Monday, December 1, 2003

An out of this world experience with Burning Blue


By Dave Spragg

I had the opportunity to go up into the sky in Lady Liberty out of Nashua, NH and need to share this experience. Lady Liberty, shown in Figure A, is owned by Burning Blue Aviation and is a 2-seater high-performance stunt plane.


Lady Liberty is a beautiful Pitts Special S-2C. (click for larger image)

I know nothing about aircraft, but as a race car junky the specs are pretty impressive and speak of maneuverability: at 1,150lbs and 260hp this thing is like a red, white, and blue dragonfly that does 212mph and responds with an immediacy that would make a Honda S2000 blush.

I headed up in the morning to meet up with Burning Blue President Peter Schmidt and his instructor Rob Holland. Rob is an accomplished aerobatic pilot and instructor and has all kinds of paperwork, not to mention a laid-back and confidence-inspiring demeanor. He possesses the ability to answer any question without laughing -- I tried him out by asking some really silly ones. Rob is probably more used to pilots who now want to learn aerobatics than guys like me who are like, "Cool! This must be a special plane, it has pedals!"

I met Rob and he took me down into the hanger and outside to look the plane over, and I took a few pictures. My first impressions are that this plane is big but constructed in a light-weight fashion. As I looked around at other small private planes (Cessna's and such) I realized that, for a plane, this thing is small.

"You will be upside down."

The plane is a Pitts Special S-2C and when you look inside it, you will find nothing that doesn't have to be there. Control cables, mounting points, and everything else are right in view and there is no cosmetic stuff like a dash or coverings. If you know race cars, this looks like a high-end, pure racer with lightweight, but serious looking parts everyplace and that same primitive, but beautiful look that comes from form following function.

Personally I found it ravishing but someone who thinks a stock BMW 325i is Spartan inside would probably think that this plane was mostly disassembled when, in fact, it's in its ready-to-fly configuration.

Rob brought out the parachutes and taught me how they work. There is so little room inside this little monster that the parachute takes up most of what you would call a seat. Next, it was time to climb aboard and with instruction from Rob, I did just that, as you can see in Figure B.