I went out for a little commercial maneuver practice yesterday, and when I walked out of the building toward the plane, this greeted me:
Cool! The "new" Decathalon has arrived! Husband is pretty excited about this-- he really wants to get his tailwheel endorsement (as do I)... and this plane just LOOKS fun! It's occupying the spot next to us for now, so I got to spend a lot of time looking at it as I did my preflight.
After pulling myself away from this pleasure, I headed out to the other side of the ridge to do a little practicing. I first did commercial steep turns (steep turns, but to more than 50* and connecting a left and right one together to form a figure eight). These went okay-- which isn't that surprising since 45* steep turns are part of your private checkride. My first one wasn't so great, but I pretty quickly got it together. I practiced them starting from both the left and the right. Surprisingly, the ones from the right were a little better.
Next I practiced Chandelles. I first had to reteach myself about these as my lesson last week felt very long ago. The basic idea is that you're doing a climbing 180* turn at full power. When you finish, you should be going the opposite direction and your airspeed should be 5-10 kts above a stall. These are all about finesse-- and knowing your airplane. I think I managed to pull off at least one decent one in both directions, though I had to take a moment and review the picture I had brought along to remind myself of the mechanics.
Finally, I practiced Lazy 8s. These are where you do two 180* climbing and descending turns back to back-- with the power at a constant setting. I had a really hard time with these. I kept trying to do it like the picture said-- nose up to ~15* pitch, slowly bank to 15* and then to 30*, then slowly remove the pitch and then bank and come back to neutral... then repeat in opposite direction. I couldn't get it at all. I was about to give up and call it a day when I decided to try it again-- but this time by feel. That time, I think I got pretty close. That makes me think I was probably over-thinking the maneuver. By keeping in my mind what the airplane should look like, I could fly it almost by feel, though I still did an occasional check of the instruments to verify my progress.
After a few of these, traffic in the area significantly picked up. I think there were three other Av-Ed planes all doing maneuvers. Without an instructor or safety pilot to help watch for traffic while I concentrated on putting the airplane through its paces, I decided to head back in. What a beautiful evening! As I returned to JYO, I realized the clouds had lifted even more-- and visibility was great. I could see Leesburg, Reston, Tysons Corner, and even DC in the distance. It was awesome-- literally. I did a soft-field landing, just for kicks. Considering I haven't done one in ages, it was pretty good. As I left the airport after tidying up Good Dog, I realized that I had a huge grin on my face. Life was good.