I love orange. It’s the color of excitement and adventure. In 1910, when William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson decided to design a logo for their then-fledgling motorcycle company, orange was the color they chose. And when rockabilly great Eddie Cochran belted out “Summertime Blues” from every AM radio station in the country in 1958, that incessant guitar lick came from an orange, model 6120 Gretsch guitar—one of the most recognizable in rock ’n’roll history. Even nature reserves orange for only the most special of offerings: sunsets, habanero peppers, clown fish and Cheetos. An orange airplane, then, is really something.
The Super Decathlon has a storied history, and part of the airplane’s considerable charm comes from that lineage. First conceived in 1970 by Champion Aircraft Corporation, the Decathlon 8KCAB was a derivative of the company’s famous Citabria (that’s “airbatic” spelled backward). It was created as a stronger and more capable airplane that could handle outside maneuvers and extended inverted flight. The Decathlon featured an inverted fuel and oil system and a major redesign of the Citabria wing, resulting in a semi-symmetric airfoil that gave it far better inverted performance. Bellanca Aircraft Corporation bought Champion Aircraft in 1972 and sold a smattering of Decathlons through 1976, before adding a more powerful 180 hp engine and other improvements, resulting in the Super Decathlon. The design went through several manufacturers’ hands throughout the ‘80s aircraft sales slump, and was eventually acquired by American Champion Aircraft in 1990, where it has been in production ever since.