Taxi Testing

May 2008

Now that I have my taildragger endorsement, I feel a little more confident about taxi testing the Bearhawk.  Taxi testing will not harm a new or newly overhauled engine as long as you carefully monitor the cylinder head temperatures and don't let them get over about 350 degrees and watch the oil temps as well.

The purpose of taxi testing is to test the brakes and rudder pedal control, the engine reliability to some extent and probably most importantly, to ingrain the sight picture into your memory.  You will eventually memorize what the airplane looks like while sitting on the ground, on the runway in the three point position and going straight.  This helps you when you are in the flare, just before the tires touch on landing.

I picked some days with little or no winds for the taxi testing. I started off slowly just taxiing back and forth the length of the runway at about a fast walk pace.  Once I was able to do that with no swerving, I increased the speed to about a fast jogging pace:

I am fortunate that the airport is a unicom only airport and had almost no aircraft traffic at all on the days that I taxi tested. I basically did this for about an hour every day for 3 days until I was thoroughly comfortable and confident taxi testing the aircraft.

A couple of times I got the aircraft up to about 35 mph and pushed the stick forward, raising the tail and then continued down the runway on just the mains, keeping it on the centerline the whole way, then slowly eased back on the throttle and eased the tail down gradually until I was once again in the 3-point attitude:

CAUTION:  I later found out from several friends on the internet that this is a very dangerous practice.  If you will look carefully at the picture above, you will see that the landing gear is very extended, which means that I was very close to flying it at that point and didn't know it.  The Bearhawk will fly at very low speeds and any little gust of air would have had me leaving the ground before I was ready.  I DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT YOU TRY THIS! It's too easy to lose it.

Well, that's about it for the taxi testing.  Its time to fly it.  I'll get my support crew together and off I go into the wild blue yonder.

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