stick & rudder
When the Strut Breaks...
Fly the plane
CRAIG RODBERG, EAA 452480
It was the first nice summer day after a cold wet spring,
and I was taking my 4-year-old son, Grant, flying in
my 1966 Citabria. I’d logged a few hours over the
winter and spring, but this was the first time since the
previous fall that the weather was nice enough for him
to sit in the drafty, unheated copilot seat. We strapped
ourselves into the truck and departed for the airport.
Oops, turn around…forgot the booster seat that fits into
the Citabria. With it, Grant can see out the windows, and
he’s safer, as well.
The plan was to depart Flying Cloud Airport (FCM) in
Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and fly to St. Paul Downtown
Airport-Holman Field (STP) for a pancake breakfast and to
visit our aviation friends. Then
it would be on to South St. Paul
E Fleming Field (SGS) to see
more friends and the aircraft
at the Minnesota Wing of the
Commemorative Air Force.
We enjoyed the sunshine
and light southwest wind
as we prepped the Citabria.
I did a few cleanup tasks to
make the airplane presentable at the fly-in. Fuel was full,
windscreen clean, and oil level good. We finally closed the
hangar door and mounted up. The airplane popped right
up, making the putt-putt sound of the O-235 that brings
it to life. We checked the gauges, radio, brakes, and then
taxied to where the tower can see us and called in for our
taxi clearance. Grant even remembered not to talk while
there was chatter on the radio.
We taxied to Runway 18 to perform our run-up. All was
well; the Citabria just as ready to go on this fine day as we
were. “Run-up is done, Grant, are you still buckled in and
ready to go?” I asked before calling the tower for takeoff.
A moment later I had a clearance and was on the runway.
Stick back and to the right, power up, tach good, gaining
speed, tail up a little and stick back toward center a little.
I felt a slight wobble on the wheels and added some more
right stick, waited for another 5 or 10 mph, and we were off!
Three-Four Victor, You Have a Problem
As we climbed past the tower I heard over the radio, “
Three-four Victor, looks like something’s wrong with your landing
gear.” A thought went through my stunned head, “Hey, I’m
a 3-4 Victor,” so I responded, “Tower, this is 8334 Victor,
was that for me?” It was, and the controller answered,
“Yes, 8334 Victor; it looks like your right landing gear has
More denial on my part, but I looked out the right window
and down. I didn’t see the landing gear. I took a look out the
More denial on my part, but I looked out
the right window and down. I didn’t see
the landing gear.
left side; there it was, right where it was supposed to be. Back
for another look out the right window, yep…something was
wrong with that gear. The tower controller called again and
asked if I wanted to fly by and have the controllers take a
closer look. “Affirmative,” and I circled right to fly by the
tower. They told me that my right gear was just hanging
there and asked what my intentions were.
I told them I’d like to depart the area and think a little. I
flew just outside the Class D airspace and started thinking of
what I’d need to do. I had read a lot and knew that landing
with a bad gear was not likely to injure us, as long as I
continued to fly the airplane.
Now what else to do? I had three hours worth of fuel.
Should I fly around for a while to burn it off? I knew it