What’s so extra about the Extra? The Extra 330SC is the most popular plane here at the FAI European Aerobatic Championships. We asked two pilots, Kenny Chiang from Hong Kong, and John Galliard, head of the judging committee at CIVA, to explain.
“The top speed is 400km/h,” says Chiang, “and it’s rated plus or minus 10G. It’s a single-seater and I think it’s won the last three Aerobatic World Championships.”
Chiang is a guest at the competition here. A resident of Hong Kong he is taking part but his scores won’t make the final rankings. As such he’s in line to be the first pilot to take off – having such a pilot helps judges get their eye in at the start of the comp.
What’s the difference between a plane like this, and say a plane that might take you on a tourist flight over the Niagara Falls?“It’s completely different. First, it’s designed just for aerobatics. So you have a full-span aileron, so the whole trailing edge of the wing is the aileron. We don’t have flaps on these airplanes.
“And there is a taildragger on the tail. If you notice, on the ground pilots get very poor visibility. That’s because there is no wheel at the front.”
A non-aerobatic plane has three wheels – they form a tripod with one underneath the nose. Aerobatic planes have taildraggers – a small wheel underneath the tail. There is no wheel below the nose.
“That makes them more difficult to land, because the centre of gravity sits behind. With a normal tricycle centre of gravity sits at the front,” explains Galliard.
“The difference is when you land on a tricycle the centre of gravity will always try and put you straight. And on this one, if you’re not careful…” he trails off and both he and Chiang burst out laughing. “It won’t!” continues Galliard.
“It’s like pushing a castor the wrong way. You have to keep them straight all the time.”
So landing is difficult? “Relatively,” says Chiang, “For a new pilot, yes, but what’s really difficult about landing these planes after flying intense aerobatics for 10 or fifteen minutes is coming in and staying cool and calm.”
The Extra 330SC is the latest model from the manufacturer Extra. Designer Walter Extra is a former competition aerobatic pilot who started to design his own aircraft after competing in the 1982 World Aerobatic Championships. His designs revolutionised the aerobatic flying scene, and dominate international competitions.
The other two popular planes at the competition here at the European Aerobatic Championships are the Sukhoi and the CAP 232.
The Sukhoi is a Russian-built aerobatic aircraft identifiable by its cylindrical engine shape. The CAP 232 was originally designed and built for the French Air Force.
Wing area: 9.8m2
Empty weight: 585kg
Fast fact: Designed by Walter Extra with HQ in Germany
Wing area: 11.83m2
Empty weight: 700kg
Load: -10G to +12G
Fast fact: First produced in 1994 by the Sukhoi Company, Russia
Wing area: 9.86m2
Empty weight: 630kg
Fast fact: Originally designed for the French Air Force in 1985