Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beautiful, Nimble, Stout And Fast…

The Extra 330LT hits a homerun

Takeoff is simple: mixture rich, prop full in, stick back, open the throttle and hang on. Forty knots happens in about four seconds; then bring the tail up with a light push on the stick. Accelerate to 60 knots, lift the nose, and you're sky-bound. There were two of us onboard, and we didn't try very hard, but we were airborne in about 600 feet. Simply hold the stick back the whole time, and you'll be airborne even more quickly. Off the runway, hold 90 KIAS, and you'll see the climb rate hit 2,000-4,000 fpm depending on the conditions. The density altitude was pretty high, and with two of us onboard, the climb rate only just touched 2,000 fpm. Take off at sea level on a cool day with just one onboard, and the same airplane will climb out at close to 4,000 fpm. It's a rocket ship.

If you've never flown a high-performance aerobatic airplane, that might sound a bit intimidating; but you're in for a surprise. Take the controls, and you'll quickly discover that an Extra is an absolute delight to fly. The controls are well-harmonized yet responsive, the visibility is superb, and the airplane will follow any suggestion that you pass to it through the controls. Sit up, pay attention, and you'll quickly find that it's easy to fly more precisely than you ever thought possible. You don't have to be Patty Wagstaff to enjoy this kind of performance.

The first thing I noticed is that the LT flies a bit more nose-low than the 300L, so forward visibility is improved. Second, that new wing definitely makes a difference when it comes to speed. Leveling at 8,500 feet and trimming the power to 2,400 rpm at about 16.5 gph with the throttle wide open, the 330LT rapidly accelerated to 160 KIAS—right at the top of the green arc. That's over 180 knots true, which is about 20 KTAS faster than a 300L at a similar power setting. I've flown the 300L in a formation takeoff with a 330LT and watched in amazement as the LT very quickly disappeared into a dot in the distance. It wasn't even close. The LT has a published top speed of 205 KTAS, so there's just no comparison when it comes to speed. It's basically an airborne Ferrari—only faster.

ABOVE, LEFT TO RIGHT: A new externally accessible baggage area holds a small bag or other items for cross-country trips. The wingtips have been reshaped with rounded edges and swept-up wingtips. The MT prop provides maximum thrust at slow airspeed to aid controllability during slow maneuvers.

How About A Little Akro?
When it comes to aerobatics, how does the 330L akro/touring model compare to the more aerobatically tuned 300L that I normally fly? In cruise, the 330LT has a more stable feel. Hands-off, it flies straight and level, whereas the 300L tends to require minor corrections every 10 seconds or so. Straight and level stability is another virtue that makes the LT well-suited to cross-country flying. My first thought was that all that stability might not be so good for aerobatics, but sometimes first impressions can be wrong!

Rolling inverted, I expected the asymmetric wing to require a noticeably higher nose position than the 300L and inadvertently applied a bit too much forward stick. So, we climbed inverted. Oops, I forgot that the wing is still attached to the fuselage at pretty much zero angle of incidence, so the inverted sight picture between the two airplanes is pretty similar. Hammerheads and loops are easy and super fun. Pitch and roll authority are impressive, and the only thing I missed was an aerobatic sight out on the wing tip. Our demo airplane didn't have one, but the good news is that there's room on the new wing for customers who might want one.

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