Posted April 2020

I joke about it…but I’m not really superstitious.


I don’t object if someone wants to take my picture before a flight (though I’ll tell them the story about the Red Baron).  I have no problems with Friday the 13th, and a guy with my ugly face gets used to breaking mirrors.  No black cats in the Wanttaja household, but that’s only because none have shown up at our door and meowed at my wife.


But there’s sometimes where stuff kind of…well, you know…stacks up, and you really start to wonder.


I am considered something of an expert on homebuilt aircraft accidents.   Part and parcel of that is the realization of the utter irony should I end my pranging Moonraker.  I’ve accepted that.


Today was a bit different, though.  This morning I dug deep into the NTSB database to try find all the Fly Baby accidents since 1962.  It was a nice day, so I decided to take break and go flying.  I posted a quick preliminary to the Facebook page, then started getting ready to fly.


But my mind was still on the Fly Baby accident records.  Wood rot, metal fatigue, bad cables, etc.  It struck me how it would be REALLY ironic if one of those myriad problems happened to my own airplane today.


Stack on top of that recent work I’ve done on the airplane.  I’ve been trying to puzzle out why the top fabric on the left wing is wrinkling a little bit.  It started going away when I gradually tightened the aft flying wires on that side…but of course, that has consequences with the aircraft trim.  I’ve been half-scared, every time I made a test flight, that I would have to use both legs and a comealong to hold wings level, due to the changes I made.  Most of the trim effects have been subtle.  Trim, as a whole, was awful the last times I’d flown, but I’d made more changes that might fix it.  They were fairly minor, but I was STILL concerned about whether


Stack on top of that what happened when I said goodbye to my wife when leaving for the airport.  She did her usual, “Have fun…be careful!” which relieved my sensitive mind a bit.  Then she threw in the ringer:  “Oh, and I’m going to be baking while you’re gone…you’ll come home to fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies!”


Good gosh.  What next?  My commander telling me that this was my 25th mission, and I’d be heading back to the States afterward?  The Vet telling me my faithful old dog was sick, and was only staying alive long enough to see me after I flew?  A childhood sweetheart standing on the corner with a bouquet and a sign saying, “Meet your long-lost son when you get home”?




Off to the airport.  CAREFUL pre-flight.  All those bad-nicopress, metal fatigue stories going through my head as I inspected the airplane.  Roll it out, park the car, strap on the airplane, and crank up the engine.  “OK,” I tell myself.  “Be ready to abort the takeoff if it feels funny…I’d have 2,000 feet left to stop.  If it feels good, just once around the pattern.”  Radio, transponder, and ADS-B on.


Runup OK.  Taxi onto the runway.  Line it up.  Shove the throttle forward.


Ease the tail up for a few seconds, then back on the stick.


It’s yawing right.  What’s….?


I realize I’m pushing pretty heavy right rudder with full power.  I relax my foot a bit.  Yaw goes away, ball centers.  One of my changes was to the rudder trim…looked like I got THAT right.


And I realize.  Neither wing is heavy.  I’m not having to hold pressure in roll.


Abandon the once-around-the-pattern plan.  Fly off into the rural area.  Level off at 1500 feet, let the stick loose.  The ball heads near the center when the feet come off the pedals.   A little…just a slight…left wing heaviness.


It’s working.  By gum, it’s working.  Fly around and maneuver a bit.  Everything’s fine.  Back for a few touch-and-goes, then park the plane for the day.


So I didn’t crash.  What’s more, a dog didn’t die, I get to fly more missions, and the kid wasn’t mine.


And the chocolate-chip cookies were great…..

Ron Wanttaja

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