Until I've actually climbed in one and experienced
it myself I can only steer you to a page on Steen Aero Lab's
site. It has quite a few articles, by different writers. The
ones written by Budd Davisson are especially good.
Hopefully I'll be able to give you a report
on flying the 'bolt in the next few months.
First aerobatic flight.
If flying the Skybolt is anything like flying a Pitts S2C
I have a story to tell here. It's my first flight in a Pitts
S2C and my introduction to aerobatics.
I take the first steps to unlimited flying . . . . I make the call to Dent-Air to schedule a lesson for tomorrow, Friday,
June 25th. Bill isn't in so I leave a message. Waiting all day for a return call. At 4:30 I call again, hanging up when
there is no answer.
A call back at 6 pm from Bill. He has a lesson
in the morning so we set-up a session for 1/1:30 on Friday
afternoon. He says that its going to be a nice day for flying.
up, I begin to think of myself and the Pitts. I smile as I
think of flying the S2C tomorrow. I see a responsive, agile,
powerful, fast aircraft, sensitive to the touch, squirrley
to take off and land. Thoughts of coordinated stick and rudder,
slow rolls, loops. Flat spinning out of a hammerhead... don't
get too worked up about it - everyone starts like this.
Friday morning... driving there. A beautiful
day. Clear Blue Skies, no humidity. A line of clouds far off
in the distance.
Thoughts - how will I ever learn to coordinate
all the controls to do a perfect loop, roll, hammerhead? I
think that I can - everyone started at this point, the same
unknowing place that I stand now.
I arrive at 12:30. I wait until just before 1 to drive up
to Bill's hangar. Bill is speaking to FSS getting a flight
plan in for my first akro lesson.
We talk for abour a half hour. My background with planes,
what I've done up until now in akro. Where I want to go with
this. Bill gives me a brief discription of what he has plans
on doing for the next hour and some of the techniques to flying
To center the ball on the slip skid you need to be like the
prize fighter and jab at the rudders then allowing them to
fall back to neutral. You only need to hold the stick with
your thumb and two fingers, no more.
Bill helps me strap into the Pitts. He starts the engine and
we taxi to the end of the 2500' strip at Lee Airport. We wait
for a canary yellow 152 to land. Bill lines up with the center
line and gives gas to the IO-540's 260 hp.
The tail immediately lifts from the runway, as the Pitts does
its dance down the runway.
I am pushed further back into my seat as we accelerate, roaring
down the runway. (big grin at this point)
Pitts leaps off the ground and we begin our rocketship ride
up. At about 400 feet AGL Bill gives me control of the plane.
Remembering what he mentioned earlier I reach for the stick
with my thumb and two fingers, holding it ever so lightly.
I'm surprised at the control and responsiveness with this
As we head to the practice area we climb to 7500'. I can only
compare this to the plane that I've flown for the past 200
hours, my Taylorcraft. Its no real comparison, each was made
for a different purpose and I don't want to take anything
away from the beautiful aircraft that the T-craft is, but
the Pitts has got to be one of the easiest, yet one of the
hardest to fly airplanes that I've flown. I can see where
it will fly the manuevers easily but would take a lifetime
to perfect flying those manuevers.
As we make clearing turns Bill shows me what I can look at
for a 20 (horizon just below the wing tip near the strut),
45 (center cabane 90 degrees to the horizon) and 60 degree
turn (center cabane . . ... . .)
Bill calls for the controls and brings the power back and
puts the Pitts into a stall. As had he explained earlier on
the ground, he begins to dance on the rudder pedals to keep
the wings level. He then put it into a one turn spin to the
left followed by a one turn spin to the right and then back
straight as he continued to keep the ball centered. He then
has me climb back up to 7500'.
he brings the power back he instructs me to pull the stick
back while keeping the wings level. The power comes back to
the stops as I have the stick firmly back and I start to kick
the rudders to keep the ball centered. At times the wings
of the Pitts were pointing toward the ground I was leading
or lagging so bad. but even in those instances, which were
quite frequent, it never went into a spin. (Thinking back
on it now I remember being too focused on the slip skid on
the upper wing and not looking out at the wings.
Climbing back up to 7500' Bill had me line up with Rte. 301
leading up to the Chesapeak Bay Bridge as we climbed Bill
explained how to loop and how he wanted me to look out the
left side of the plane as we pulled up into a 4G pull, keeping
the stick back as we flew over the top and then pulling out
with that same 4G pull.
As we lined up on 301, Bill had me follow
him through the first go around. My stabs at doing loops seemed
to be pretty good. Of course I did the usual "not pulling
enough Gs into the loop, not keeping the stick back, not pulling
the 4Gs out of the loops." I can only imagine what they
looked like. More like a football standing on end rather than
a circle. I was surprised how it didn't fall off at the top
and was happy with how easy I "thought" that it was.