Wednesday, February 1, 2006
The Complete Corkscrew Pilot
Here’s the drill: Drill hundreds of students to fly a Pitts, drill on teeth for a living, then drill holes in the sky for the weekend...in a Pitts S2C!
The affable, energetic 68-year-old (who looks and acts 15 years younger) is talking about mounting up in his favorite aerial steed—the Pitts S2C. "It's a difficult relationship to tell somebody about," he says with a chuckle, "but when I get into that airplane, I'm that kid in the big candy store for the first time. I've never had a flight in a Pitts I haven't loved."
Pressed to elaborate, he says simply, "It becomes a part of you when you're in the air."
There's no doubting Finagin's sincerity on the topic of man and machine melding. Earlier, the crowd was wowed at the Warrenton summer air show in Virginia as he cavorted all over the humid skies in his S2C. Minutes later, he led a challenging three-ship formation into the muggy, mildly turbulent conditions for Plane & Pilot's photo shoot.
Nimbly twisting the little red biplane into different positions for the lens, he expertly wrangled two fellow Pitts pilots with little formation flying experience into a difficult three-ship lineup.
Throughout the aerial rigors, Finagin—aerobatic stunt performer and veteran instructor, longtime Pitts dealer, retired dentist and former dental college instructor—gave the lie to the old saw about medical types being poor pilots. This guy can make a Pitts dance! "There's nothing like a Pitts Special. It's why I became a dealer," beams Finagin.
Initially, he had no interest in selling the aerobatic biplane that has carved out an enduring niche in aerobatic lore; he was too busy turning the world upside down for himself and his many students.
"When I was a boy, we didn't have all the diversions kids have today. I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time looking up at the sky. I was fascinated by airplanes," Finagin recalls.
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