Tuesday 16 November 2010

A pilot's impression of flying a Stearman as part of the Baby Breitling Wingwalking Team

After a season of flying one of the Stearmans here are some of the impressions from one of the pilots, Steve.

When we fly in formation Richard, who is the first pilot, controls the display and the speed and it's up to me as the second pilot to make the adjustments in position so that we stay in formation.  Each display is different because of the site and the weather conditions so Richard is making adjustments to keep the display within the right area and I make adjustments to stay in formation with him.

I use the rudder a lot to slip the plane into position.  I can't use the ailerons and bank because people will see that the wings are different to the other aircraft and so it spoils the look of the display.

The point at each end of the circuit is the most critical part when you're flying in formation because both pilots may be going into the turn at different speeds which then means we will enter the next manoeuvre at different speeds. If you don't get the formation right at the end then the manouevres in the middle will never be correct.

The Stearman is a simple aircraft compared to some of the planes I fly.  It doesn't have retracts or flaps but it has its own complication in that the wingwalkers make it top heavy so you have to allow for that.  The wheels have a narrow track so, as we have experienced at most shows this year, it is difficult to land in a crosswind.

My favourite part of the display visually is when we put the smoke on - especially when there's a blue sky too.  

My favourite manouevre is the Superman at the end.  It's a straightforward manouevre as it's simply flying inverted but it shows the wingwalker off perfectly.  I've got used to not watching the wingwalker and just watching the plane, but in the Superman I look at the wingwalker as well to help me position the aircraft.

As I come in quite low and slow it's not a place where you want the engine to stop!

Photos copyright Neil Hutchinson & Chris Bowler and may not be used without their permission.

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