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IAC Discussion Summary


IAC Discussion Summary

Pitts rudder extensions

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Disclaimer: These IAC pages are developed by individual IAC members and do not represent official IAC policy or opinion.


Collected by: Guenther Eichhorn gei at cfa.harvard.edu


Question

I can't reach the rudder pedals in the Pitts S-2A very well. I use a Pitts seat cushion with another cushion about the same size under me and two Pitts back cushions and a backpack chute behind. This puts me VERY close to full aft stick and my legs are still hyperextended to reach the rudders and brakes.

I understand that rudder extensions are available for the Pitts. Does anyone know where I might get these and how much they might cost, or does anyone have a pair they are no longer using that I could purchase?

Patricia Holliday Weengs@aol.com


Answer

I had similar feelings to yours when I first starting flying a Pitts S2A. What a wonderful airplane! It's too bad it's not designed for pilots under 140 lbs and about 5'4". (I'm 5'2" and 100 lbs.)

I wanted to solo the Pitts, but with a bunch of cushions on the seat and a couple behind my back, so that full aft stick was touching my legs and my hand on the top of the stick was just about between my legs, I still could not get full rudder extension. My first instructor said, "Maybe you'll just always have to fly dual." That didn't sound too great to me...

It took a lot of thinking and experimenting, but I came up with a solution that worked well for me and for many of the women students who wanted to solo the Pitts at the aerobatic school I started later.

First, the rudder pedal extenders are fine if you own the airplane. I think they cost a couple of hundred dollars and it takes about an hour or two to install them.

However, that doesn't work on a rental airplane, as tall pilots may already be having trouble fitting into a Pitts, and since there are more tall pilots than short pilots, no flight school will install the rudder pedal extensions. I thought of having quick release rudder pedal extenders designed so I could pop them on and off quickly. However, the flight school objected to that as well, as they would be considered a non-approved modification to the airplane by the FAA (the reasoning being that a poorly designed rudder pedal extender could come loose in flight with disastrous consequences).

So the best solution is to extend the legs of the pilot instead. I went to a shoe store and had them build up a special set of shoes with 2-inch soles. (They bonded several extra soles onto a regular pair of shoes.) They cost me under a hundred dollars, and I'm still using them today when I instruct in the Pitts. It does take a little getting used to the weight on the end of your legs, especially when you're in negative G situations, but with a little practice you can learn to move the feet quickly and fly well. Certainly it's much better than not being able to solo a Pitts!

The other problem was the weight issue. Look in the Pitts manual under the weight and balance charts, and you'll see that they stop at a pilot weight of 140 lbs. It turns out that the Pitts is designed so that with a solo pilot weighing 140 lbs in the rear seat, the airplane will be at the forward center of gravity limit. So the FBO still didn't want me to solo the airplane.

The idea I came up with here was dive weights. Divers wear lead weights on strong webbed belts to adjust their buoyancy. The weights have holes through the centers so you can put a number of them on a belt. I went to a dive store and bought two belts and 8 five-pound weights (the weights are laminated so you don't have to have a lot of skin contact with the lead). Then I strapped the belts under the seat of the S2A, VERY TIGHTLY and securely. (You really don't want to have 40 pounds of lead come loose when you're doing aerobatics!)

I had to prove to the FBO that they really were secure and brought in a bunch of engineering specs on the dive belts that I got from the store. Actually, I really didn't like having to use the weights and I don't recommend it today. I think there's too much risk in having weight like that loose in the airplane. I'm just mentioning it as a possible idea.

Finally, under G-loads the cushions would compress and I would again have trouble reaching full rudder extension. So I went to a foam store and had them cut me several Pitts-seat shaped pieces of Ethafoam (like styrofoam but not as friable) in 2-inch and 1-inch thicknesses. The advantage of the Ethafoam was that it did not compress under G-load, yet was slightly more comfortable to sit on than hard metal. I found that seven inches on my seat and four inches behind my back worked perfectly for my height.

I flew that way for a couple hundred hours of aerobatics in the Pitts, and it worked fine.

So, it is possible for small people to solo a Pitts! I know of quite a few women who have since used styrofoam cushions and platform shoes to fly aerobatic aircraft successfully. Who knows, maybe we'll start a fashion trend! :-)

Best of luck and please feel free to send me e-mail if you have more questions as a small person trying to fly aerobatics. I think I must have run into just about all the problems, and I got good at finding low-cost solutions, since for a long time I couldn't afford to buy my own custom-designed airplane.

Cecilia Aragon aragon@dcai.com



If you have aerobatics related information that you would like to make available, please contact me at the email address below.

Last Update: Sat Aug 29 16:11:25 2009


© Dr. Günther Eichhorn
Retired Email Guenther Eichhorn