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!
I finally got inverted yesterday for the first time since November. Yeah!
About 1.7 hours with Barry Sutton in the Citabria yesterday. The mission was to get up and start rebuilding my aerobatic tolerance for the 2009 season and then continue with tailwheel training in the pattern.
We started with wingovers of varying degrees until I was getting her up to about 60 degrees, burying the wingtip, and still pulling her out well below the yellow arc. The idea with the wingovers was to get some sense of energy management back after not having flown the aircraft for months. Six or eight of those until I was nailing them pretty well both left and right.
Then we looped her. I do so love the loop. If I’ve been having problems, it’s been that I’ve relaxed the pull too early on the way up. Mostly, it’s getting a feeling of what it’s supposed to look and feel like in the airplane. This time, I think I nailed them pretty well. Good steady pull on the way up with only a little bit of letoff as I floated over the top and then begin the pullout as the horizon comes through the top (!) of the windscreen.
On the back of the last one, I actually felt like the airplane rotated a little around its lateral axis. Not sure if that’s good (too much pull and stall risk?), but it was an interesting sensation. This is a very capable airplane and we had plenty of altitude in which to recover, so I wasn’t worried. Additionally, I’m getting pretty good at managing the energy in each maneuver. On each of the last two or three loops, I kept the airspeed out of the yellow while still being pretty smooth.
Barry says that the loops were good and round and probably looked impressive from the ground. In fact, he says that the average layperson would assume that we had out cheeks in our laps pulling gees. Heck, I think it’s impressive regardless, but understanding how it’s different in the airplane from what you see on the ground is an added benefit of doing this. I get a lot better idea of what I’m seeing at airshows.
Aerobatic tolerance is about 20 minutes. Rotten. But I’m glad that I’m starting in early. I’d like to have it up to an hour of moderate aerobatics by early June. An organizer at one airshow that I’m covering this year says that he’s going to vet media riders in a Pitts S-2C before turning them loose to get media rides from the performers. Okay. (1) a Pitts S-2C ride is a great ride even if you never get past the vetting and (2) as long as I get to shoot and record in the Pitts, I’m good. Although I really do want to be the iron-stomached media rider who can handle whatever the performer throws at him.
I had a chance to try out the new camera rig. It performed very well. No gee-induced issues and the mount (from Pegasus Auto Racing Supplies) held the camera exactly where I wanted it. I put it on the tube to the upper left of the panel as seen from the front seat. The wide-angle lens gave a satisfactory breadth of view of the cockpit, but the sensation of motion wasn’t what I was looking for. I think I might need to mount it toward the center so that you get more outside view and get more of a sense of the aerobatic maneuvers.
The camera proved easy to operate from the pilot’s seat. You can’t see the controls from the pilot’s seat, but they’re fairly easy to operate by touch if you’ve futzed with the camera a bit on the ground first.
I managed to goof up the audio recorder during startup and didn’t record the intercom audio for this flight. So I’m going to have to use this footage for something else. But it’s good footage nevertheless. I’m looking forward to playing some more with the camera to figure out what works best. In any case, I don’t want to wait until it’s a really good flight opportunity to try to work out the bugs. I’ve just recently been approved by the Air Force for a really cool opportunity and I want all of the hardware working flawlessly when that gets scheduled.
I have the new MacBook Pro and I’m getting acclimated to it. I’ll be installing the video editing software soon and I’m looking forward to posting some exampled of the in-flight video soon.
More aerobatics and tolerance-building coming up! Stay tuned!
Sutton Aviation, Inc.
Oakland County International Airport
6230 North Service Drive
Waterford, Michigan 48327