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Tailwheel Training in the Condor - a Personal Journey

4 Sep 2018 12:42 PM | ILAS Chairman (Administrator)

To be honest, I did not take a whole lot of notice of the ILAS Condor project while it was developing.  How things have changed!  

I was always very keen that ILAS should pioneer the use of permit aircraft for flight training, but when it eventually became possible, it was too late for me personally.  I felt I had to go ahead with my pilot training because I was getting closer to the completion of my own RV-9 project.  I eventually did so, finally achieving the PPL in November '17.  So I saw the Condor as good for ILAS but not really relevant to me.

If I was starting now, I would certainly do my 'ab initio' training in the Condor.  For one thing, the cost would be perhaps 50% of some of the commercial outfits.

Secondly, my own aircraft will be a 'tail dragger'  like so many permit aircraft in this country.  So training on the Condor would have been especially appropriate for me.  True, EI-BDX is flapless, so I would have had to acquire the skills of approach and landing with flaps on another aircraft.  But that is much easier than transitioning to tailwheel landing from a tri-gear aircraft.

Now, having achieved a PPL in C150s, I need to exercise the privileges of this 'license to learn'.  So it makes complete sense to further my flying education by adding that tailwheel endorsement.  As I write, I am abut 9 hours into that process and it is going to take me another few hours.

However, the result will not be merely an ability to land a tailwheel aircraft but a completely transformed level of 'stick and rudder' flying skills.

So what's it like to fly?  Well, I can tell you that,coming from a series of C150's of about the same vintage, it is a pure joy!  I am okay with overhead wings but the Condor's low wings  just feel so 'right'. Changing from a yoke to a stick, which I was worried about, was just a non-issue from the start and actually feels much more natural.  A particular joy of this type is its responsiveness to the rudder.  In the C150s, I couldn't really feel the rudder and didn't need it that much but BDX gives you such a nice coordinated turn with rudder that you actually enjoy using it correctly.

EI-BDX is in great shape - probably almost as good as when it left the Rollason factory.  But it still has a very 'classic' feel and in comparison to the beat-up C150s I trained in, which are just worn out, it has an atmosphere that I would compare with Triumph Spitfires or Mini-Cooper rally cars of about the same era.

The Rollason Druine Condors were always conceived as training aircraft.  In fact the original business model was that they remained factory owned and were leased out to flight schools across the UK.  It is certainly the case that EI-BDX demands better flying skills.  Obviously, you need to be far better with the rudder to counter P factor on take off and to keep her straight on the ground.  But, in addition, without flaps, speed control in the approach and landing phases is far more important and you also need to be far more active in using the throttle along with pitch to keep a stabilised approach.  

 In comparison, the C150 (the only point of reference I can talk about) can be 'driven' down or dragged in.  It seems to cope with a far wider range of ineptitudes than the Condor and the student pilot won't always know that he or she has done anything wrong.  In the Condor, the threshold can climb up the windscreen or disappear under the nose very quickly unless you get the speed right.  Round-out speeds outside of the optimum range for the conditions (50-60 knots) will result in a very firm arrival or a balloon/bounce.

As a builder, I would love to get stuck in to re-organising the panel of BDX.  Crossing hands to use key controls like mixture and carb heat (both located above my 'stick' hand) is not ideal .  Nonetheless I was working those controls without needing to look at them within the first hour.

Yes, you can learn the basics of flying in a C150 but the Condor will make a pilot of you.  I recommend you give it a go.

Details of the Condor group and how to get flying in EI-BDX can be found by clicking below

Fly the Condor.

I will keep you posted on how I am progressing as my training goes on.  Look out for updates to this post.

Loman O'Byrne

"Irish Light Aviation Society" (ILAS) is a voluntary, non-profit, unincorporated society . c/o 15 Herbert Park, Bray, Co. Wicklow A98 P3X2,Ireland

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