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Pilot Report- Skybolt

AlRice

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Last Friday, at SunNFun, I got to fly Hale Wallace's yellow Skybolt during the midday factory demo flights over the field. I'm happy to report that I made the right decision to build a Skybolt. What a fantastic flying plane!

After I strapped on the chute and cinched down the harness, Steen's factory pilot, Barrett Brummet, cranked up the 350hp Monte Barret Lycoming monster. Even with headsets on, you could tell by its bark that this motor wasn't anything like your father's Comanche Lycoming. Weaving around an F-16 that was hogging the taxiway, we rumbled and s-turned out to the active and waited for 30 minutes for clearance to take off.

When we finally got cleared, Barrett nailed the throttle and that big 4 bladed Hoffman clawed at the air and punished me with 3 g's mashing me back in the seat. I love that kind of punishment! We were off the ground in about 250 ft climbing at a ridiculous 45 deg angle at 90mph! It only took us 20 seconds to get to 1400ft before the end of the runway. That's a 4200 fpm climb! The Skybolt is a rocket!

These factory demo flights are designed to showcase the planes to the crowd at Sun N Fun and Barrett doesn't disappoint them. While David Stone extolled the performance specs of the Skybolt over the loudspeakers, Barrett snapped 90 deg turns at 190mph to downwind, base, and final. With the smoke on, we dove to 600 ft toward the flight line at 220 mph, leveled out and then pulled up at a 45 deg climb at mid field. We leveled off at 1400ft just 10 seconds later and made our turn and did it 2 more times. The tach was pegged at 3100rpm the whole time.

After the 3rd pass, we left the pattern and boogied for the rock quarries south of Lakeland where Barrett finally turned the stick over to me. I have to admit that after being snapped all over the cockpit by the 'crisp' turns in the pattern, I wasn't ready for the feel of the stick. Surprise! Rock solid, smooth, not twitchy, but precise. The ailerons, elevator, and rudder are light, but powerful. While the 172 feels like driving a semi truck without power steering, Hale's Skybolt reminded me of zipping in and out of traffic in my old Austin Healy bug-eyed Sprite. What a pleasure!

My stomach is not aerobatic rated yet, so I stuck to 140mph S-turns and steep turns. According to Barrett, the muscled-up Lycoming only burns 9gph at 140mph! I bumped the speed up to 180mph and the controls became noticeably firmer but still very light.

By about 1:30pm, it was time for everyone to get on the ground before the 2pm airshow, so we beat it back to the pattern. With planes stacked 4 deep on final for 27 right, 27 left, and the barnstormer's grass runway, the tower wanted us to get on the ground in a hurry. How about a 180mph short final and still made the first turnoff! I was totally impressed with Barrett and the Skybolt!

Following the airshow Friday, Steen Aerolab hosted a barbeque at their campsite for all Skybolt, Pitts, Firebolt builders, owners and wannabe's. It was a class act.

A special thanks to David Stone, Barrett Brummet, Hale Wallace, and Lamar Steen.

Al

 

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