‘Obi Juan’ Flies the Extra

Discussion in 'Hangar Flying' started by jlknolla, Mar 25, 2012.

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  1. Mar 25, 2012 #1

    jlknolla

    jlknolla

    jlknolla

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    During a recent visit to Mojave supporting a client, I had an opportunity to fly the legendary Extra 300L with airshow pilot Chuck Coleman (www.CTColeman.com). Chuck is an engineer at the Spaceship Company with a long history at SCALED composites and is also an airshow pilot, and aerial photo platform pilot.

    Our mount for the day was a very fine 1996 Extra 300L, N512DW. 2DW has a long airshow history, having been campaigned by Jan Collmer before coming into the steady care of Chuck Coleman. Chuck rebuilt 2DW after buying it from Jan and has campaigned it in his own airshow routines.

    Snapshot 1 (3-24-2012 11-10 PM).png Snapshot 1 (3-24-2012 11-14 PM).png
    Originally designed by Extra Aircraft as a more refined aerobatic-tourer, the Extra 300L is such an incredible machine that it has been seen in the Red Bull Air Races and on the airshow circuit for a good many years now and is routinely used as a high-end aerobatic trainer. Where the earlier Extra 260 and 300 were mid-winged monsters, the 300L sports a lower mounted wing and other improvements that have resulted in an aircraft of truly breathtaking performance and capability.

    Powered by a fire-breathing 300 horsepower AEIO-550 and pulled skyward by a massive 3-bladed MTV-9 prop from MT-Propeller, the 1466 lb (2-up aerobatic weight) Extra 300L exceeds the number of superlatives in the English language – there simply aren’t enough adjectives to describe this thoroughbred. It has been said that if airplanes were named, this one would be called Secretariat – I say screw that, this plane should be called badass, or maybe Chuck Norris.

    There is zero friction in the control system, none, nada, zilch – it is smooth as silk. Roll rate at full deflection is 360 degrees per second, or put another way, slightly faster than the F-16 or F/A-18. Stick force per G is good and control harmony is sweeter than the Vienna Boys Choir and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir teaming up to perform the Ave Maria for the Pope himself at St. Peter’s Square (told you there weren’t enough words).

    In all seriousness, the Extra 300L is the finest airplane I have had the good fortune to commit a wonton act of aviation in (the Extra marking the 26[SUP]th[/SUP] fixed-wing make/model I have flown, including many iconic certified and experimental aircraft such as the Bonanza, Epic LT, T-6A Texan II, RV-8, Thorp T-18 and more ). And Chuck, with over 3,500 hrs just in the Extra, is easily one of the best pilots I have flown with – end of line.

    In just over 30 minutes of flying, we sampled a veritable cornucopia of staple ‘Gentlemen’s’, BFM and airshow maneuvers, with roughly half of them flown by me, the other more complex set flown by Chuck. Flying over the storied runways of KMHV (Mojave Air and Space Port), we saw climb rates of 4,000 fpm, descent rates in excess of 5,000 fpm, and speeds from under 60 to nearly 240 KIAS. Simply put, it was a real treat.

    They say “pics or it didn’t happen”, so please go 'Obi Juan' Flies the Extra 300L Part-1 - YouTube for the video of my experience. Part 1 is the portion I flew, Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKsKvCTvx7w&feature=youtube_gdata is Chuck flying.

    After an exhilarating takeoff, we climbed to 6,000 feet over KMHV and I explored the basic handling of 512DW with a series of steep turns to the left and right, ever wary of the restricted airspace for nearby Edwards Air Force Base. After feeling out stick-forces with some pitch loads, I then executed a half-rate Aileron Roll to the left. Chuck encouraged me to try a full-rate Roll, which I did, and my choice of descriptors would only be suitable on a pay-tv cable channel after 10PM. I then completed an Aileron Slow-Roll to the right and followed it with a Barnstormers Loop. Next came a Cuban Eight and I polished off my portion of the maneuvering with a Hammerhead or Stall-Turn.

    Chuck then took over and put 512DW through the paces and like any thoroughbred, 512DW responded well to the touch of a master.

    We started with a Torque-Roll to Tailslide combo that simply took my breath away (falling backwards at 60 KIAS through your own smoke will do to that to you). Next, Chuck executed a beautiful Aileron Slow-Roll, and followed it up with a Four Point Hesitation Roll. After a quick Half-Loop, Chuck then executed a 2 Point Hesitation Roll from the inverted before climbing for some altitude. We then executed a nice 3 Turn Spin before giving my stomach about a minute to catch up with us.

    Our final maneuver is one I have always wanted to experience, the Lomcevak or Forward Tumble. Essentially, you pull the nose up to a 45 degree Up-Line, execute a couple Aileron Rolls, kick in full rudder, then jam the stick full forward. The result is the airplane breaks free and literally tumbles ballistically, end over end, until eventually pointing back towards Mother Earth at which time you are once again flying. The smile is still on my face.

    For our return-to-base, Chuck demonstrated the approximate flight path for SpaceShipTwo, a seven-ton rocket powered glider that will soon be carrying high-net worth individuals to the edge of space before gliding back to Earth much like the now retired Space Shuttle. We basically entered a 270 degree descending turn from 7,500 feet, coming downhill at 140 KIAS and almost 4,000 FPM before settling in for a nice landing.

    I want to thank Chuck Coleman for such a marvelous introduction to both competition/airshow style aerobatics and the unbelievable Extra 300L. Flying 15-20 minutes of aero honestly pushed the limits of my current gut tolerance. I am happy to report that although I was on the ragged edge of queasy when we got back to Chuck’s hangar, I did not toss my cookies and was even able to eat dinner about an hour later on my way back to San Diego. For a data point, the flight in the Extra marks only my 6[SUP]th[/SUP] aerobatic flight in roughly 360 hours of total time.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2012
  2. Mar 25, 2012 #2

    fly2kads

    fly2kads

    fly2kads

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    Looks from the video that you had a great time. I liked the silly grin on your face when you did the full aileron roll. Looks like a blast!
     
  3. Mar 26, 2012 #3

    jlknolla

    jlknolla

    jlknolla

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    Thanks fly2kads,

    Knowing intellectually that the plane was capable of rolling 360 degrees per second was simply not enough to prepare me for what it actually felt like to make the plane do it - it was shockingly fast.

    Most of the homebuilts I have flown which are safely capable of basic aero (T-18, RV-8, Lancair, Glasair) have roll rates of 120-180 degrees per second, and I don't believe I had ever rolled any of them at their full rate, so most of my rolls had been at around 90 degrees per second.

    As for the grins, it truly was smile inducing from the initial application of power to Chuck's entry in my logbook after we put 512DW back in the stable. The 300L is an extraordinary plane, Chuck is an exceptional pilot, and I am one very fortunate and appreciative aviator.
     

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