Summer Papple earns her Tailwheel Endorsement!

Summer Papple was the winner of our LadiesLoveTaildraggers 2018 Tailwheel Endorsement Scholarship with Debby Rihn-Harvey. Based on the great pictures and enthusiastic comments from Summer, Harvey-Rihn Aviation in Texas is an excellent choice for our future lady taildragger pilots. Congratulations to new taildragger pilot, Summer Papple!

Summer (front) and Debby (rear)

Wow – what an exceptional experience!  I’ve just spent 4 days earning my tailwheel endorsement in La Porte, Texas!  Thank you Judy Birchler and Ladies Love Taildraggers for this scholarship and the amazing opportunity to train with aerobatic champion Debby Rihn-Harvey!  Debby is a phenomenal instructor and inspirational woman who far exceeded my expectations in the classroom, in the air, and even away from the airport.

Before I arrived I was in awe of flying with such an accomplished pilot but once I met Debby my worries disappeared.  I received such a warm and inviting welcome from Debby, Tammy, and the rest of her staff at Harvey & Rihn Aviation.  Her Super Decathalon was undergoing some unscheduled fabric work so I got to do my tailwheel training in a Citabria – it was my first time flying with an instructor sitting behind me!  During the 4 days of training I flew over 10 hours in the Citabria and with so much training in such a short time I really noticed my progression from flight to flight.  On the first morning taxiing in a taildragger felt like a challenge but by the 3rd day it almost felt second nature and Debby kept me on my toes with the occasional surprise jab on one of the rudders!  Debby was so encouraging and supportive; the training always felt both fun and challenging, and her exclamations of “Awesome!” and “Woo hoo!” from the back seat made me smile.

I had expected to be kept to a schedule but I always felt that Debby had unlimited time to spend with me – from preparing in the classroom for the upcoming flight and reviewing after a flight, to answering all my questions.  Debby went so far above and beyond what I’d expected!  My husband and a friend had come to Houston to split the travel costs with me and Debbie took all of us out to dinner one night at a unique seafood restaurant overlooking the shipping channel that I was so interested in from the air.  She helped them organize activities to do while I was flying, and she took the 3 of us on a wonderful sightseeing flight in a Cessna 172 in the local area and then on to Galveston Island for lunch on a pier.  I flew the first half of the flight and my husband, who’s finishing his Commercial Pilot Licence, flew the return trip.  Debby also taught me about other tailwheel aircraft and gave us a tour of some of the interesting aircraft in her hangars.

I had about an hour and a half of taildragger experience when I arrived and most of my 575 hours so far have been in a Cessna 172.  I really enjoyed flying the Citabria, it’s a fun little plane and it has a sportier feel than a 172. We started with 3 point landings, then moved onto wheel landings, and even wheel-wheel-3 point landings!  In addition to take-offs and landings, I practiced air work: stalls, steep turns, slow flight, Dutch Rolls, spiral descents and yaw recovery exercises.  I even got to fly a couple of extra lessons with Steve, another instructor.  Debby and Steve each took me to RWJ, a residential airport with one grass runway and an intersecting 40’ wide paved runway.  Steve and I practiced touch and go’s on the grass runway and another day I practiced crosswind landings on the narrow paved runway with Debby – what a challenge and sense of accomplishment it was to land on the narrow runway in a crosswind!  This trip was my first experience flying south of the Great Lakes and I couldn’t get enough of the scenery and activity in the La Porte area – there’s always something interesting to see from the air and it’s so different from the quiet countryside and farm fields that I’m used to in Southern Ontario, Canada.

CFI Steve with Summer Papple

While I’m leaving Harvey & Rihn aviation with a tailwheel endorsement in hand, I’m also leaving with so much more.  I’ve gained skills that will carry through to my day-to-day flying in tricycle gear aircraft, I’ve gained competence and a love of flying taildraggers, and I’ve made new aviation friends.  This Ladies Love Taildraggers scholarship has opened my aviation world, helped me become a better and more versatile pilot, and provided me with an experience I will carry with me in the years and flights to come!

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