YAK 52 - My first impression

The first cut is the Deepest.  RA 02293 Steve Lim - CPL/IR PPL/QFI

I was invited to go up in the Yak by Arthur one day. Now, I have been flying for nearly 21 years and had never been in a radial-engined aircraft before, and I still remembered snapping up the offer before he could quite finish uttering the words wanna a ride in the back of the Ya He nearly lost his right arm that day, and that was during his medical for a CAA medical renewal!

My first impression of the aircraft was its a long way off the ground to get up onto the wing. Once strapped in, it felt roomy and exciting, as you can see all the cables and levers moving. The throttle grip is what I called man-size, and it felt solid like gripping someone's fist (trust me - Im a doctor !).

ENGINE START- I loved it! Nice solid growl. It meant business and it wanted to play.
TAXYING - Oh dear! Really showed myself up here. The combination of a castoring nose wheel, and judicial use of the pneumatic brakes must have given the spectators a good giggle, and the instructor a heart attack; probably from embarrassment. But after a few sessions, I can assure you that it can be mastered with a bit of anticipation.

THE take-off was breathtaking. After lining up on the centre line, everything just happened as soon as the power went on and the brakes went off. You just seem to go where the nose is pointing in the sky. None of your toe pressures on the rudder pedals, you needed bootfuls to keep that ball centralised. The flying was magic. It reminded me of my old Labrador dog, Cinders, who use to stay faithfully by your side, quietly watching, and just looking up every now and then to catch your eyes, to see if you were ready to play. I would say that the Yak is easy to fly for fun, but challenging to fly well and accurately. The most difficult part of that first flight was knowing where to look for the correct instrument, and guessing what the figures ( in metric) were telling you. Again, it boils down to practice.

THE approach was something else. From where I thought it would be a definite overshoot into the next county in the old Piper PA 28, in the Yak, once the power was reduced, and the flaps were deployed, you felt that you were comfortably held back by all that drag to make an reasonable short field landing; but more of the technique another time! It definitely helps if you are familiar with a tail-dragger type of approach and landing.

THE NEXT SESSION - after having been spoilt by the impression of near ecstacy and easy handling, Arthur informed me that the current training programme involved getting out of every situation that the A/C is capable of getting you into, and for a start, that involved a DYNAMIC STALL ( whats that ?- he enquired innocently). Put the A/C into a steep turn, then start pulling harder and harder, and see what happens! As the scenery ahead exploded into a whirlpool, I tried hard to keep my stomach down below my throat, and at the same time tried to act nonchalant by asking seemingly intellectual questions like - can you make it turn the other direction ? to which Arthur replied - it all depends on which rudder pedal pressure you have on. Let me show you!

ARG...... THE INSTRUCTIONS - At the local club, we pride ourselves by making the difficult excercises seem manageable to the student, and to give the impression that flying is not beyond the grasp of the average student pilot, in case we scared them off. A lot of minor annoyances from the customers, and an equally large amount of tolerances excercised by the instructors seem to compensate for each other. However, the Russian training techniques, not having been spoilt by having to put up with such pampering in the past, could at first sight seem harsh for the uninitiated or unhumiliated trainee. My first telling off by the CFI was for releasing the parking brakes and taxying before the oil temperature has reached the recommended level; I didn't even know which dial I was supposed to be looking at! But I do think that this sort of aviation discipline is well worthwhile and is sadly lacking in modern western style of training where we are all trying hard to be make-believe airline pilots, and less and less emphasis is put on Looking After the aircraft, and to be part of the Man-Machine unit. I would readily humble myself and accept any further criticisms and instructions in this process of learning to become a complete airman.

THE FUTURE - I look forward to the day when I can feel as much at ease with flying the YAK as my instructors do, they can make the aircraft sing and dance to their tune! Many thanks to Gena, Victor, and especially Arthur for their inspirations and my aspirations.

PERSONAL IMPRESSIONS - Don't let the wife know about the size of my Overdraft and the colour of my Underwear!