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!
| “I imagine that it’s something like taking drugs,” says Bill Finagin, Pitts Special Pilote Incroyable. 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.”|
Stress limits are beefed up, too, up to +6 G’s/-5 G’s. “The top speeds are similar—I’ve found it to be the same or slightly faster than the S2B. It has a three-blade composite Hartzell propeller [called The Claw] that significantly increases the performance envelope and makes it much smoother,” says Finagin.
He finds climb “significantly better, too. Pushing over at the top of a maneuver, it has improved ‘tractor’ power—pulls you right over and helps you keep your altitude.”
“I’d say every aspect of performance has been improved. It’s even easier to land,” continues Finagin. “The slightly larger wing area gives you slower landings. It just seems to track better than the B model. And the dorsal horns make for more efficient and effective rudder and elevator control.”
How does it stand up to other aerobatic aircraft, such as the Edge, Sukhoi and Extra?
“Well, those are all monoplanes, so you’ll see them mostly flying in the unlimited aerobatic category, as defined by the IAC [International Aerobatic Club],” explains Finagin.
There are five categories in the IAC’s aero competition galaxy: Primary, Sportsman, Intermediate, Advanced and Unlimited.
“The Pitts can fly an Unlimited aerobatic sequence, but it would be a struggle to score as well as monoplanes, given the same quality pilot. But the Pitts is very competitive in the Advanced, Intermediate and Sportsman categories,” gloats Finagin.
After many years at the Sportsman level, Finagin moved up to Intermediate. In 1989, he won the Intermediate category at Fond du Lac, Wis., which was where the big IAC competition took place for many years in the week following the EAA AirVenture fly-in convention in Oshkosh, Wis.
“I won that two years in a row. I then felt some pressure and obligation to move up to Advanced.” He continues to compete in that category in five to 10 contests per year.
Each acro category begins with compulsory maneuvers, such as specified loops and rolls. “In contest flying, there are inside- and outside-G maneuvers. As you move up in category, you increase your difficulty. Intermediate adds a few outside maneuvers; Advanced adds even more. In competition, all the maneuvers must be done in complete control at all times. The contests are set up to be quite conservative and very safe,” assures Finagin.
A typical Advanced routine might include a 45-degree climb up, four quarter rolls right or left, then push over into a negative outside loop, take it three-fourths of the way around, do a half-roll to upright, another half-roll to a 45-degree climb again, then roll inverted to straight and level but upside down.