This is a blog containing the build history of an experimental home built airplane. The RV-7A is a two place, piston powered, low wing, tractor configuration, tricycle gear, aluminum and composite aircraft. The original purpose of this blog was to document the construction of my experimental category aircraft in order to satisfy the build log requirement for the FAA. Now it's just for the amusement of friends and family as I document some of our aviation experiences. For more information on the RV series of aircraft see www.vansaircraft.com.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Step 14.3, Transition training

The purpose of transition training is to become familiar with the flying qualities of your aircraft before you actually attempt to fly your own plane for the first time.  The FAA allows a waiver to the rule against using an experimental airplane for commercial purposes in this case, so that builders can gain experience in the same type of aircraft that they have constructed while under the supervision of a Certified flight Instructor.  Prudence and your insurance company dictate that one under go the training,  especially for someone with relatively few flight hours such as myself.

I began looking for suitable training a few months ago. Since my airplane is an RV-7A I was looking for the same.  I also have a constant speed propeller and so my training needed to include that as well. I wanted to schedule the training to conclude as near as possible to the completion of my aircraft so the training would be fresh in my mind.  I was fortunate to locate Mr. Chris Droege of Nampa, Idaho whose qualification and aircraft seemed to be a perfect fit. And the location was ideal as I have a sister in nearby Eagle, a suburb of Boise.  The drive from Rough and Ready California to Nampa is a bit of a grind at 8 or 9 hours of mostly desert.  Even worse, half of that is two lane highway with all the drama that entails.

As it turns out, my first two attempts to get to Nampa failed.  The first, stymied by high winds in Idaho and then by my poorly timed case of the flu.  Chris was understanding and cheerfully rescheduled -- both times.

The third time is the charm, as they say, and since the training would occur much later than originally scheduled it has worked out even better for me since my airplane has only just been completed.

Chris Droege's RV-7A
Day 1:
Chris likes to start early and still being on Pacific time didn't help.  Never-the-less, I managed to arrive at his hangar at 7:30 am, MDT.  The hangar was quite large, spotless, well organised and finished. By finished I mean epoxy floors and painted walls and ceiling.  One corner was devoted to a small apartment and in the center of this impressive space sat two aircraft.  A Glassair Sportsman and the RV-7A.

After a few minutes of pleasantries and a look around the hangar we settled down to business. First off, there was a look at my log book, my pilot license and my current medical certificate. Then there were was a waiver to sign.  Chris has a easy going style and a colorful vernacular. He often referred to me as "dude" which I found amusing and it fits his laid back demeanor.

Normally the ground school portion would go on for a couple of hours, but since high winds were forecast for the next day we decided to keep it short on this first day.  The first hour of ground covered the basics of getting into the air:  Getting into and out of the aircraft, taxiing the castering nose wheeled 7A, engine start, and finally, the takeoff roll in detail.

I really liked Chris' teaching style.  He first tells you what he is going to do.  Then he shows it to you slowly as he does it.  He will then ask you to repeat what you just saw and heard.  Good so far.  Here is the key thing -- He tells you that he understands that you will forget what you just did and that's OK, because he is going to repeat it a million times.  And so he did, at least with me, without the slightest bit of frustration being apparent.

The flying on day 1 was focused on getting familiar with the RV-7A.  There was an emphasis on the characteristics of a short winged aircraft, particularly in turns.  We did a lot of exercises that stress the fundamentals -- turns around a point and S-turns across a road.  And, of course, what check out would be complete without slow flight and stalls.

In all I had about 3 hours in the air on day one, but it went by fast because I was having such a good time.

Day 2:
The foretasted wind arrived right on schedule, so on day two we met for only an hour or so while we finished up the ground school and we put off the flying until day three.  This section focused a lot on how to organize your aircraft records and Chris showed examples from his RV that illustrate his point: That good records will increase the value of your aircraft.  I never really thought much about this aspect of aircraft ownership while I was building, and being a first time aircraft owner, I simply didn't know what I didn't know.  I appreciated the information and the application of that information. Another requirement of building an airplane is the production of the Pilot Operating Handbook or aircraft manual.  Since the aircraft builder is considered to be its manufacturer as well, it is his responsibility to produce the aircraft's POH.  Chris used his POH as an example of what data must be collected and recorded during the aircraft's test phase and how the proper presentation can become a resource for the pilot and any future owner of the aircraft.

Ground school, Chris on left.
Day 3:
Fortunately the windy conditions subsided and day three began still and warm.  Day 3 would be all about landings.  We departed Nampa Id, for nearby Ontario Or.  The airport at Ontario would be a little less busy.  Along the way we practiced power changes for ascents and descents. The point being to arrive at the desired altitude and simultaneously with the desired airspeed.  After that, it was just one landing after another.  I could see incremental improvement as I improved my ability to begin each landing with a stabilized approach.  It is Chris's habit to debrief each landing as soon as we are off  the runway.  Stopped on the taxiway, Chris offers a constructive critique of the landing while the details are fresh in your mind  Since this occurs while stopped it is possible to fully concentrate on the advice being given. I liked this approach, but it does take more time, so fewer landings will be possible.

As the number of landings increased, I could feel the proper sight picture of the approaching runway getting locked in.  My muscle memory is progressively tuned and Chris is getting happier and happier with the results.  After about ten landings or so, Chris decided I was ready. I would have liked to continue all day, but realistically, Chris's job isn't to make me the best RV-7A pilot ever, it is simply to make me safe enough to fly my own aircraft.  I can build my expertise in my own plane, but if I should I need a tuneup in the future, I wouldn't hesitate to fly to Nampa to get some more excellent instruction from Chris.

Taxiing at Nampa

So in the end, I'm returning home with the certain knowledge that I will be able to safely fly my new airplane.  That is why I went to Idaho, and that is exactly what happened.  Well done Chris!

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