There is are very few planes that perform aerobatics like the Extra. The 300L is comparatively small, 23 feet long with a 25 foot wingspan and carbon fiber light. It has power and maneuverability so much greater than the Decathlon in which I caught the negative G virus. The wing is one long aileron and the visibility is fantastic (not while on the ground though). The 300 horsepower Lycoming engine virtually roars upon run up. She wants nothing more than to leap into the air like the proverbial homesick angel and does so in 350 feet of runway. On today’s menu are aileron rolls, loops, barrel rolls, hammerheads, and vertical rolls somewhere between its 55-knot stall speed and Vne of 220 knots. Spins were not ordered but served up anyway after one ham fisted maneuver.
After leveling off above the clouds at 7,000 feet I watch my airspeed as I begin a 40 degree dive for the farmfields below. When the airspeed hits 160 MPH, I pull on the stick and begin a 4G pull to vertical. As the G-forces squeeze me down into the seat and the nose rises above the horizon, I look out towards the sighting device on the left wing and watch the landscape pivot about the wingtip. Easing off on the stick as the I approach inverted, the airplane floats over the top. I look overhead to pick up the horizon and start down the back side. I never cease to enjoy this view, heading straight down at the fields below arrayed like a checkerboard. The airspeed increases as I increase back stick to round out the loop, again pulling 4G’s at the bottom. This loop was better than the awful egg shaped mess I made of the last maneuver.
This machine has enough power and agility to pull you out of almost any mistake you can make provided there’s enough altitude. A light tough on the controls and she virtually dances among the clouds. The sky becomes a blue playground. I’ve not yet flown in competitive aerobatics. Perhaps someday I will but I have a way to go. I can appreciate how man merges with machine not simply to use it. Robin Olds once said: “You don’t climb in and sit down. You strap the machine to your butt, become one with it.” You are something more than earthbound man. You are augmented and expanded by the miracle of the machine. You are tied to it physically and part of it emotionally. In the Extra you feel the words of John Gillespie Magee….Join the tumbled mirth of sun split clouds…wheeled and soared and swung high in sunlit silence…chase the shouting winds along…and while with silent lifting mind, you tread the untresspassed sanctity of space, put out your hand, and touch the face of God.