by Budd Davisson
If youíve seen her fly, youíll never forget it. Sheís razzle-dazzle personified. If you meet her and spend a few moments with her, youíll come away with much the same feeling. Itíll be obvious that the pilot fits the airplane. Or is it the other way around?
Patty exudes confidence laced with huge amounts of both zaniness and steely-edged professionalism. This is combined with a very clear-cut idea of who she is and what she wants. Catch her out of her element, however, and youíll find her quiet. Almost shy. But always ready to flash that trademark smile that is at least as sincere as the woman herself. Patty is what you see is what you get with not one iota of pretense.
For well over a decade, Pattyís signature airplanes have been the sleek monoplanes designed by Germanyís Walter Extra. First it was the 230, then the fire breathing, one of a kind 260 and now, the 300S, the single seat version of the 300L
Walter Extra himself is a world-class aerobatic competitor so he knows what he wants in his airplanes and how to get it. In actual fact, full-scale, un-limited category competition airplanes have a lot in common with todayís R/C pattern ships. They must roll quickly and have enormous vertical performance, which requires lots of power but little weight. Plus they must not break. Of course, the last two points, light weight and strength, comprise two of the biggest compromises in aviation. It takes a clever mind to get both.
Extraís designs are an interesting combination of traditional technology and edge-of-the-envelope innovation. The fuselages are tried and true, chrome-moly steel tubing trusses, a concept that goes back even before Tony Fokkerís use of steel tubing in WWI. The wings, however, are true composite structures in that the very word ìcompositeî means more than one kind of material is used. In this case, in some models, it means plywood ribs are combined with composite skins and spars to produce wings that handle 10 Gís, plus and negative, with ease.
The cockpit is quality redefined: Walter Extra builds very well detailed machines! The seat is reclined just enough to be both comfortable and offer G-resistance without introducing any kind of weirdness. The visibility on the ground is great, although straight ahead is totally obscured by the big Lycoming. The first two-place Extraís, on which the 300L/S is based had the wing mounted higher, in the middle, of the fuselage, and the wing effectively blocked all runway visibility during the landing flare.
In the air, the 300S is basically a bullet. It goes where you point it and it does it immediately. The ailerons are extremely light with little or no break-out force, or pressure ìnotch,î that self-centers the stick and lets you know where neutral is. A ham-handed pilot will find he or she is constantly fighting themselves as they over-control first one way, then the other.
The airplane presents few, if any, limitations, and, in fact, the pilot is usually the limiting factor. Of course, when Patty takes off, even that limitation is removed giving the audience the rare opportunity to see aerobatics in the purest sense of the word.