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Posted by jbourke | Jan 11, 2015 @ 01:54 PM | 10,692 Views
I picked up my new Extra 330LX in St. Augustine Florida last weekend and flew it home.


I arrived in Florida on Friday, January 2. I made it to Southeast Aero at about 4PM, giving me enough time to see the plane in person before they closed for the day. I met with some of the staff at Southeast Aero and went back to the hotel feeling very comfortable about working with them.

Training began on Saturday morning. I flew with Doug "Darth" Vayda, who is about as experienced an Extra pilot as you can find. People purchasing Extras from Doug also have the option of seeking training from Patty Wagstaff, who is hangared directly opposite from Southeast Aero.

I also got to see my Xtreme Decathlon, N210XD, one last time. It's in Doug's care waiting for a new buyer to come along. I hope the next owner takes good care of it.

I found Doug to be very easy to work with. From the moment I first strapped the airplane on to the point where I left St Augustine I felt comfortable and safe. I worked with Doug to learn every aspect of the plane's operation, in preparation for my long cross country to Oregon. Doug also took time to point out emergency procedures with me. For example, if a pilot forgets to switch to the acro tank before rolling upside down, the engine will stop. We simulated this to make sure I understood how much time it would take for the engine to start up again. I hope I never make that mistake but it's helpful to know what to do if it happens.
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Posted by jbourke | Oct 29, 2014 @ 11:37 AM | 14,075 Views
I'm very excited to share some pictures with you. Attached are photos of my new Extra 330LX, under construction at the Extra aircraft factory in Germany.

Readers of this website probably don't need any introduction to Extras. The 330 LX is the latest development in their line of two seat Unlimited category aircraft.

I came very close to buying the single seat 330SC but after some very helpful discussions with Jeff Boerboon, I was convinced that the LX would be the right plane for me. I occasionally need to carry a passenger and I don't predict I'll be nationally competitive for many years, if ever.

Still, I opted for the single seat canopy option. This will let me fly with the single seat canopy which lightens up the airplane, improves the aerodynamics, and also looks a lot better than the two seat canopy. With the single seat canopy in place I understand the performance is close to the 330SC. Of course there is additional weight over the SC because there is still an extra seat, controls, and a panel in there.

I went with a registration number of N330FZ. 330 is of course for 330LX. The "FZ" is for my nickname, "Fuzzy".

I worked with Italian designer Mirco Pecorari on the color scheme. I wanted something different and striking without being overly busy. We choose colors that generally match the RCGroups color scheme. Later we plan to add vinyl graphics for logos and some detail.

Enjoy the photos. More to come later.

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Posted by jbourke | Sep 19, 2014 @ 10:33 PM | 15,350 Views
I'm at the International Aerobatic Club US National Aerobatic Championships in Denison, Tx this week.

I got a practice flight in earlier today in some challenging conditions, with a 17 mph crosswind and an annoying scattered deck of clouds just low enough over the box to make things difficult.

The box is well marked for the contest but only a bit of it can be seen on Google Maps here: https://www.google.com/maps/@33.7135.../data=!3m1!1e3

Right in the center of that picture you'll see a white plus ("+") symbol painted on an inactive runway. That's the center of the box. There are two white Ts painted on the runway just north and south of that. Those are the northern and southern edges of the box. What you can't see on Google Maps are the east and west boundaries, but you can probably get the idea.

When you fly in the box you can't very well see all the markers all the time so you try to use landmarks outside the box to make sure you are lined up. In this case we have a white hangar lined up with the north edge of the box, the control tower lined up with the middle, and a red and white checkered water tower lined up with the south edge. Those are helpful markers when you are spinning or rolling around during a sequence.

It's very exciting to be here with all of these like-minded airplane-loving people. I'll try to check in with a blog entry once or twice during the competition.

I'm entered in the Intermediate category with my Xtreme Decathlon, N210XD. I'...Continue Reading
Posted by jbourke | Jul 13, 2014 @ 10:52 PM | 17,884 Views
I just got back home after three days of performing at the 2014 Arlington Fly-In in my Xtreme Decathlon. Thanks to my friend, John Smutny, for making my dream come true by inviting me to fly there.

I took a couple of videos from inside the airplane. The first is a video from my head mounted camera, taken on Friday. The second is from a camera mounted in my plane and looking back at me, taken on Thursday.

Arlington Fly-In 2014 Air Show Head Cam (14 min 37 sec)

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Posted by jbourke | Apr 25, 2014 @ 07:52 PM | 19,237 Views
I had a great time in Borrego Springs recently, competing in the Hammerhead Roundup hosted by International Aerobatics Club chapter 36. I entered the contest in my new Xtreme Decathlon in the Sportsman category.

I flew down early to get some practice time in. I got some ground coaching from Michael Church and Casey Erickson the day before the event. Thanks to their assistance I ended up flying pretty well considering it was my first contest in my new plane.

I took a video from the cockpit during one of my flights.

Xtreme Decathlon N210XD IAC Sportsman 2014 Borrego Springs (3 min 59 sec)

Since the contest I've been practicing the Intermediate figures in between the low overcast and frequent rain showers and fog we have to put up with this time of the year in Oregon.

Posted by jbourke | Nov 22, 2013 @ 02:12 PM | 26,469 Views
I just received delivery on my new Xtreme Decathlon!

See my earlier blog entry about it for more details.

I'm attaching some photos of it, some of them were sent by the factory during construction.

My thanks to Michael Ford of Flawless Car Photography for sending me the beautiful pics of the finished airplane. Michael is an RCGroups user as well as a professional photographer. I'd also like to thank Sammy Mason for his fine work ferrying the airplane to me.

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Posted by jbourke | Nov 05, 2013 @ 12:38 PM | 26,414 Views
I attended the World Aerobatic Championships in Texas a couple of weeks ago. Here are my pics from the event.

It was really nice to see the AMA was there with a booth running RealFlight simulators. This is the same trailer that was at the AirVenture event in Oshkosh. I got to meet some R/C-ers from the local club, the Texoma R/C Modelers.

Unfortunately I didn't get a lot of coverage from the event because I didn't think to call ahead and arrange for permission. I got turned away by well meaning volunteers before I finally happened on my insurance agent, Ryan Birr from Northwest Insurance Group. He got me a pass and I was able to take a few pictures before I had to get going, but I didn't have time to do any interviews with pilots or take any video of the flights.

There was no posted schedule or standings during the event that could be seen from the spectator area and the weather didn't cooperate very much, so it was a tough event to enjoy from the sidelines. If you plan on coming to an event like this be aware that competition flying is not an airshow. There were long periods without a lot of flying and there wasn't anyone assigned to tell the spectators what was going on.

Oddly enough there was a booth where they were selling t-shirts and other memorabilia but that booth was completely inaccessible from the spectator area!

I think the aerobatic community should consider doing more to encourage spectators to come to these events. We have a lot to gain...Continue Reading
Posted by jbourke | Aug 07, 2013 @ 05:05 PM | 35,729 Views
During my recent trip to Airventure in Oshkosh, WI, I found some extra time to visit the nearby American Champion factory.

The purpose of my visit was to test fly the new Xtreme Decathlon. I'm looking for a two seat certified aerobatic/cross-country airplane and the XD might fit the bill.

The new plane is an improvement on the venerable Super Decathlon (itself an upgrade from the Decathlon, born out of the Citabria, based on the Champ...whew!).

The Xtreme is very similar to the Super Decathlon in appearance, but has a number of improvements that make it a bit more suitable for competitive aerobatic flying. Namely:
  • 30 additional horsepower
  • new ailerons
  • lightweight flooring and other mods

Meanwhile the aircraft retains the features that make it such a nice all-around airplane, including real baggage space and a comfortable passenger seat.

The Xtreme Decathlon is not as powerful as the other planes I've owned but I've always been fond of the Super Decathlon and I think I'd really enjoy owning one. My thought right now is to pick up an Xtreme Decathlon and then fly it while building a Pitts S1 with some hop-up parts from Wolf Aircraft.

I arrived at the factory after a two hour drive down from Oshkosh and met with Jody Bradt, the engineer in charge of the Xtreme. Jody and the owner, Char, gave me a complete tour of the factory. I've visited a few airplane factories so I knew what to expect, but I was very impressed to see a well-organized and clean facility....Continue Reading
Posted by jbourke | Jul 24, 2013 @ 01:29 PM | 32,541 Views
It's been awhile since I blogged so let me do some catch up about recent activities:

Russian Thunder Update

I sold my Yak-54, Russian Thunder!

It was a tough decision but after flying it a bit this year I realized that it was time to move on. I'm just not flying enough to stay current with the Yak-54. I didn't feel safe taking it up once a month or so. It's not a terribly difficult airplane to fly but it is a bit on the heavy side.

Also, I started feeling like I was spending too much time at the hangar that didn't involve flying. Radial engines sound and look awesome, but they need quite a bit of ground work before and after every flight.

I put it on the market and an enthusiastic buyer snatched it up so I'm suddenly without an airplane. I'm looking at the new Xtreme Decathlon and also thinking about building a Pitts S1 with Wolf parts.

Sbach 342

I wish there was a happy ending to the story.

The Sbach 342 was totalled out and auctioned off by my insurance company. No one seemed ready to bid on it so I was going to get the wreckage back for free but on the last day of the blind auction someone stepped in and bought it. That person had a lot of advantages making the bid because I had confided my intentions to him. I understand the plane has since been repaired and is flying in air shows in the southern California area.

Unfortunately after the wreck the insurance companies would no longer insure Sbach aircraft in the US, and therefore we...Continue Reading
Posted by jbourke | May 04, 2011 @ 03:29 PM | 55,717 Views
Just got some photos in from the engine repair shop.

In June 2009 I went down to Red Bluff, California to pick up Russian Thunder after the conclusion of some extensive restoration work. I shared pictures of some of the progress in previous blog entries from that time period, so I won't go into all the details but suffice to say that the airplane was torn apart and pretty much fully rebuilt.

When I bought Russian Thunder there wasn't much info available. The previous owner had passed away and the logs were a bit skimpy. The first thing I did was peel off the sponsor decals at which point I found a fairly large gash in the side of the fuselage! It seemed after this that it was in my best interest to err on the side of caution, which is what made me decide to do the full restoration.

During this process the engine was pulled and looked over thoroughly. It looked fine and had been running well so I made the call to keep it. I had a nagging feeling that it would have been better to just order a new engine but absent some reason to trust that feeling I made the call to put the old engine back on. From the standpoint of the logs it appeared nearly new, with only 300 hours or so on it.

Unfortunately on the first test flight after the restoration the engine gave out.

Normally in Russian Thunder (or any other aircraft in this class), takeoff happens very quickly after the throttle is advanced. As I advanced the throttle and started down the runway, pushing the...Continue Reading
Posted by jbourke | Apr 13, 2011 @ 03:25 PM | 65,291 Views
I wasn't sure how much to share about this but word started getting out shortly after the incident, including at least one photo that circulated a bit (after which Jim G pretty well goaded me into talking about it for the RCG Podcast) so I suppose a blog entry is in order.

My associate Doug and I were trying to get the airplane to Lakeland, Florida for the Sun 'n Fun fly-in. Bad weather made that difficult. We ended up getting stuck in a little airport in Alabama (happily holed up with a couple of nice folks from Rans Aircraft, including Randy Schlitter, the owner) for a day and a half. By Thursday I had seen enough of the hotel and felt pretty sure Sun 'n Fun was a lost cause due to the tornadic winds that swept through and destroyed many aircraft. I made the decision to leave Doug with the airplane and go to the Toledo show.

I planned to stay at the Toledo show Saturday and then fly down to Lakeland and make the return trip to Oregon with Doug, but after seeing that Sun 'n Fun was basically a rain out and eventually realizing how tired I was I decided to take an airliner home.

Unfortunately during the return flight from Florida something happened that jammed the elevator controls on the Sbach. Doug was too low to bail out, flying at about 9,000 feet over 7,500 foot terrain, and he couldn't let go of the stick without the plane pitching forward. Unable to climb or maintain level flight he was forced to descend to the nearest airport, using elevator trim and...Continue Reading
Posted by jbourke | Feb 09, 2011 @ 11:16 PM | 57,710 Views
A bit of "full scale" news for those interested. Today XtremeAir of Germany announced that my company, Extreme Aerosports, is the new US Agent for Sbach aircraft.

I recently visited the Sbach factory in Germany to make this deal with compatriot Doug Jardine. Philipp Steinbach, XtremeAir's lead designer and test pilot, gave us the grand tour and an exhilarating demo flight which I will not soon forget.

I'm attaching some of the photos I took from the trip. You'll notice some similarities to model plane construction. Enjoy!

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Posted by jbourke | Jan 21, 2011 @ 04:22 PM | 58,610 Views
This week we took some pictures of me with my new Sbach 342. My aerobatics company, Extreme Aerosports, will hopefully be making an exciting announcement next week. Stay tuned!

Posted by jbourke | Dec 31, 2010 @ 11:41 PM | 59,476 Views
Today I took the willing participants of my family to see the Spruce Goose in McMinnville, Oregon at the Evergreen Aviation Museum.

We were allowed onto the Flight Deck for some photos after a small bribe.

If you are ever in the Portland, Oregon area this museum is worth a visit. They've recently added a separate space museum and an IMAX theater.

They are continually developing the museum and adding new aircraft. There is a nice R/C model field behind the museum as well as a display area with tanks and other WWII-era military hardware.

Curiously, they are building a new feature right now, which I presume will be open in 2011. I promise I am not making this next part up. They are adding a separate indoor water park with a wave pool and several slides. The slides are all entered from a 747 which is mounted on the roof of the very large building. I've never seen an aviation-themed water park before. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of this. I understand they are adding a lodge of some kind next year.

What I always take away from museum visits is how many people, like me, are fascinated with airplanes.

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Posted by jbourke | Dec 10, 2010 @ 10:36 PM | 54,729 Views
I spent the last few days in Las Vegas at the annual trade show for the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS).

I went to learn about the air show industry and to see how much interest there is in my aircraft, Russian Thunder and my new Sbach 342.

I have to receive a waiver before I'm able to fly in air shows. I haven't gone through the process yet, so I used my time to ask questions about the waiver process. Air show pilots must present their routine to an Aerobatic Competency Examiner (ACE), who will then set an initial base altitude of 500 or 800 feet. I understand that 500 feet is generally the norm right now but it will soon go to 800 feet, so it makes sense for me to work with an examiner soon. After performing at a certain number of airshows, the altitude is lowered to 250 feet then to the surface. Pilots are allowed to fly under their altitude in non-aerobatic manners, so it's not quite as restrictive as it may sound at first.

Flying air shows involves some risk so a big part of the ICAS show was about safety for performers and spectators. I learned a great deal due to an excellent presentation and follow up Q&A session. I'm very delighted with how forthcoming air show pilots are about their own mistakes. An openness like that makes it much easier for people to admit their shortcomings and set realistic expectations for themselves.

Since I don't have a waiver I worked things out with Doug Jardine and Rich Perkins to fly my Sbach and Yak-54,...Continue Reading
Posted by jbourke | Nov 05, 2010 @ 12:13 PM | 65,279 Views
In my last blog entry I mentioned flying the Sbach 342.

I'm pleased to announce that I've purchased the airplane. It was delivered to me yesterday. I put a couple of flights on it with Kevin Eldredge, who many of you may know from his Relentless NXT Reno race plane.

I'm already feeling very comfortable with the airplane. It is quite a departure from my Yak, Russian Thunder. I will report more when I have more time on the airplane. For now, here are pics. Enjoy!

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Posted by jbourke | Oct 10, 2010 @ 03:37 PM | 62,243 Views
Last week after our wedding and a short stay in Portland, Annette and I took a brief honeymoon trip to San Luis Obispo, California, to visit new friend Kevin Eldredge.

You might already know of Kevin from his Reno racer, Relentless NXT. Kevin had a close call at this year's race, which unfortunately denied him the opportunity to set a new record in his class. We talked a little bit about the risks of air racing and the recent death of top aerobatic pilot Renaud Ecalle.

During the visit Annette and I were fortunate to get a ride in Kevin's Sbach 342. This plane has more going for it than great looks! Shortly after takeoff we were doing over 190 knots in a shallow climb toward the coast. While I didn't get a chance to do much more than garden variety acro, the increase in performance over my Yak-54, Russian Thunder, was evident. We climbed through each aerobatic maneuver with ease. The visibility through the one piece canopy is outstanding. My Yak rides along fairly nose-high and I don't get a chance to see what is in front of me very well. I enjoyed being able to push the nose down in the Sbach, cruising along at over 200 mph, with great visibility in front of the aircraft.

It clearly is a real winner on the ground as well. The all carbon fiber construction allowed Xtremeair's Philipp Steinbach, the designer, to create a very curvy airplane. The shape is organic, even voluptuous, when compared to other aerobatic aircraft. Even so, it disassembles easily...Continue Reading
Posted by jbourke | Oct 03, 2010 @ 01:03 PM | 60,607 Views
Yesterday Annette and I took our vows in front of close friends and family. It was a very special ceremony that was perfect to the last detail.

Many of you already know my new wife Annette from our joint attendance at various fly-ins and trade shows. What you may not know is that she is an avid R/C-er and a full scale aerobatics hopeful as well. I'm not sure there are many women as lovable as Annette who would warmly accept a new transmitter as a wedding present, but I present to you these photos as proof! Yes, that's her actually kissing her new Futaba 8FG 8-channel radio.

Jim T. Graham and SleepyC (Steve Cinch) from FlyingGiants came up last week and I managed to talk them into riding in Russian Thunder with me. I'm sure they'll blog about it separately so I'll simply say that I don't think they'll forget the experience any time soon!

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Posted by jbourke | Aug 15, 2010 @ 05:10 PM | 59,384 Views
Just got back from a trip to Pendleton, Oregon for the Beaver State Regional IAC Aerobatic Contest.

While I was there, RCGroups user "deckert" drove in with his wife and took some photos of my plane and put them in his blog. He also wrote up a nice little article to explain what it is like to visit one of the International Aerobatic Club (IAC) events.

As deckert states in his blog, the contests are as much about the social gatherings as they are about the competition. I'm sure the feel is quite different at the Nationals or a World Championship, but at a regional event like this one everyone is mostly interested in helping each other out and making sure everyone flies safely.

I learned a lot from this competition and hope to put my experience to work in mid-September at the competition in Ephrata.

Congratulations to my friend Steve Ellison for his first place win. Great job, Steve!

Posted by jbourke | Aug 09, 2010 @ 01:38 PM | 58,794 Views
We've updated the Russian Thunder website with some new photos of the aircraft.

The new engine, paint, and other modifications are working out great. I think I'm finally on top of all the maintenance issues. I do still have a bit of a problem with the air start system, so I'm forced to take a small scuba tank with me as a backup to start the aircraft, but this is a minor nuisance.

I've taken the week off to prepare for the Beaver State Regional Championship aerobatic contest this weekend in Pendleton, OR. This is the first IAC event I've been able to attend as a competitor since 2008, so I'm merely hoping to fly safely and relearn as much as I can. I'll be pretty busy but will try to take photos and videos along the way. Wish me luck!