This isn’t exactly on the main topic of this blog [hiking and camping], but it certainly qualifies as a Colorado Adventure. This Tuesday I was able to take a “Discovery Flight” with Skyraider aviation out of Centennial Airport (APA) in South Denver. My wonderful wife got me the lesson for our 5th anniversary this January. Skyraider specializes in what is known as Light Sport Aircraft. Sport Pilots and LSA are a fairly new designation with the FAA. The basic point behind them is to allow people to get into aviation at a much lower cost than was previously available. At Centennial, Skyraider has two Gobosh 700 planes, as well as a Remos G-3. I got to fly in the Gobosh 700, which is a really cool airplane (see video below). It has a “Glass Cockpit” (which means digital instrumentation). The pilot uses a stick to control the plane instead of the more common yoke. All of this combined with the easy flight characteristics and great maneuverability makes the gobosh really fun to fly.My flight instructor was a guy named Erik Skjerseth, he seemed very knowledgeable and was easy to learn from. The flight started with a preflight briefing and the standard preflight checks to make sure the plane was ready to fly. We then pulled the plane out of the hanger (using a little hand truck), and climbed up and into the plane. Although I have flown a couple of times before this was the first time I got to climb into the “left seat” so that in and of it self was exciting. Once in the cockpit we turned on the main switches and started the plane. I taxied to the run-up area. The gobosh doesn’t have a steerable nose wheel so you have to steer using your rudder pedals / brakes this took some getting used to so I swerved around a bit. I was concentrating on steering and let the plane get going a little fast. Erik had to tell me to back off the throttle before I set a land speed record. While we sat in the run-up area we revved the engine up to 4500RPM and completed our pre takeoff checklist.
After clearing 338 Mike Foxtrot (our tail number) for takeoff we pulled onto the runway and lined up for takeoff. With my heart beginning to pound a little, I pushed the throttle all the way in, and tried to keep the plane as straight as possible. We quickly hit 40 kts and Erik instructed me to ‘rotate’ the plane for take off. I put a little back pressure on the stick, and we were off the ground. I think Erik was quietly helping me with a little right rudder because the plane didn’t pull to the left nearly as much as it does in the simulator. I was a little steep on my angle of attack after take off so I had to back off the elevators a little and let us build some airspeed for climbing. Once in the air I settled down a bit and began to really enjoy the flight. We spotted parker road ahead and took a right turn to the southeast to follow it.
We headed down over the Pinary towards Franktown to practice some maneuvers. This was great because I live between Franktown and Castle Rock so getting to see the area from 2000 ft AGL was really fun. We spent 40 minutes or so doing turns, climbs, and descents over Castlewood and Mitchell canyons. I felt pretty comfortable maneuvering the aircraft, and had a lot of fun flying it around. For some reason I had a tendency to climb so Erik had to keep asking me to descend. We had to stay under 8500 feet because there is class B airspace above that. The instructor complemented me on my handling of the plane, however, I think he was stroking my ego because I wasn’t really very precise with my maneuvers. In any case the conditions were outstanding and I was having a great time so I took the complement.
All to soon it was time to head back up Parker road and begin our decent into APA. As I made the turn to the north I got one last look at the sun setting behind Pikes Peak what a view!! When we came over the KOA antenna I hit a little bit of turbulence, and the little plane really bounced around. In the turbulence I got a little close to the antenna and got a warning from the instructor and the garmen. We got cleared for a straight in approach, and Erik said I could go ahead and land the plane. My adrenaline definitely went up a notch as I pointed the noise towards the airport and began my final decent. Everything happened really fast as we made the approach. I pulled the lever to put the flaps to 15 and then 40 and pulled back on the throttle to slow the plane. I really didn’t get the plane lined up well early enough so that was a bit stressful. The instructor was very calm and reassuring so I mostly kept my cool. As we came in I again hit a little turbulence, which startled me, and I over corrected with the stick. I got the plane lined up and after a bit of a bumpy touch down we were on the ground safe. While I was happy I got to land the plane I was disappointed it wasn’t a smoother landing. I had made a bunch of pretty good landings in the simulator and thought I would do better in the real thing. Man things really happen fast when you are coming in for that landing.
After pushing the plane back into the hanger for the night I sat and talked with the instructor for a little bit about what the next steps would be in getting my Sport Pilot Certificate. Then, after checking my passport (thanks Osama), he took the virginity of my new blue ASA logbook. I headed to meet Angela at the “Perfect Landing”. There we enjoyed a great dinner watching planes take off and land while I excitedly babbled about my experience.
Now I can’t stop thinking about it, and I really want to get up and fly again!!
Here is a video of one of the Skyraider Instructors flying one of their two Gobosh 700 planes.