Archive for Oracle Challenger

Flying with Sean D. Tucker

Posted in 2009, 98R, Aerobatics with tags , , , , on July 14, 2009 by mars58

Yesterday I had a unique opportunity to fly with Sean D. Tucker in an Extra 300. For the uninitiated, Sean is the “Tiger Woods” or “Derek Jeter” or “Michael Jordon” of the Air Show business.

So I show up yesterday at Republic airport to go for a ride. I flew 98R down there and they let me taxi up and park in the Oracle flight line. Ian, part of the Oracle Team crew came up and we exchanged greetings. He told me they had some unscheduled media rides to do and let me know they were running behind and I had to wait till they got the media flights done.

They had a twin engine Piper Seminal that they removed the large rear cargo door from so a camera man could harness in and shoot video for air to air shots around the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan. While waiting a couple of hours I got to talk to the crew, I got a chance to check out Sean’s state of the art Pitts Oracle Challenger and just enjoy hanging around the airport on a beautiful day. Beats a cubicle any day! Sean had just landed from one of his VIP rides in the Extra. Ian informed me that they had one more media ride for the NY Post and if I would like to ride along in the Seminal I was more than welcome. “You bet!”, I replied.

Just prior to this invite, Sean had come up to me, said hello and asked, “Hey that is your Pitts over there, right?” I said, “Yep” Then he astonished me and asked, “Do you want to go up in your Pitts?” The no brainer and almost instant answer to this was, “Absolutely!”

As he walked away to get ready for his next flight, a cold chill suddenly came over me, as I realized what I had just done. “Oh crap!”, I thought. I flew down here to go on a ride with Sean in the Extra. In his front seat, me as his passenger. Now we going up in 98R, Sean is in my front cokpit! “I have to fly Sean Tucker!” Talk about pressure and nerves. lol What did I do? 🙂 What if I @#$% up?

So, laughing, I started telling myself, “Ok Rob, it’s just another ride. You do these all the time, it’s just another person your taking for an aerobatic ride, it’s just another ride. lol” As I laughed and talked myself off the momentary ledge, the excitement took over as the true realization and anticipation that I just switched from an aerobatic ride to a bonafied lesson with Sean Tucker filled my head. Hell YEAH! It would be like Tiger Woods asking if he could play 18 holes with you and help you with your golf game! Now I am really siked! Plus I knew it was going to be a great time!

Back to the media flight in the Seminal. So the NYPost reporter never showed and had stranded his camera man, Dexter, at the airport. With no contact from the reporter and the time slot ready to go, Dexter turns to me and says, “Can you work a camera?” “Sure”, I replied.

So if you follow this link: you will see my debut as a NYPost.com camera man for a day! LOLH This short clip captures how truly cool it was to join them for this flight.

After we returned from the media flight, Sean and I sat down and talked about what we were going to do. So we decided to go out and start with the basics, show him a Loop, a Hammerhead etc. Then he says, “Do you know what The Centrifuge is?” I looked at him puzzled. Thinking back on it now, I should have remembered it is one of his signature maneuvers. He says, “I’ll show you that one too.”

So as we get ready, Sean’s guys are going through my airplane making sure it was in tip top shape and thankfully they liked what they saw! His head mechanic mentioned he couldn’t believe how clean my engine and compartment was.

So Sean climbed in the front seat and I hoped in the back. I closed the canopy and locked it into place with it’s usual “klunk”. I fliped on the master, hit the boost pump to prime the engine, turned the key and in two blades 98 Romeo roared to attention. Oil pressure and temperature looked good, I turned on the radio and said, “Sean how do you read?” “Loud and clear”, he replied. I switched over to ground control and asked to taxi out to the runway thinking, “Well here goes nothing.” I silently said the astronaut prayer, “Lord please don’t let me @#$% this up!” I called tower, got cleared for an immediate take off. “98 Romeo no delay, jet on a 3 mile final”, replied the tower. “Roger tower, immediate departure, 98 Romeo.”, and off we went.

As we flew out to the aerobatic area where the airshow would take place Saturday and Sunday, Sean briefed me on the boundaries and altitudes we would be flying. When we got out to the aerobatic area, I did a loop, he did a loop. After a couple loops he said do a Hammerhead, then he did a Hammerhead. The whole time I’m thinking, “WOW I’m flying around with Sean Tucker doing loops and hammers.” Then he goes, “let me show you my Double Hammer head.”

For those that have flown with me you know that is one of my favorite moves. The normal Hammerhead, you pull strait up and wait till the airplane stops flying upward, kick the rudder and the airplane pivots as if someone stuck a tack in the middle of it and spun the nose downward, then you pull from strait down to upright again. Well the Double Hammerhead or Pinwheel, you actually spin around again, like a pinwheel as you fall through the sky.

So Sean does a Double Hammer, then goes, “OK show me yours.” I do mine and he goes, “Nice! I like it!” We do a couple more and he shows me some of the finer points and tricks to getting them to come out perfect every time.

Then he says, “Let me show you the Centrifuge.” We dive down to about 180 – 200 miles an hour, pull up to a 30 degree climb, he rolls inverted then pushes, right rudder and right aileron and finesses 98R into an end over end, rolling, tumbling parabolic arc for the next 10 to 15 seconds… he pulls out and asks, “How are you doing?” I exclaim, “THAT WAS AWESOME!” So he says, “ok you do one…” LOLH I think, “WTF did he just do?” Laughing to myself I say, “Walk me through it one more time.” He says, “Here I will talk you through it.” And around we go, my head spinning, flipping through the sky having the time of my life. We do a couple more of those. Then he says, “Show me your Lomchevok.” (Another tumble). So I dive down, pull up to a 45 degree line, roll into a left knife edge, kick right rudder and left forward stick and around we go end over end, I pull out and he goes, “Nice! Let me show you how I do it.” We finish up and unfortunately we were getting to the point where we need to get back for fuel. Honestly I think Sean was having as much fun as I was. If we had unlimited fuel and daylight I think we’d both still be out there.

When we got back, we debriefed and talked for about 40 mins, Sean signed 98R and I high tailed it out of there racing the sun home.

It was a great time! One of those moments that will truly go down as one of the most enjoyable and memorable days I have had flying aerobatics. Sean was a consummate airman and downright great guy. It’s amazing how much he helped me during that flight and how great it was talking with him. I can’t wait for Sunday, to sit on the beach and watch the show!

God Bless all of you.

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