One : A Pitts Killer or a Pitts Wannabee?
The thing I'd never learn to live with is the seat back angle—it's too straight and is uncomfortable after a short period of hard working. The Pitts is an animal in that respect too, but I'd very definitely put a wedge-shaped cushion behind me in the Acroduster to get a little more back angle.
The spins are a real head trip because they are fairly flat, both inside and outside, and recover instantly, especially inverted. It took several tries before I got used to not needing quite so much lead time to stop it on cue.
I've never been an ace at landing a Pitts and this preyed upon my mind all the time I was up in the Acroduster. After each maneuver, I'd glance back at the airport and think, "Well, you can't put it off forever. Who knows, maybe it's not bad after all." But, I couldn't convince myself. So, when I entered the pattern and turned final I had the usual pins-and-needles feeling that threatened to send my adrenalin flow right out of sight. Osborne had said it was a pussycat, but I've been bitten by more than one supposedly tame kitty.
The visibility over the nose was beautiful right down to the runway and 85 mph was a comfortable way to travel that last quarter mile. One thing that amazed me was that I was completely power-off and gliding almost like a real airplane. As the runway came up, I timidly began to flare and once again found it flew like an airplane. I toyed with the ground, holding it off in a three-point position, caught a little gust and then squashed down on that aluminum spring-type gear. And that was it! There was no skittering about the runway, no hippity-hop, no nothing. If I hadn't known better, I would have sworn I had just landed a Citabria. The visibility is the same. The rudder feel and reaction is similar and the rollout is almost identical. It's not going to go straight ahead unaided, but left to its own devices, it will begin to go off heading very slowly and gently. A Pitts in the same situation will make sudden jerks and lunges towards the bushes, keeping you literally on your toes.
If I were forced to use one word in comparing the Acroduster to the Pitts Special, it would be "easier," not "better." It may be a little faster, might climb a bit better and definitely has a faster roll rate, but none of these are going to make the pilot an instant Charlie Hillard. Practice does that. However, I think a pilot who's green to both airplanes will progress faster in the Acroduster. He won't have to work quite. as hard to get up to an acceptable level of competition readiness. However, in the hands of one of the unlimited category hot-rocks, neither airplane will have even the slightest effect on the outcome.
Another place where the Acroduster's middle name is "Easy" is in the length and difficulty of its gestation period. Without actually building one, it's hard to tell for certain, but it appears as if the Acroduster will go together a whole lot faster than a Pitts. Not only does the structure present a slightly faster type of construction, but you'll always be building from one of Osborne's material kits in which nearly all the difficult steps, including shearing sheets and bending flanges, are done for you. You'll always be building from a kit because Osborne won't sell a set of plans without the complete materials kit to keep them company. The kit is literally a complete, but disassembled, airplane that needs only the engine and propeller. Even the motor mount and gas tank are completely finished and ready to nail in place. Naturally there has to be a kicker, and there is...the price. At press time, the kit was going for $5500. The kit approach saves the builder a lot of legwork looking for parts and services, but it forces the price of the finished airplane up to over $10,000. Not exactly a small investment for the summertime hero. But then, any unlimited competitive mount is going to cost between $10,000-$25,000. (Ed note from 2007: the entire last paragraph makes me wanna puke!)
I expect the Acroduster to be accepted rather slowly by the aerobatic fraternity. The competition aerobatic bunch can be a little cliquish and cold to an outsider. Also, I'm certain there's going to be an unspoken, subliminal feeling that the Acroduster is a baby carriage compared to their hairy-chested Pitts.
It's kind of like showing up at an after-race party at the Darlington 500 in a 911S Porsche: the NASCAR studs would pass you off as a "limp wrist." The Acroduster lines are a shade effeminate for the more traditional of the good-oleboys with their Pitts. The smart money, of course, is going to be watching the Acroduster very closely. And that's about all any of us can do at this point, sit back and watch and see if it's going to be a winner or another "almost-Pitts" that couldn't quite make the grade. BD
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