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Changing Direction: Wagstaff Expands Her Envelope in New Extra 330LX
By James Wynbrandt
July 21, 2015 - No, Patty Wagstaff’s airplane hasn’t been through some aviation version of Extreme Makeover. When the aerobatic superstar flies into show center for her performance here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh today and Saturday, instead of the black and yellow Extra 300S fans know, she’ll be flying a red and silver Extra 330LX, the latest design from Germany’s Walter Extra. Among the design enhancements: refined ailerons, a larger rudder, and a bigger engine: a 350-hp Lycoming IO-580, instead of the IO-540 in 300-series Extras. “This airplane is a beast, a freight train,” Patty says. “There’s so much power, so much performance.”
But the biggest difference is that this is a two-place aircraft, a configuration long considered incompatible with professional level aerobatics—until the 330LX. “This is the only two-seater you can do a hard-core solo routine in,” Patty says. And when not performing extreme aerobatics, the airplane “cruises at 185 knots, and it’s comfortable,” she notes. “It’s a spectacular airplane.”
Patty only recently began flying the 330LX and is adapting her trademark full throttle, extreme routine as she gets to know the corners of its performance envelope. “I’ve had a good week of practice, [but] I don’t have all the tumbles figured out,” she says, “that one little sweet spot, the perfect speed where the plane wants to tumble end over end.”
Yet the switch to the 330LX isn’t about more power as much as a representation of new directions for Patty, as she expands her aviation activities beyond flying air shows.
Last year she opened a flight-training facility, Patty Wagstaff Aerobatic School, co-located with Southeast Aero, U.S. distributor of Extra Aircraft, at Northeast Florida Regional Airport (SGJ) in St. Augustine, Florida. The school provides upset training and aerobatic training in an Extra 300L and Super Decathlon.
SGJ has a strong link to the aerobatic world dating to the 1980s, when the Aero Sport FBO started its “Flying Circus” to draw more business to the airport. Southeast Aero, which owns the 330LX Patty is flying, is a descendant of that FBO. Founder and President Kramer Upchurch, who started his career at Aero Sport, says having Patty fly the airplane is “another facet of the relationship we’re developing between her flight training and air show business, and our dealership.”
The 330LX, N431LX, is on display at the company’s exhibit area (Booth 364-365). About half a dozen 330LXs are currently flying in the U.S. Says Upchurch, “We’re beginning to see our airplanes used by people wanting to develop unusual attitude recovery training programs, and we think the Extras’ characteristics, and reliability and safety, are particularly well-suited to this kind of instruction.”
Meanwhile, Patty excused herself to prepare for her shows, announcing. “I’m going out to practice.”