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.”|
“That might be the first figure maneuver, and you might have nine or more of those in your program,” adds Finagin. Quick, break out the Bonine.
The lively, snappy way the Pitts performs those types of maneuvers is why Finagin and many other pilots love it so much. “It’s the ability of the airplane to do whatever you want it to do,” affirms Finagin. “I’ve owned a Cardinal and flown Cessnas and Bonanzas, and they’re all wonderful airplanes. I enjoy flying all of them, but I confess it’s like driving your car. You can enjoy a drive, but there’s not the passion that’s ignited in an aerobatic airplane. Just to know you have the ability to go straight up, roll, go straight down, and virtually at will—in legal airspace, of course—and have that feeling of being an integral part of the airplane is what makes it so special.”
Lately, Finagin has helped some airports get on the air-show map. “On my way to Oshkosh 2004, I got weathered in at Martinsburg, West Virginia,” he recalls. “I talked to George Smith, owner of the local FBO AeroSmith. They hadn’t had an air show for over 10 years and wanted one. ‘I’ll set it up for you for nothing,’ I offered, and they couldn’t resist.
“I met with the airport board, laid out an appealing show with civilian jets, military warbirds, static displays, even a wing-walking barnstormer. And they believed in me and said ‘yes.’”
The show this past summer drew more than 20,000 people in its two days and was a big success. Says Finagin, “My general philosophy was give the crowd more than they expect, and they’ll be repeat patrons next year.”
For Bill Finagin, life is just one big happy drill, whether he’s drilling holes in the sky, teeth in the chair, students in the cockpit or air-show organizers on how to do it right. “I still consider it just a hobby. If it became a job, I’d quit.”
SPECS: Aviat Pitts S2C