Top 10 Faux Fighters
Whether you’re a G-junkie or a wannabe Top Gun, there’s a bird out there for you
1. Pitts Specials, $18K–$200K.
If a biplane is your thing—and you’re looking for hair-raising performance, aerobatics and loads of character—you can stop shopping as soon as you hit the Pitts Store. And contrary to popular belief, none of the breed is as difficult to land as their reputation makes them out to be. They do, however, require some well-directed tailwheel training. The good news about Pitts is that there are plenty of them out there, in all price brackets, and there are no wrong decisions here. Any Pitts will let you live out your fighter-pilot daydreams
• S1C, $18K–$25K. The original single-place “flatwing” Pitts, the two-aileron S1C, is a whole lot of airplane for the money. Because they’re all amateur-built, you’ll find varying degrees of quality, but even the best ones are relatively inexpensive. With 150/160 hp, they’re a lot of fun, and you’ll never forget your first takeoff in a 180 hp flatwing.
• S1S, S1T, $35K–$55K. The “roundwing” family of single-place Pitts feature four ailerons and symmetrical wings for better aerobatics and a roll rate most pilots have never seen. The S1S can be found both as homebuilt and factory-built/certified airplanes. The S1T is factory-built only and is a greatly refined version, which features a 200 hp Lycoming and constant-speed prop (all the other single-holes are fixed pitch). These are airplanes for the true adrenaline junkie.
• S2A/B, $50K–$100K. The “A” model is the first series of the two-place Pitts; it uses a 200 hp Lyc and constant-speed prop, while the “B” model uses the six-cylinder 250 hp O-540. Both airplanes are wonderful, with the “B” model being an absolute barn burner in climb.
• S2C, $135K (used), $200K+ (new). Aviat has been cranking out this greatly improved version of the two-place Pitts since 1998, and this rocket ship is fast! You can cruise at 185 mph right side up or upside down! It has super-light ailerons and a blinding roll rate. If this thing doesn’t light your fighter-pilot wick, you’re hopeless.
2. Extra, $100K–$300k.
Like the Pitts, Extras could be one-stop shopping for the faux-fighter fan looking for a finely finished and easy-to-fly monoplane.
• Extra 230. The single-place 230 is an amazingly capable 200 hp competition machine that’s better than most pilots in its ability to cavort. Of course, that’s true of all Extras.
• Extra 200. This is the small-engine, two-place Extra, and it does a terrific job on only 200 hp, although the front seat is a little tight for big folks.
• Extra 300 series. The big-engine (300 hp) Extras led off with the straight 300, which differed from the later airplanes by being a mid-wing airplane (the later ones mount the wing lower for better visibility). The 300L features the low wing and the single-place 300S has all the performance and appearance you can imagine. Patty Wagstaff flies one: ’nough said? Considering their performance, all Extras are among the easiest taildraggers to land.