First Flight: Pitts S-2B

New Smyrna Beach Travel Blog

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This weekend I had a great opportunity, for the first time in my life I got to pilot a plane and not just any plane; but a plane that is designed for all the stunts one might see at a air show. However, there were a series of events that led up to this first flight.

We arrived bright and early to have a light breakfast in Titusville, FL before carpooling to the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport home of the

Eagle Sport Aviation Club.

This is a unique club for pilots and wannabe pilots because it is one of the few places in the country, where you have the opportunity to not just learn to fly; but learn to fly acrobatics stunts. Well, we arrived there and filled out the appropriate forms and watch the pilot check out the plane after all we are all rocket scientist (everyone else here for their first flight are Co-Ops at NASA).

Then it was time for the first of 8 of us to get in the plane for their first flight. They ended up getting strap in, as well as the pilot and the hatched closed to start the plane. This is where the first problem happened the plane would not start. Apparently, they have an on-going problem with what I was told was called the "vibrator".  I do not know much about engines; but from what I can tell this part is used to control the sparks that ignite the spark plugs, which is how the engine starts. Well the pilot got out opened up the hood again and pounded on the part with a rubber malt (see even professionals pound on a engines to get it to work :o) ).

Well this did not work, fortunately the mechanic was on his way over to work on another plane; but we had to wait around for him and so it was an hour till we tried again. On our second attempt, after a temporary fix, the pilot was able to get the plane started and the noise was loud; but beautiful and they were off for the first flight of the day. We hung around for about 30 minutes and then saw them land again and then come to a stop on the runway. We were wondering what the problem was; but through the binoculars we were able to deduce that the plane must have had wheel trouble. So, the mechanic and another pilot were able to gather supplies to at least move the plane off the runway. The supplies ended up being a palette jack and a few 2x4s, to put under the flat wheel.

After another hour and a half the plane finally returned to the hanger, while all this was going on and not knowing if the first flight was the last flight for the day we ended up making lunch of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.

Me in the forward seat, pre-seat
Once the plane returned to the hanger, we (guest pilots) and other club member pilots watched as the tire was being replaced and while this was going on a more serious - but still temporary - fix was being attempted of the plane's "vibrator".  For the rest of the day we all joked how the first person was so unlucky and I am pretty sure this joke will continue since remember everyone else works together at NASA. :o)

It was another 3 to 4 hours, when we were finally ready for the second flight; but fortunately the other flights went smoothly, one after another, with my flight being the 8th and last flight of the day.

Well, the 7th person has just returned from their flight and after they got out I started getting strapped in, not just with a seat harness; but also with a parachute (standard requirement). It is was a tight fit getting in; but it is amazing how everything just seems to conform to your body once you are in. Well the pilot closed and locked the dome and started driving to the runway since the tail of the plane is so low to the ground the pilot has to swerve back and forth to see ahead of him and to an outsider it looks like the pilot might be "drunk" as he swerved to the runway.

Maximum sustaining G's
Of course, this is mostly because the plane is designed for air travel and its performance on the ground is not as important.

Once we got in the air we got to 5000ft almost instantaneously and started flying to the area designated for aerobatics, about 2 minutes away. The pilot then did some in flight check outs, including inverted checks to make sure all systems are behaving normally (most engines cannot fly inverted or vertical). He then started flying and doing tricks that at the beginning I did after him these included:

  • Roll - Where I rolled the plane and tried to keep it at the same altitude, which is difficult the plane because a plane has less lift on its side, so wants to fall. This means you have to start the roll on an angle.
  • Loop - Where I flew the plane in a loop.
  • Vertical Flying - Where I flew the plane vertical up and then the pilot with some kick of the rudder flipped it around so we were then flying vertical down.
  • Cuban 8 - Which is considered a loop, with a roll in it and ultimately is suppose to look like a partial figure 8.
    The Instructors seat

I should mention that one big different about stunt flying is you are not always flying horizontal to the horizon, which to pilots is your reference point, so stunt planes have a star shape to the left of the plane, where the angles between the lines are 45 degree. This is used by the pilot to determine their orientation. The pilot then performed a few stunts with me in the plane, which unfortunately I do not fully understand; but the names are impressive including:
  • Hammerhead Stalls 
  • Putting the plane in a diving spin (which stalls the plane) and then recovering
  • Some random stunts to inflict great g's, which I ended up experiencing between -2 and 6 g's. For reference sake 1g is standard Earth gravity and 3g's are sustained by the astronauts of the Space Shuttle, of course for a longer period of time, then just a few seconds.
However, after the last set of random stunts I lost it literally, which is one reason you do not see any photos me me after the flight; but it was fortunate that I was the last one.
However, I had enough manners to help clean up the plane and fortunately I planned ahead and brought an extra shirt.

So, ends my first experience flying and in a few weeks I will probably get an opportunity to fly a glider, with the same group, so stay tuned and who knows perhaps in the future I will be able to fly myself to my final destination. :o)

SheLuvz2Fly says:
Sooooooo coool!!
Posted on: Nov 10, 2010
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Me in the forward seat, pre-seat
Me in the forward seat, pre-seat
Maximum sustaining Gs
Maximum sustaining G's
The Instructors seat
The Instructors seat
Some of the other fliers
Some of the other fliers
Instructors panels.
Instructor's panels.
My panels.
My panels.
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photo by: furiousfowl