Flight of the Fokker Eindecker
It's September 29th 2003 and I'm lazily mulling around my little Fokker wondering if the wind is going to settle down and allow me to test fly my finally completed project. Every inch of the plane has been checked and rechecked for any discrepancies that might prove hazardous in flight. The plane is fueled, the sky clear and the wind is blowing like mad in the wake of a recent cold front. As I sit and anxiously await a break in the wind I can't help but wonder if this was how the First World War aviators felt before their flight to the front lines in search of a fight.
After waiting what seamed like an eternity, I decide that I just can't sit still any longer. I figure that if I can't get it airborne I can at least taxi up and down the runway getting a little more familiar with the ground handling characteristics of this little cloth covered beast. I coolly strap on my flying helmet and slip my foot into the stirrup located on the left hand side of the aircraft. With one swift pull I send my foot over into the cockpit seat and slide gently into the cramped compartment below. As I tighten my safety harness I flash a quick grin to my wife attempting to show my false confidence for success. With my attention now diverted to the instrument panel I begin the process of bringing the massive and earth shattering horsepower of the Rotax power plant to life. I switch the master switch to the "on" position followed by the fuel pump. A few shots of prime and the ignition switches to the "on" position complete the highly technical chain of events required to fire off the two-cylinder behemoth tucked neatly under the nose cowl. With a cool and confident "CLEAR PROP" I push the starter button and wait for the tiny little explosions within the engine to bring the RPM to idle speed. As the engine gauges settle to their operating temperatures I slowly advance the throttle starting a long taxi to the end of the 2200-foot grass strip.
It's now just before dark and the wind has settled enough to attempt a flight. I had played with the plane enough to feel fairly confident on the ground so with the plane positioned at the end of the runway I go through the check list again, sub-consciously prolonging the inevitable attempt at a takeoff. Controls free and clear, dual ignition check, fuel and fuel pump on. All that is left is to check pattern clear and give it all it's worth. I remove my shaking and sweating hands from the controls to dry them on my jeans in anticipation of the upcoming event. Slowly I point the Eindecker down the runway and with one smooth motion I force the throttle lever to the stop. The rotax screams with authority as the plane starts it's acceleration to takeoff speed. A slight fwd motion on the stick unseats the tail wheel from the earth as I apply a very light pressure on the rudder petals to keep her guided in the right direction. A quick glance at the airspeed and tachometer assure me that the engine is putting out enough power to get the job done. As I pull back slowly on the stick I feel the little Fokker surrender to gravity and start a climb into the cool September evening. From my peripheral view I can see the ground quickly slipping away beneath me as the plane is climbing with surprising authority given that the wings are so short. I was maintaining a 50 MPH climb speed with little effort on the controls. The elevator and rudder were extremely sensitive as compared to the ailerons which felt as though they were firmly seated in cement. She was flying straight and true so I relaxed a little and let her build some altitude before my first turn. The pattern at this particular field is a right hand pattern so I leveled out the climb, reduced power to cruise and started a right turn to the down wind. As soon I bank the wings and start the turn I'm hit with a massive volume of air on the left side of my head. It takes me a few seconds to realize that I'm feeling the effects of an uncoordinated turn and am suddenly aware of how much more of an attention getter this is over the ball. With the plane back in coordination I complete the turn and head down wind to setup for an approach to the field. I decide to fly out farther and try a left hand turn only to find that again the plane slips into an uncoordinated turn with incredible ease. Nothing light rudder pressure doesn't cure but it tends to get into a slip or skid very quickly. I maneuver the plane in on a high and long decent for landing and pull the power back to 5000 RPM. The Eindecker settles into a beautiful decent and provides a very good view of the runway ahead. As I near the trees I get a few light bumps from the wind and start to reduce power a little more as I break over the threshold of the runway. I opt to keep the airspeed high and just feel for the ground in a wheel landing which proves to be of little effort for the Eindecker. She settles in perfectly on the mains and is a breeze to control as the tail slowly drops to the ground. As I taxi to my parking spot I begin to feel the thrill of what had just occurred. I had just completed my first ever test hop in an airplane I built in the basement. What an idiot I am! But I still love it!
I cannot explain the feeling of this first flight and will not even try to. I will obviously be doing more testing but up to this point I have learned that the Eindecker is an outstanding machine that I intend to enjoy to the fullest.