Video from the First Acro Session in the Super Decathlon

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These are the show notes to a video episode. You can watch online right here by clicking on this direct link.

It’s here! The second full-up Airspeed video episode!

These are highlights from my first flight in the American Champion Super Decathlon. I had flown the Citabria with some frequency in 2007 and had a couple of flights in that aircraft in 2009, but this was the first Super-D flight.

By this time (April 16, 2009), I had received word that my T-6A Texan II ride had been approved and I knew that is was going to be sometime in May. So I got out to the airport and flew acro aggressively to condition myself for the Texan ride. I wanted to be able to fully experience that ride and motion sickness can be such a buzzkill, in addition to making the coverage for you guys pretty lame.

So I headed out to Sutton Aviation and set up an acro program with Barry Sutton where I’d train as aggressively as I could and try to build my endurance for the T-6A ride. Toward the end, I was flying twice a week and getting a pretty solid 25-40 minutes of maneuvering each time. But this flight was pretty short. I rag-dolled myself pretty quickly, both because I was just getting my tolerance back after a long winter and because this aircraft is a lot more powerful and maneuverable and I was able to throw myself around the sky a lot more aggressively.

Anyway, here’s the video. For those to prefer, or miss, the audio episodes, I have more in the pipeline. I’m out on the patio this evening writing the script for the seaplane episode. And I go into the studio in a few weeks to record the music for the T-6A episode (provided that I’ve finished writing it by then).

Be sure to catch me at the Indianapolis Air Show next weekend. I’ll be there Thursday through Sunday. I’m doing a presentation for the Civil Air Patrol at Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria in Greenwood, Indiana 6:00 – 9:00 and I’m thinking about having an Airspeed meetup/Tweetup at Damon’s in the Holiday Inn Indianapolis East on Friday at 7:00. Watch my Twitter feed for details and to confirm before showing up.

Contact information for Sutton Aviation, where you can fly this airplane with Barry Sutton:

Sutton Aviation, Inc.
Oakland County International Airport
6230 North Service Drive – Waterford, Michigan 48327

Yet More Acro Conditioning

This is a regular blog post.  You can find show notes and links to show audio in other posts.
About 1.5 in the Super-D yesterday with Barry Sutton, about 35 minutes of which was pretty good and consistent acro.  Tolerance is getting a lot better.  We pulled several combinations, including a loop to a hammerhead to a four-point roll and back-to-back split-S’s (a reverse Cuban eight?).
Feeling pretty good about the tolerance.  I go for one more session in the Super-D this week, go get a seaplane rating this weekend, then it’s off to Randolph AFB to fly the mighty T-6A Texan II.  It all seems to be happening pretty quickly but, in fact, it’s a result of a lot of planning as far back as last September.
Anyway, here are a few frame grabs from yesterday.

Acro Tolerance Going to Two a Week

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Just a short update.  I’m scheduled to go up with Barry in the Super D for acro twice a week between now and mid-May, when I’ve scheduled the T-6A Texan II flight down at Randolph AFB.  The weather’s not looking too promising for today’s flight, but I’ll be there and preflighted at the appointed hour and we’ll make a go/no-go decision then.
Tolerance at the moment is an abysmal 20 minutes, so it’s imperative that I get up and inverted a lot between now and mid-May.  Above is a frame grab of the video that I shot the week before last.  The camera is working well and I’m pretty excited about how things are going so far.  Look for more video episodes soon!

First Flight in the Super Decathlon

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Okay, there’s aerobatics. Then there’s aerobatics in the American Champion Super Decathlon. Holy crap!

I’ve been flying the Citabria Aurora at Sutton Aviation since last April. No flies on the Citabria and I really like that airplane. 118 hp and great flight characteristics. But the Super-D has 180 hp, about 2.5-ft shorter wings, inverted fuel and oil systems, and a constant speed prop.

The Super-D has enough power and maneuverability to really rag you out if you want to go up and do that. And that’s exactly what I set out to do yesterday. I have a military demo flight scheduled for May and I need to go up and start rebuilding my acro tolerance so I’m good to go for the flight. Not that I have any problem hurling when it’s called for after a reasonable amount of maneuvering, but my tolerance is way down from last year. That’s okay. Even airshow performers have to build up after a long winter by flying progressively longer aerobatic sessions.

My tolerance is at about 20 minutes with some breaks between maneuvers. The best I’ve ever had was about an hour straight last right after the Thunderbirds ride. The goal is to try to fly every week or so between now and mid-may to build that tolerance back to an hour.

And the Super-D is the right platform for that. Because of the better power and the inverted systems, Barry Sutton, my acro instructor, added the Immelman (a half loop after which you roll right side up at the top), knife-edge flight (rolling to 90 degrees of bank and then kicking in all of the top rudder to fly sideways), four-point rolls (stopping the roll at 90, inverted, and the other 90 before rolling wings level), and rapid aileron rolls. We also did a hammerhead.

The Super-D makes the old maneuvers more intense because the additional power means that you can do aileron rolls in level flight without losing lots of altitude as with the Citabria and you get a lot more hang with the hammerheads. You can’t quite helicopter up there with two full-size humans in the aircraft, but you get a lot of hang. And the Super-D makes the new maneuvers possible, mostly because you can add sustained inverted flight to the repertoire.

I’m looking forward to flying this aircraft a lot more over the next few weeks!

AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 – Day 1 – Part 1

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First full day at OSH! Every kind of people and every kind of airplane! I keep forgetting how much I love this place. I gathered and submitted three pieces for EAA Radio. One was a Dan Gryder DC-3 student talking about his type rating trip from Griffin, Georgia to Oshkosh and back. Then I got LtCol Frank Alvarez, a KC-135 driver from the Wisconsin ANG. Lastly, although it took more then four hours to coordinate, I got Bob Cardin, the man behind the extraction of Glacier Girl from her icy home of 50 years.

Cole spent most of the day taking pictures of Koala, his stuffed koala bear buddy, in nearly every aircraft on the field. It made for some slow going around the field, but he’s very into his project and I think it’s cool that he’s taking it so seriously. Here he is under a Husky floatplane doing a self-portrait.

I found out that Canon will lend you these huge lenses to go shoot the airshow. And here I thought that this guy was just making up for something. Alas, I’m a Nikon guy, mainly because that’s what Costco was pushing the week that I decided that I needed more than just a point-and-shoot for the show. It seems that about one in 50 of my shots with the 200mm lens is usable. The auto-focus just doesn’t want to lock onto airplanes, so I’m focusing manually. And I still blur the overwhelming majority of them. Not going to stop me from taking pictures, though.

Here’s a nice one that did work out. Not sure, but the rumor is that Lucas sponsors him.

I love the Super Decathlon. It’s close to the Citabria that I fly these days and it’s just so cool to see guys up there wringing gorgeous aerobatics out of the limited energy that you get with the engines in these things. There’s nothing at all wrong with hyper-tweaked engines with composite airframes, but I really appreciate what goes into these performances by airplanes that you might actually be able to rent and fly at your own local airport. Sutton Aviation has a Super-D and I’m going to get up in that as soon as Barry thinks I’m ready. The thrill here is that this is something that I can do without hitting the lottery or getting sponsors or anything else ridiculous. (And so can you!)

I had Airspeed Aerobatic Team tee shirts made up a few months ago, mostly as a lark. I actually felt a little disingenuous making them up because I wasn’t really an aerobatic enthusiast at the time. But after the July 8 session in the Citabria, I really think I like aerobatics. It gets the goosebumps going again. At the very least, you should find a qualified instructor and certified airplane and go do some upset recovery and spin training. And get a loop or two in just for fun. You might find that you like it. You may even find it addictive.

I thought that all of that “I need my vitamin gee” stuff was bravado and hangar posing. But it’s not. Not most of it, anyway. It’s genuinely wonderful stuff. Is there no end to the wonder of flying? Are we not the luckiest generation in history?

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