So there I was at 600ft and all I could hear was my heart pounding in my chest. Plan, practice, decide, and execute are the rules to live by. Many more highly experience pilots will offer different pearls of wisdom, but I only try to pass on what I was taught and have proven to work. Wild Bill (born 1911) was an instructor all of his life and prior to World War II had 80hrs total time and needed a job. An instructor forged the additional hours needed to qualify for an instructor’s license and he made sure Bill could damn well demonstrate expertly the things he learned and would teach.
The Civilian Pilot Training Program that FOR signed off on was to fill a gap in the amount of pilots that would be needed if WAR was declared. 600 UPF-7’s and thousands of Piper Cubs would give new pilots the introduction they needed for flying. Wild Bill, a moniker he acquired as an Airshow performer, was indeed a gifted seat of the pants aviator. His first 32 students were Navy pilots with 700 plus hours in the air, but were chosen to become aerobatic instructors. Bill armed with 80 hours of which 50 were in the UPF-7 passed on and perfected his flying skills while accumulating over 2500 hours instructing. With the entry of the United States into the War, the military took over completely and he spent four years building aircraft in one of many factories. At 30 years of age in 1941 he was considered too old to be in combat.
Basics, know your off site landing areas for each runway, always brief your passengers and personally secure their seat belts, always snug your lap and shoulder harness for takeoff, establish your emergency procedure for aborted takeoff, adhere to your set limitations, always make a final check of controls, free and clear, and never fly with any negative concerns about the aircraft, because they will not get better in the air. Simple stuff but a non pilot passenger will do crap you never expected like unfastening their seat belt because it was uncomfortable.
Confidence, where does it come from? If you make one landing on every flight, fly 50 hours a year, fly a pattern out of glide range, and 9re white knuckled on touchdown; then you need to do nothing but landings for the next 5 hours and those five hours need to be real close together. You can only build your emergency skill level with lots of practice. The emergency engine out landing will requ ire your best skill and the fortunate thing is that adrenalin really makes you focus, if you have a plan. If you are having issues with landings in general then anything other than dropping your nose for speed, a minimum of deviation from your flight path, and avoiding a stall, is your plan. Plan for it and stick to it! There is no go around on this one. Wild Bill wanted to know that you understood how to fly the airplane. That you understood the entire slow flight regime of power on, power off stalls, accelerated stalls, and that you could control yaw properly with the rudder pedals. No Stearman ever ran off the side of a runway, stalled, crashed, or taxied into another airplane, unless the controls were compromised. At no time should the airplane do anything you don’t want it to do. Flying or taxiing sloppy is a recipe for disaster. Positive control on the ground in taxiing pays off in spades, because it is usually on the ground where things go wrong. I even practiced ground loops on grass at slow speeds so that it was readily avoidable. If you haven’t been there how do you get back? Do it and be done with it.
If we are going to talk about the perilous 180 degree turn we need to focus on control. Dutch rolls, steep turns, skids, side-slips, forward slips, accelerated stalls,and buffeting is all a part of flying. Thank God we fly an airplane that loves to buffet at the edge of a stall. That is your wakeup call. Kind of like when the little woman says I fixed dinner for just the two of us. It pays off in spades if you pay attention, because you know what comes next Dutch roll maneuvers requires that the nose of the airplane remains on a fixed point on the horizon and does not deviate in lateral or vertical moment while the airplane is banked left and right in a continuous rhythm. La tee da’.
Dutch rolls will teach you a lot about your command of the aircraft and build your ability to put that nose where you want it; whether on the ground or in the air. My suggestion is to start a turn to the left with no rudder in a shallow bank, then, as you reverse the ailerons to the right come in with coordinated right rudder to stop the nose from swinging left. As you reach the same bank on the right, immediately, without losing that rhythm, add left aileron and left rudder. Like a metronome. Practice with a very, very, shallow bank until you are proficient. If you start swinging side to side and the nose is all over the place then stop and start over. Keep starting over as you will not save a botched start. Also do these by yourself because a poorly executed Dutch roll will make most people sick except the pilot.
You are pilots so you know skids, side slips, and forward slips; so let’s dive headfirst into accelerated stalls from a steep turn. Whoa Nelly. What is a steep turn for one guy might be shallow for another fellow. Okay, so roll that baby into a turn and lay the center section wires on the horizon. Bam, you have establ ished a 45 degree turn. Steepen up the turn and lay the center section struts on the horizon and Bam, you have established a 60 degree turn. Do three turns to the left in a row and practice at both angles until you are having fun . Stop anytime you drop the nose below the horizon or you feel the aircraft accelerating. Don’t look inside, don’t look at the airspeed, don’t hold top rudder, do look at the horizon, focus on your bank angle, and trim to relieve back pressure. If the nose drops below or rises above the horizon then stop and start over. Please use elevator trim. Any buffeting will be dealt with a small forward movement of the stick. Release back pressure and you are fl ying. Do these things smoothly and positively. Always leave a little back pressure on the stick so a release generates an immediate drop in the nose. It wants to fly.
Now I am assuming you have mastered spins to the right and to the left and feel fairly confident that you can spin and come out on a preplan ned heading. Good.
Now, practice turning 90 degrees of heading in a steep turn and at the moment you hit ninety degrees turn back in the opposite direction. Use a rhythm with this maneuver and continue until you are reaching a constant steep banked attitude in each turn. The airplane should be able to maintain altitude at cruise speed settings. In a Stearman without stall strips you will feel a buffet if you come up against the accelerated stall. Release some back pressure, but continue the turn. Have fun and remember to always clear your area before you begin. With your head out of the cockpit each turn is a clearing turn. Practice a lot.
Seat belt secure, fuel on, oil pressure 701bs, temperature 40 degrees, carb heat off, trim set, controls free and clear, altitude 2800ft, area clear, lets practice our emergency turn. Find a road with a crossroad that you will set as your end of runway starting point. Do a clearing turn and establish yourself hopefully into the wind on your designated runway. Start a climb at your normal climb speed (70 or 75mph) and full throttle, pull on carb heat and allow a small amount of time for it to be effective; then note altitude and pull throttle to the rear stop.
The turn will take about 10 to 12 seconds to complete and by not using rudder in the beginning of the turn the nose will stay straight ahead. Once you establish the steep turn, and it could be as much as ninety degrees, you must neutralize the ailerons. This puts an even load on the airframe and without rudder there is no chance of skidding thru the turn which generally leads to the stall over the top. The centripetal force is supplied by pulling straight back on the stick and tightens the turn with very little lateral movement from whence it began. Altitude loss will vary with skill and aircraft. A stock Stearman with a 220 continental, no stall strips, wooden prop, wi ll lose less than 300ft. I will fly with anyone who wants a demonstration. I am not a CFI , I just love flying and the Stearman is a great airplane. Wild Bill began teaching about 1940 and at the age of 92 was still giving check rides in T6’s. He was 5ft 7 inches, weighed 1301bs and man could he fly.
Well, that’s all the news from the grassy strip where gas. is cheap, our engines don’t leak oil, and all our women are good looking.