Sunday, September 7, 2008

Rolling around in a Pitts

Eric, my Project Pilot mentor through the AOPA, has been trying to take me for a ride in his plane for quite a while. Our schedules have been at odds and we both have been traveling for work, so it was not until today that I finally got to go up with him. He doesn't own any run-of-the-mill plane, you see. He and a partner own a 1993 Pitts S-2B Special, a very impressive, very fast, and very cool aerobatic bird. Eric even flies in aerobatic competitions, which he has written about on his blog.

Eric's Pitts - she's a beautiful plane

We walked over to the plane and Eric helped me get into my parachute and strap into the plane. Per the FAA regulations, anyone performing aerobatics (pitching the nose in excess of 30 degrees, etc.) has to wear a parachute. And due to the fact that the Pitts can fly inverted, there are about 300 belts (ok, it's actually like 4 or 5) to hold you in place. All strapped in and preflight checks completed, Eric taxied on to the runway and put in full throttle. Oh did we accelerate and, before long, oh did we climb. Those 260 HP sure put the Champ to shame in about 0.0067 seconds.

For whatever reason, I was not feeling 100% healthy this afternoon. Maybe it was all the bumpier air from my hour and a half in the Champ. Either way, I told Eric that it was probably best that we didn't do any loops or spins this afternoon. I still wanted to have a little fun and said we should try some rolls. Up around 2,500 feet he went into a shallow dive to build up airspeed, then a quick pull back on the stick (the G Meter read about 2.5 to 3 Gs) to about 35 degrees nose-up and around we went. Those big ailerons sure can move the wings around in a hurry. You're upside down for such a short period of time that you never feel any negative Gs, which would pull you out of the seat. We turned around and did another and then Eric asked if I wanted to fly the plane for a bit.

I didn't do anything fancy, just made some shallow turns and learned how much rudder you need to use to stay coordinated in the Pitts. After a few turns, I began to get a better feel for things although I was never great at "keeping the ball centered" during my time at the controls. I also tried a couple S-Turns and if you look at the GPS track you can see them over on the West side of the flight path. We putzed around for a little longer and then decided to head back to Stewart. Eric took back over and we went buzzing around the pattern faster than I've ever gone before, since the approach speed in the Pitts is about 100 mph - it's 60 in the Champ. Another plane was landing so we made another lap around the airport (in record time, I might add) and came in to land. That thing sure drops like a rock once you cut the power and we quickly lost altitude and came zooming low over the trees and touched down on Runway 26.

What a fun time in the sky, even if I was feeling a little nauseous. I don't know if the rolls had anything to do with it, but I'll get up there again and try some other aerobatic stuff and will know for sure how much my body likes it. Writing this a few hours later, I still don't feel great so I might just have a minor case of something. No matter how I felt, it was a great experience and I can't thank Eric enough (thanks again, Eric!) for taking me up in his awesome plane.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File


  1. Wow, that is so cool. Don't worry about the queasiness, I still get it a bit when I'm under the hood.

    I don't suppose the pilot was a CFI, was he? Be nice to log some extra time...

  2. Nope, Eric isn't a CFI. But it's so awesome to be up in that plane, logging time isn't much of a concern. Not that it wouldn't be cool to have "Type: S-2B" in the logbook...

  3. Sweeeeeet!!

    Sounds like a blast! Hope next time your feeling better.

  4. Yes, that's an awesome plane and a great opportunity. And, you are way ahead of me on solo hours, I have to bug my new CFI to endorse me on the Warrior so I can spread my wings again.

  5. Hmm, I guess those solo hours have added up fast. Considering you had to switch planes and instructors you're really making good progress tho!

    It really is peaceful and awesome to get up on your own... today it's about as beautiful as it can get and yet I'm stuck in the office nearly 12 hours after I arrived - yuck.

  6. That does sounds pretty sweet. I wish I could fly. Only in my dreams... How old do you have to be to get a pilot's license?

  7. Clay,

    In the US, you have to be at least 16 to fly solo and 17 to receive your certificate.

    There's no reason you can't fly - at least with an instructor! Unless you have some sort of medical concern keeping you on the ground, head to a local airport and sign up for an introductory flight. They range from $30 to $100 depending on where you live and it's a great way to try out flying in a small plane.

  8. Nice write up Steve. I'm glad you liked the ride. We will certainly do it again!