When people get the flying bug, they just want to get into the air. It doesn’t much matter what type of aircraft, they just want to fly. This means that the type of aircraft is often down to luck. It’s whatever your local flying club operates. It’s also true that this aircraft type then occupies a special place in the aviator’s heart! Learn on a Cessna 152 and graduate to a Cessna 172 …… Cessna 210 etc. Just to show my cards, I learned to fly in the wonderful Fournier RF5, which probably explains my obsession with high aspect ratio, wood and fabric and tailwheels.
During the training towards a pilot’s licence …… the learning process continues long after that momentous event, the focus is on the skills to be learned rather than the characteristics of the particular aircraft type. However once the licence is in hand, things can go a bit flat. Bring family and friends for a spin, visit a few airfields, get frustrated with the winter weather and suddenly it’s been a few months since you last flew. Before you know it, your class rating expiry date is approaching and the question arises …. Why do I fly?
To answer that question, you need to fly something other than the type that you trained on. Ideally you need to fly a variety of other types. Where better to start than the Rollason Condor EI-BDX operated by the BDX Group from ILAS field in Wexford. All you have to do is join the Irish Light Aircraft Society (ILAS) for €40 pa and join the BDX group for €20 pa. The aircraft is operated at €100 per hour (instruction for tailwheel difference €40 per hour).
The Rollason Condor is a side by side two seater with conventional undercarriage. In other words with its third wheel at the back. Please don’t refer to it as a ‘taildragger’. That’s a nose wheel type that is over rotated on landing! The term is ‘tailwheel’ or if you are lucky enough to fly a Tiger Moth, ‘Tailskid’.
The Condor has a Rolls Royce Continental 0200 producing 100hp. Lift off at 40kt, climb at 70kt @ 600 fpm, cruise at 80kt @2500 rpm and approach at 55kt. However figures don’t tell the full story of any aircraft. It’s not all about how fast or how far the machine can go. It’s about how the plane handles.
The Condor is sensitive in pitch meaning that you fly with the lightest touch on the elevator and the trim is fingertip (vertical wheel between the seats). There is great satisfaction in holding height accurately and controlling the approach speeds to the knot rather than in the ball park of the intended figure! The ailerons are an absolute delight. Very little aileron drag or adverse yaw. Roll 450 left/right in the blink of an eye. Now it’s not in the class of modern aerobatic aircraft but then who wants to bang their head off the canopy anyway. Tight turns are a joy provided you co-ordinate the throttle. That short wing builds up induced drag rapidly as the bank angle increases. One of the joys of this class of plane is striving to fly the perfect 3600 turn maintaining the exact height and rolling out on the exact heading. Of course you just have to go both to the left and the right and then you have to do it again just because it could still be bettered. Then there is the rudder. May I introduce you to the most underused control on many modern aircraft. It keeps the plane in balance as I am sure you recall from you ground studies. However when it comes to the glide approach, which I am sure you practice regularly …… don’t you? Well the glide path is judged visually but not all of us are blessed with perfect judgement and it occasionally needs adjusting if we are to make the runway. Oh joy of joys, the sideslip. It’s what flying is all about and is the realm of the rudder. Turning base to final just a tad high to be on the safe side. Feed in outside rudder and keep the turn going with aileron. Ease off the slip as the glide angle makes you feel confident of reaching the runway. Landing goes just fine so round for another. It’s just not possible to do one landing per sortie in the Condor. The next one will be just right ….. That’s my excuse anyway.
So what are you waiting for?
Just in case you are wondering who I am ……. I learned to fly in the 1970’s on the Fournier RF5 and Beagle Pup B121. Have been instructing since 1982 with just over 7,000 hours. I have a particular interest in motorgliders and tailwheel types with some 2500 hours on tailwheel. I’m looking forward to flying with you!