Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure

A look at the best aircraft for backcountry exploration

The Third Dimension: Aerobatics
The term “aerobatics” is actually just a little nebulous because not all aerobatics are created equal, and this is a function of both the airplane’s capabilities and the pilot’s skill. It’s quite common for an airplane to have far more capabilities than the pilot (e.g. the Pitts and Extras) so the pilot can grow into it. However, if the pilot has more skill than the airplane, and if the pilot’s goal is something like intermediate or higher competition, they’ll quickly outgrow that airplane, and so it’s important to define the mission ahead of time.

American Champion Aircraft

Citabria Aurora
The Aurora is the baby Citabria with 115 hp. It’s good for entry-level aerobatics, but best at lower altitudes. Price: $113,900.

Citabria Adventure
The 160 hp Citabria Adventure is a great compromise between sport aerobatics and all-around usefulness. A great two-place sport tourer, it clips along at 130-135 mph while doing solid, positive-G aerobatics when you feel like it. Price: $123,900.

Super Decathlon
The Super D is an amazingly good aerobatic airplane with sustained inverted and “outside” capabilities. At the same time, it offers all the same Sunday-afternoon utility as a Citabria with high-comfort levels and reasonable cross-country speeds (140-145 mph). Price: $155,900.

WACO Classic Aircraft

The new-production YMF-5 WACO bipes are actually in a category by themselves. With two people in the front seat, a big round motor (Jacobs, 275 hp or 300 hp) and a cockpit that can be equipped with everything from steam gauges to pure glass, the airplane has one foot, er, wheel, in the antique world and another in the aerobatic world, but both are solidly planted in the world of fun. Price: $398,500.

Extra Aircraft

Extra Aircraft offers aircraft that range from the entry-level, but still butt-kicking, Extra 200 (200 hp), through the 300 series, up to the scorching 330 LT and the unlimited competition 330 hp 330 SC. The Extras have set the standard for modern aerobatic performance and design. Price: $300,000-$378,000.

Aviat Aircraft

The Pitts S-2C is the latest incarnation of Curtis Pitts’ legendary design that first flew in 1945, but the 2011 version is a far cry from the original 55 hp version. With a fire-breathing 260 hp Lycoming and composite three-blade prop, neither the engine, nor the airplane, know right-side up from upside-down. The performance is breathtaking, and the charisma is undeniable. Price: $290,850.


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