(March 2012) A couple of years ago, I started flying a Piper Cub, and I have accumulated a good number of tailwheel hours in various types of antique taildraggers. As my time built, I had the opportunity to get some time in some pretty unusual aircraft, which is neat for a 23-year-old kid who is deeply in love with aviation. In one recent instance, I learned a lot, and definitely got more than I bargained for.
It all started when one of my high school buddies called me and told me he was looking for a light taildragger in which to build some time. I gave him my two cents about what aircraft to look for. A while later, he called me and told me he had found a Kitfox that was a good buy and located nearby. He asked me if I would ferry the airplane with him the 50 or so miles across Houston to the airport at which he had a hangar set up. Initially, I was uneasy about flying a homebuilt, especially one I had zero time in and minimal familiarity with. But, he called me a week later and said it had passed the pre-buy inspection and that he and an instructor had flown it around for a while with no problems. It also had passed an annual inspection a few months previously. Based on the information, I decided to help him out.
As the flight approached, I read up on Kitfox flying characteristics and figured that they weren’t too different from a Cub’s — maybe a little more responsive and faster, but nothing that a young kid on his way to Air Force pilot training couldn’t handle. (I am invincible, right?) I read the POH and made a thorough checklist. I even talked to several Kitfox owners I knew, and they too agreed that it shouldn’t be too much for me to handle. I also asked them about using the flaperons; each one made the comment that they didn’t use them and that they affected the aileron controllability, especially with more than 20 degrees of flaps hanging out. So, I decided that I shouldn’t use them, being so green to the airplane in the first place. They also mentioned that a Kitfox doesn’t slow down as quickly as a Cub.
After some (what I thought was) thorough researching, I planned the flight. We would take off and stay close to the field for a good amount of time to make sure we didn’t have any problems. I would perform at least one touch-and-go. We would also fly close to airports along the route so we always had a place to land if necessary.
The day finally came, and we hitched a ride across town to Lane Airpark on the west side of Houston. I performed an inspection as per the POH to make sure everything was A-OK. We strapped in and started the engine. The takeoff was smooth, and I quickly got used to using left rudder as opposed to right rudder (since the engine rotates opposite that of a normal airplane). Once I got this down, we stayed within five miles or so of Lane Airpark and climbed to altitude. After about 20 minutes, I determined everything to be operating normally and thought it would be smart to perform a touch-and-go to get used to the landing characteristics of this Kitfox. I will admit that the first touch-and-go was more of a bounce-and-go.