Plane & Pilot
Monday, October 1, 2007

Bad Girl

Flying Patty Wagstaff’s “girly” Extra 300S

Opportunity Knocks
There I sat as the consequence of a misunderstanding, watching the ground drop away at a satisfyingly rapid rate. I anticipated a high nose attitude, but still underestimated and had to keep pulling back on the stick—even while setting the throttle and prop to "25 squared" out of concern for the noise-sensitive airport neighbors. I tried to hold 90 knots and reached the end of the 5,000-foot-long runway passing through 1,100 AGL. And the plane wasn't even trying!

So how does an underemployed acro instructor and airport rat wrangle a ride in one of the air show industry's hottest birds? It goes something like this…

Patty Wagstaff is a long-time, dear friend. Jay Land and his son Alex are flying buddies of both Patty and me. They have an Extra 300L in their stable and had recently acquired a Sukhoi Su-26. Jay e-mailed pictures of the Sukhoi's new paint. I'm a big Sukhoi fan, so I replied that if "it" needed to be exercised, I'd be happy to do what I could. I copied the e-mail to Patty, along with the pictures.

First I got a response from Jay, who assumed I meant that I'd exercise their Extra; Alex was going to have first dibs on the Sukhoi. The same day I got an e-mail from Patty; she thought I meant exercising her Extra.

I've teased Patty for years—being a Sukhoi snob—that the Extra is a girly airplane. Well, I may be a snob, but I'm not an idiot, so after the 2006 NAS Jacksonville Air Show in Florida concluded, Patty's crew chief and ferry pilot, Gene Powers, delivered one slightly used Extra to our airport. It was safely tucked into the T-hangar with my Pitts S2A, and I had some time to think about what had just happened. A clear schedule and good weather presented themselves a few days later.


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