason Fesler said:

One thing to watch for at Yolo 2Q3 - When they are jumping, the drop plane drops back to earth and lands on runway 34 (even if 16 is in use) without doing a normal pattern entry. He also drops out of the sky pretty darn fast, so be on the lookout for him.

on April 23, 2007 10:16 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Yeah, I'm kinda used to that from the jump plane at Hollister. But the guys at Yolo were very good about making their intentions clear on the radio. They even landed on 16 after I did.

The paint scheme on their plane is really cool too. :-)

on April 24, 2007 09:05 AM
# Kurt said:

Seems like this happens all too often in tail-draggers... you'd think there would be a better design.

on April 24, 2007 10:34 AM
# Doug Cutting said:

That's "Berryessa". And, if you looked down around Pope Canyon, at the north west corner of the lake, you might have spotted my brother & me. We rode our bikes out to Lake Berryessa and back on Sunday. Beautiful day.

on April 24, 2007 11:31 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


Yeah, no kidding. I wonder if those designed in the last 5-10 years have substantially better mechanisms in place. I should look at a Husky someday and see what it has on it.

on April 24, 2007 11:40 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


Good catch. Fixed. :-)

on April 24, 2007 11:43 AM
# Marek said:

Good thing you noticed it in time. Would not want to see anything bad happening to you dude! Thank God!

Best, - Marek

on April 24, 2007 11:53 AM
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