Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beautiful, Nimble, Stout And Fast…

The Extra 330LT hits a homerun

So, what do you do if you're a national aerobatic champion, and you want to get to the next level? If you're Walter Extra, you design a new airplane—and 30 years ago, that's just what he did. At the time, biplanes dominated the highest levels of aerobatic competition; however, the Laser 200 and monoplanes from Sukhoi were beginning to have a serious impact on the world scene. Extra could see the future, and it was in high-powered monoplanes.

His first effort, the Extra 230, first flew in the early '80s, and it set the aerobatic world on fire. It had a 200 hp Lycoming engine, a wooden wing, a steel frame fuselage, and it looked remarkably similar to the Laser. It quickly gained a reputation as one of the best-balanced aerobatic airplanes in the world. A rising star named Patty Wagstaff became an early adopter, winning her first national title in an Extra 230 in 1991. She went on to win two more national titles along with a slew of championships and has dazzled millions with her air shows—all while flying Extras.

A lot has happened since then to keep Walter Extra busy. His designs have continued to place very highly in aerobatic competitions all over the world, and with over 300 in the U.S. fleet alone, Extras have grown in popularity among pilots everywhere. It's hard to count the exact number of models, but it's safe to say that there are close to a dozen. All of them share many basic features.

First, Extras are widely considered to be among the best-looking airplanes ever designed. With a single-seat aerobatic load rating of +/- 10 Gs, they're stronger than a F-16—and even more nimble. These are true composite airplanes with a strong steel cage fuselage, a Kevlar/wood/carbon and glass-fiber wing, fabric and glass-fiber coverings and a wood-core MT propeller. Models include the 200 for cost-conscience buyers, the 300SR designed for Red Bull racing and the 330SC, a no-holds-barred, single-seat version for unlimited competition (flown by Michael Goulian and others). Over the years, the best-selling model has been the fully certified two-seat 300L, which provides a nice balance of power (300 hp), economy and handling for the weekend warrior, with an eye toward more advanced maneuvers or competition.

Introducing The Extra 330LT
Over time, the folks at Extra discovered that although customers bought an Extra for aerobatics, many of them also wanted things like autopilots, cameras, plush, comfortable seats and a full panel with advanced navigation capability. Customers weren't just using all of that stuff to travel between competitions; they were using it for touring, and sharing flying with friends and family. Aerobatic capability was a starting point, but many customers wanted more versatility. So in 2010, the folks at Extra introduced a new model, the Extra 330LT, to address this market, and in the process produced a touring aerobatic plane that lays claim as the fastest normally aspirated production piston aircraft in the world.

The 330LT incorporates a number of unique features. First, there's a whole new wing. Unlike other Extras that have a draggy symmetric airfoil optimized for aerobatics, the LT has an asymmetric airfoil with sleek curved tips optimized for lift and low drag. The design borrows heavily from the Red Bull racer. Large ailerons that span about three-fourths of each wing replace the nearly full-span ailerons used on other Extra models. The "L" in the model designator means that the wing is mounted low on the fuselage. Compared to earlier mid-wing Extras, the low wing helps a bit during landing because it's easier to see the ground just before touchdown, but mainly, the low wing makes it easy to get in and out of the airplane.

1 Comment

Add Comment