Monday, October 1, 2007
Flying Patty Wagstaff’s “girly” Extra 300S
Starting the new Lycoming IO-580 required prolonged priming that would have easily flooded most other injected engines. Even so, it took two tries to get enough fuel to the injectors. Once running, the engine settled into a nice, hefty idle.
The rudder pedals have stirrups, and the toe brakes were right under the balls of my feet. I made sure to butt my heels against the lower portions of the pedal assemblies to remain clear of the brakes. It would be good practice for later.
The run-up and takeoff were all standard, except that when this airplane is ready to go, it goes! The rudder had lots of authority from the start of the roll and remained light, powerful and immediately responsive throughout the entire flight.
The wing tanks still had between 20 and 25 gallons of fuel, so any acro had to be limited to just +6/-3 G's. But this was only an introductory flight; hard G was unnecessary. I tried the ailerons on the way out of the pattern and found them delightfully responsive, even with the "burdensome" mass of wing fuel. Getting a 30-plus-degree bank took such little time that the stick didn't even reach half-travel—just a split-second pulse, and the bank was there. The Extra reached 3,000 feet AGL less than 5 nm from liftoff and leveled off at "24 cubed" (24-inch MAP, 2,400 rpm and 24 gph fuel flow). Patty said the IO-580 was thirsty, but this was ridiculous. Fortunately, the mixture came way back without the EGT going above 1,200 degrees, and the fuel flow settled down to about 17 or 18 gph. The ASI sat firmly at the top of the green arc—158 knots—affirming that this was a fast, overpowered hot rod. The wing fuel had to be burned out, so little attention was spent trying to lean to an ideal mixture setting.
I started with some mild, smooth acro: aileron rolls, barrel rolls, a loop and a wingover. The ability to sustain G was phenomenal, and the G squeeze lasted much longer than in the S2A. The over-the-top maneuvers peaked at more than 1,000 feet above their entry altitudes and felt effortlessly liquid, especially compared to the Pitts. All this at a medium cruise setting of between 20 and 24 inches of MAP—and with wing fuel! Oh, my...
Because aerobatic pilots have to manipulate the angle of attack with finesse and accuracy, I thought a stall or two might be in order. So with the area cleared, power came to idle and I eased the stick back. The airplane is slick enough that the pitch rate was too fast, resulting in a climb. When it finally let go at less than 60 KIAS, the airflow was plainly audible as it detached from the canopy. It sounded like a breeze whispering through bedsheets on a clothesline. The wing behaved well enough that it maintained aileron control. I added power—10 inches MAP—and put it into a 40-degree left bank. It flew at 60 to 65 KIAS. Throttle was forward to 24 squared and the nose up to 40-plus degrees. When it stalled in this configuration, the airplane had more than enough rudder to maintain directional control. Easing the nose down slightly got the Extra flying again. The power-on stall had netted more than 1,500 feet.
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