What an amazing way to spend 30 minutes on a sunny Sunday.

I was given a voucher at christmas time by SWMBO for a short flight in a Stampe SV4 at Shoreham. An irritating combination of bookings cancelled due bad wx, work commitments and the aircraft being away for an extended period for maintenance meant that I didn’t get to use my voucher until today.

All I can say is that it was well worth waiting for!

After strapping in and watching while the prop was hand swung, I had my first go at taxying a tail dragger. It seemed to take an age to get any response when pushing the pedals, but when it finally did start to turn, it turned like a dodgem car. Is this common to all tail wheel aeroplanes, or more likley to be just my lack of experience?

We took off and pottered along the coast, heading for Brighton Marina. I took the opportunity to get the feel of the controls, starting with some gentle turns. As I began to feel a bit more confident, the bank angles started to increase until the instructor was happy for me to be twirling us round each wingtip at 60 degrees or more of bank. Great fun and probably not something I’d be allowed to do in the C42 that I’m more used to.

The first aerobatic maneouver was a loop. Using Brighton pier to orient ourselves, the instructor pushed the nose down and let the airspeed build up to 110 knots, then smoothly pulled back. The sensation as we went over the top and I looked up at the sea was incredible! A reasonably tight turn out to sea, climbing back up to about 1800 feet and we pointed back at the pier to have another go. This time I was asked to follow through on the controls to get the feel of the stick forces involved. Paying slightly more attention this time, I noticed the wind singing in the wires next to me as the airspeed bled off at the top and found myself looking straight down at a matchbox sized model of a yacht as we pulled through and back up to level flight. For the 3rd loop, I got to work the stick and throttle myself with the instructor following me and correcting for any mistakes – I’m sure there were several!

We continued along the coast and did the usual ‘ooh, I can see my house from here’ bit. Turning slightly inland, a roll was the next order of the day. Apparently the Stampe has a tendency for the engine to cut on a roll if you’re too ham fisted with it. 99 times out of 100, it starts up again without any problems just by the propellor rotating in the airflow, but the instructor wanted us over the dry bit rather than the wet bit, just in case…

The roll wasn’t quite how I’d imagined it to be. Dive slightly, pull up and stick over to the left and roughly half way forward until we came back round to level again. I’m sure there was something going on with the rudder pedals, too, but it all seemed to happen so quickly I wasn’t sure. We did another 2 of those as well just for good measure, but I didn’t make a particularly good job of following the control inputs.

I was surprised to find that despite this being my first time doing aerobatics, I wasn’t feeling even a tiny bit queasy. Having too much fun I guess!

Regrettably, that was almost the end of the half hour. I was told ‘your aircraft’ and the instructor asked me to fly us along the ridge of the downs back towards Shoreham for a right base join into the circuit for runway 13. As we approached the circuit I handed the controls back and just enjoyed the view as we settled gently onto the grass, then taxy’d back to our little parking spot near the pumps and the fire station.

It was perfect weather today for an introduction to the slighly more hooliganistic corners of the flight envelope. The grin still hasn’t quite worn off, nearly 5 hours later. A big thumbs up for Ian and the rest of the guys/girls at PerryAir and, of course, to my wife for having the idea in the first place!

Now, who wants to demonstrate a stall turn or 3 for me…? 😀