Aerobatic Ride with Michael Mancuso in the Extra 300L

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The second of my 2007 aerobatic rides!

The show starts out with an update on my instrument training, including cockpit audio. Then we get into the ride, complete with audio from the MicroTrack 96/24 plugged into the Extra’s intercom.

Michael Mancuso is in his 10th year doing shows. He has 7,000 hours total time and commercial and instructor certificates. He started flying gliders at age 11 and soloed for the first time when he was 13. He and his family own Mid Island Air Service on Long Island in New York and Michael started Gyroscopic Obsessions in 1995 to teach aerobatics. He competed in IAC aerobatics from 1992 to 1997 and then spent from 1998 to 2000 with the Northern Lights.

Michael flies the Extra 300L. The 300L is about 23 feet long and nine feet tall at the tail, and has a wingspan of about 25 feet. It’s powered by a Textron Lycoming AEIO 540-L1B5 300 horsepower engine connected to an MT three-blade prop that pulls the aircraft through the air at 170 knots when cruising at 75% power. It’ll get off the pavement in 315 feet, climb at more than 3,000 feet per minute, pull plus and minus 10 g’s, and do all kinds of crowd-pleasing gyrations between its 55-knot stall speed and Vne of 220 knots. The aircraft is built in Germany and certified in the United States.

The Extra on the ramp when I arrived. Taking on fuel and getting ready for a morning of flying media riders. How nice is Mike? And I’ll bet you that going that Extra mile (pun intended) gets really valuable exposure for his sponsors that they wouldn’t otherwise receive. All this and flying two demos a day at the actual show? That’s hard work.

The guy scheduled to go after me cancelled when he got his signals uncrossed and figured out that this was an aerobatic flight and not a balloon ride. Gotta pay attention to who’s in town, my friend! This is Michael Mancuso we’re talking about! Anyway, since when does a balloon ride start at 9:00 a.m.? Not with any balloon pilot with whom I’d ride.

This is throw-the-airplane-ass-over-tea-kettle-high-over-Gull-Lake time!

Arriving back after the ride. My glasses came off as I took off the headset and – “sproing!” went flying into Michael’s lap. That’s alright. A ride like that and I’m set for the week.

Last shot on the ramp for the day. Then it’s time to go sit in the Meijer parking lot and let my vestibular system reset while awaiting the Blue Angels’ arrival a few hours later and the rendezvous with photographer par excellence Dan McNew for the interview with Craig Olson.

Great interview with a great naval aviator, but the ride makes Michael the Airspeed MVP for this trip to BTL!

Here’s the maneuver I discuss in the audio. Michael performs barrel rolls around an inverted Matt Chapman’s track on Sunday. You need to be on the ground and at the fence to really appreciate this. Precision in all three axes and power management to boot. Unreal. I hope the non-pilots in the audience recognize the difficulty of this thing that Michael makes look so easy.

Contact Information for Michael:

Michael Mancuso Airshows
Brookhaven Airport
139 Dawn Drive
Shirley, New York 11967
Phone: 516-359-9948
e-mail: or

John Mohr: Energy Management in a Gorgeous Boeing Stearman PT-17

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As many of you know, I spent a long weekend at the Battle Creek Balloon Festival and Field of Flight Air Show in Battle Creek, Michigan this year.

Barb and everyone else there did a great job of selecting a really good range of performers. There was something there for everyone. I really liked every performance that I saw. There were absolutely no flies on any of the performers and everyone demonstrated the very best of what his aircraft offered. But one performer in particular made me stop and really watch closely.

Out there at air show center was a blue and gold Boeing Stearman PT-17 doing really amazing stuff.

I don’t think that most of the audience really understood what it was watching. I can’t blame anyone for being the most thrilled about the jet teams, but I realized that what I was watching was probably the best stick and rudder work of the whole air show.

The PT-17 probably has the lowest thrust-to-weight ratio of any of the aircraft in the show. It has a big Continental R670-series engine, but it’s a 1943 vintage engine that doesn’t put out a lot of horsepower and it’s hauling a really big airframe around.

It has an exclusively gravity-fed fuel system with no boost pump and, when goes inverted for too long, the engine burns whatever fuel is in the lines and then quits. The pilot then has to get right side up and stay that way until either the gravity feed system gets fuel back to the windmilling engine or he can land.

Except for the final sequence, the PT-17 did the entire show below 500 feet AGL and that included a lot at 200 AGL or lower.

For my money, it was the best demonstration of energy management I’ve ever seen. And that’s kind of cool for those of us who fly more average general aviation aircraft. I really enjoy seeing Brett Hunter and Michael Mancuso and Mike Goulian tear up the sly and those guys are cutting-edge pilots in anybody’s book. But a big part of my appreciation for their particular demonstrations has to do with the raw power of their respective aircraft.

The chances are excellent that I’ll never fly an airplane that hot. But the chances are as good as my flight in a Cessna 172 on Tuesday that I’ll fly an aircraft with a much less dramatic thrust-to-weight ratio that that will require skill and balance much further down the thrust-to-weight curve. I was in awe at how far ahead of the airplane the PT-17 pilot was and saw a great demonstration of excursions into parts of the flight envelope that are a lot more akin to what I experience.

I guess I’m saying that the Blue Angels, Mancuso, Goulian, and others fed my soul that day, but the PT-17 and its pilot taught me some things. I came away a little ashamed at how much I hate the mushy feeling of slow flight and being behind the power curve, even though I’m in an airplane of very modern design and have thousands of feet under me whenever I do it. The truth of the matter is that’s where the best of the best really shine and it’s one of the proudest maneuvers of a true stick-and-rudder pilot.

Late Sunday afternoon while waiting for a balloon slot, I hitched a ride to the ramp at Duncan with the WGVU team I met last year in the hopes of snagging an interview or two. And what should be on the ramp but that gorgeous PT-17.

I was lucky enough to meet and interview the pilot of that PT-17, John Mohr of Mohr Barnstorming.

The audio here is a little noisy. The winds were pretty high out on the field and they were tearing down the ramp at Duncan Aviation at five to 20 knots. The MicroTrack 24/96 is a great little machine, but it’s tough to gyrate around and keep it shielded from the wind. Sure, we could have done the interview in the hangar, but means ten fewer minutes standing next to a really beautiful aircraft and, given that choice, you know what I’ll choose every single time.


I need to interject from the studio here. John’s a real pro and I could have run the interview as recorded without editing, but I want you guys to hear this. Here’s a part of his performance from the previous day where he stays inverted long enough that the engine quits from fuel starvation.


Okay, back to the ramp.


John will be at Oshkosh July 23 through 29 and then he performs August 11-12 at the Bay City Air Show at Bay City, Michigan, August 18-19 at the Canada Remembers Air Show at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and then August 25-26 at the Wichita Flight Festival at Withica, Kansas. After that, it’s on to Toronto, Terre Haute, Columbus, St. Petersburg, Randolph AFB, and Stuart, Florida. See more schedule information at

Thanks to John for taking some time to talk to us at Airspeed and thanks also to the Battle Creek Balloon Festival and Field of Flight Air Show.

Another reminder that Pod-a-Palooza is scheduled to take place at Oshkosh on Friday, July 27 at 5:30 in Forum No. 2. Time and place is subject to change up to – and even during – the event, so please be sure to check the schedules when you arrive. It’s organized by the guys at The Pilotcast. Scheduled to appear are Pilot Mike, Pilot Dan, and Pilot Kent of The Pilotcast, Jack Hodgson, Dave Higdon, and Jeb Burnside of Uncontrolled Airspace, Jason Miller of The Finer Points and The CFIcast, Private Pilot/Student Pilot Will of The Student Pilot Flight PodLog, and, of course, yours truly, Stephen Force.

Join us! It’s a chance to actually meet the voices in your head!

Blue Angels Opposing Solo LCDR Craig Olson

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Lieutenant Commander Craig Olson comes from Kirkland, Washington. He attended Central Washington University and earned B.S. in Aeronautical Science. In March of 1994, he reported to Officer Candidate School at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida, and was commissioned as an ensign in August 1994.

Olson completed primary flight training at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, and transferred to NAS Kingsville, Texas, for intermediated and advanced jet training, flying the new T-45 Goshawk at Training Squadron 22 (VT-22). He received his wings of gold in April 1996.

Olson remained with VT-22 as an instructor pilot in the T045 as a Selectively Retained Graduate (SERGRAD). In April 1997 he reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 125 (VFA-125), at NAS Lemoore, California, for replacement pilot training in the F/A-18 Hornet.

In January 1998, Olson reported to the VFA-22 “Fighting Redcocks.” White there he completed to sets of work-ups and a six-month Western Pacific deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), flying combat missions in support of Operation Southern Watch. During his tour with VFA-22, Olson served as the Schedules Officer, Aircraft Division Officer, Air-to-Air Weapons training Officer, and Landing Signals Officer (LSO).

In January 2001, Olson reported to the VFA-122 “Flying Eagles” also based at NAS Lemoore, as an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet instructor pilot. While at VFA-122, Olson served as an OSO, T-34C program phase head and Ground Safety Officer.

He transferred to the VFA-106 “Gladiators” at NAS Oceana in December 2005, where he requalified in the Super Hornet and served as an Instructor Pilot. He reported to the “Fighting Swordsmen” of VFA-32 also at NAS Oceana in April 2006, where he served as the Operations Officer and Safety Officer.

He joined the Blue Angels in November 2002 and returned in April 2007. He has accumulated more than 3,500 flight hours and 345 carrier arrested landings.

As many of you know, Olson did not start the 2007 season with the Blue Angels. He replaces LCDR Kevin Davis, who was killed on April 21 toward the end of a demonstration flight at Naval Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina. LCDR Olson rejoined the Blue Angels as the opposing solo pilot in the No. 6 jet. The team resumed practices soon after the accident and LCDR Olson resumed his duties as a solo, reintegrating into the team after having returned to the fleet a year and a half ago.

Dan McNew and I were treated to a Blue angels demonstration flight from the ramp of the Western Michigan University School of Aviation on the northeast corner of the field at Battle Creek International Airport (KBTL) in Battle Creek, Michigan. The Blue Angels arrived at about 10:30 local and the diamond and the solos, respectively, flew familiarization maneuvers between then and 2:30. The team then flew a full demo before meeting us out by the aircraft for interviews.

Thanks again to LCDR Craig Olson for joining us on Airspeed. You can find out more about the Blue Angels at The US Navy is running open houses and recruitment efforts in connection with several of the Blue Angels’ appearances. It’s Detroit Navy week here in southeast Michigan. If you’re age 18 to 24 and want to obtain free tickets to the show and an opportunity to meet the Blue Angels, check with your local Navy recruiting office.

The Blue Angels will be appearing around the country all summer and into the fall.

7-8 Ypsilanti, Michigan (Willow Run Airport)
14-15 McConnell AFB, Kansas
21 Pensacola Beach – Florida
28-29 Bozeman, Montana

04-05 Seattle, Washington
11-12 Hillsboro, Oregon
25 – 26 Indianapolis, Indiana

Demos continue through August, September, and October until the final show of the year scheduled for November 9-10 at NAS Pensacola, Florida.


Blue Angels:

US Navy Recruiting:

US Marine Corps Recruiting:

Battle Creek – Day One – On the Ramp with the Blue Angels and More!

This is a regular blog post. Looking for show notes? See below.

Spent yesterday at the Battle Creek Balloon Festival and Field of Flight Air Show. Too much fun! Beats the first day of last year any time!

Got a media flight with Michael Mancuso in the morning. Fantastic aerobatic experience. Even whacked my head on the canopy during the hard four-point roll. Didn’t hurl. Happy about that. Can’t wait to post that audio, but I need to edit it and give the proper attention. Different from the Brett Hunter ride in some ways. Did an aggressive ass-over-teakettle gyroscopic mindbender toward the end. Yeah, baby!

The Blue Angels arrived at 10:30 and cased the field for an hour or so. At 2:30, we got a private media show from the ramp. Well, as private as anything is that takes a 80 or so square miles of airspace to do. When the show was over, I got to interview LCDR Craig Olson, the Blues’ opposing solo. Yeah, he has returned to replace LCDR Kevin Davis, who crashed at NAS Beaufort. I had decided not to bring up the crash, but one can’t very well interview No. 6 this season without asking about it. Good interview. Will post it soon.

Also interviewed the F-16 pilot of the Viper East Demonstration Team. Really good discussion. Will post that, too. Back to the show tomorrow and Sunday! Can’t wait!