01-25-2005, 10:29 PM #1
For those who think only fighter pilots are flying gods
I did have it wrong.....he wasn't a cropduster first......
What's cool is he doesn't piss away millions of taxdollars at every performance
like the military boys. And what the hell is the Army doing sponsoring drag racing???
Sean D. Tucker
No one who has seen a performance by Sean D. Tucker will ever forget it.
Tucker's work in the Oracle Challenger-II provides his audiences with feats that are truly death-defying.
What Sean does in his average "day at the office" would be impossible for most of us to achieve. His practices alone impose one of the most grueling and physically demanding workouts imaginable. His performances impose more G-forces on his body than jet fighter pilots experience--a hammering +10 and -7.5 G's!
Strangely enough, Sean was once afraid of flying. Early on, he took up skydiving, but an accident claimed the life of a close friend and curtailed his growing joy of flight. He took flying lessons in 1969, but even after receiving his pilot certificate, the fear still remained.
Determined to conquer his fears, in a way that is trademark 'Tucker', he enrolled in an aerobatic training course in 1973 at the Amelia Reid Flying School in San Jose. There, Tucker overcame what seemed like impossible obstacles and completed the training that led him to become one of the premiere air show performers in the world.
A fiercely competitive nature coupled with ever-improving aerobatic skills led Sean to a string of successes in local and regional, California contests. Then, in 1988, having so completely conquered his fears, Sean earned the title of U.S. National Advanced Aerobatic Champion. Just the first of many awards, Sean went on to do something no other air show performer has ever done before...or since. In 1992, Sean earned the two most prestigious air show industry awards possible; The Art Scholl Memorial Showmanship Award and The Bill Barber Award for Air Show Showmanship -- in the same year! In 1997, he received his second General Aviation News and Flyer Reader’s Choice Award for Best Male Performer and in 1998, Sean won the first ever "CASPA Challenge" organized by the Championship Air Show Pilot’s Association.
Since beginning his air shows career in the mid-70's, Sean has flown more than 700 performances at more than 300 air shows, in front of more than 60-million fans. "I like to think that I bring the fans' dreams of flying into the plane with me; and there's nowhere I'd rather be than in the cockpit. That's why I train so hard to keep the edge!"
Having accumulated more than 16,000 flight hours (3,000 aerobatic), Sean has learned what it takes to become and stay world class. His success and safety depend on a rigorous fitness regimen of aerobic exercise, weight lifting and flying every day to keep his G-tolerance levels high and his razor sharp reflexes taut. And, the FAA and air show industries recognize his commitment. Serving as an FAA designated ACE (Air Show Certification Evaluator), Sean has spent countless hours counseling young air show performers on their routines. He has also served on air show industry oversight committees to review training, regulatory procedures and vital safety issues.
Sean's ever-energetic personality is contagious. And whether he's talking to experienced pilots, enthusiastic fans, or people who have never been in a plane before, it is impossible for them not to be inspired.
More than half of Sean's maneuvers are original and have never been duplicated by another aerobatic pilot.
Twice, during every air show, Sean will fly the Oracle Challenger-II backwards at a speed of more than 100 mph.
The G-forces exerted on Sean when he is flying are greater than those on the pilots in modern fighters like the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels.
From his normal weight of 175 pounds, Sean will weigh nearly 1,700 pounds while pulling 10 positive G's...and will resist the force 1,200 pounds pulling on his head as 7.5 negative G's tries to pull him out of the cockpit!
Sean knew that in order to build the ultimate aircraft, he would need the help of some of the most renowned craftsmen in the country. He contacted the best; Pete Gnaedinger, Steve Wolf, and Delmar Benjamin to name just a few. After a long period of deciding what performance and weight parameters needed to be met, a final design was chosen.
Early in 1995 Pete Gnaedinger drove to Afton, WY, home of Aviat aircraft and makers of the world famous Pitts line of aerobatic aircraft. Pete had been given permission to use some of the tooling and jigs at Afton to create this one-of-a-kind machine. The design of the fuselage was a take-off of the Eagle I. Many people are familiar with the Christen Eagle II, the very popular, 2-seat, kit-built biplane. Although the name is similar, they have very little else in common. The original Eagle I, was always a single-seat, six-cylinder aircraft. There were only 4 Eagle Is ever built. Three of them made famous by the Eagle Aerobatic Team of Charlie Hilliard, Tom Poberezny and Gene Soucy. The fourth was built for Frank Christensen's son.
Pete personally welded up the fuselage from scratch while in Afton, making numerous design and structural changes along the way. Pete used one size larger wall thickness on the tubing for strength. The tail is completely different from an Eagle. The design was inspired by the tails used on the Laser and early Extra monoplanes. Sean's style of flying demanded that he have a much larger rudder than normally seen on an aircraft of this size so Pete designed a rudder with almost twice the area of a normal Eagle tail. There were many other changes made to allow for the special wings to be used and also the equipment that would be used in the aircraft. One of the most noticeable features of this airframe is the one-piece, side-opening canopy.
Pete did a masterful job of fitting it and designing the latching mechanism and also the emergency release system. The Team figures that the canopy alone contributed at least a 5-8 miles per hour increase over the modified S-2S.
One very unique feature that Pete incorporated was to pressurize the entire fuselage. Every single tube is interconnected so as to create one large pressure vessel. There is a pressure gauge in the cockpit along with a schrader valve similar to what you would find on a car tire. We can pressurize the entire with about 100 psi of nitrogen and by watching the gauge, tell if there are any cracks anywhere in the fuselage. The hard part is to then find them. It has proved very valuable on two occasions.
The wings used on the Challenger II were designed originally by Curtis Pitts in the early 90s. They were originally designed for use on his new aircraft, the Super Stinker. Sean was given permission by Mr. Pitts to have Steve Wolf build him a set of wings based on that design. Being a much larger aircraft, the new wings were scaled up in size. Steve also made several changes to the original design. The spars are thicker than on a normal Pitts wing, again for added strength and reliability. The slave struts were moved in-line with the I-struts for reduced drag.
The top ailerons are 70 1/2 inches wide and the bottoms are 67 inches wide. The ends of the wings have been squared off to allow for the mounting of smoke generators and also night time pyrotechnics. The wings were made with no dihedral at all, as opposed to 3º up on a Pitts. Internally, the wings were wired for the smoke generators, pyrotechnics, and for a still camera that can be mounted on any of the four wingtips. Steve is most famous for building many of the greatest airplanes on the air show circuit including Bobby Younkin's Sampson, Frank Ryder's Cyclone and Delmar Benjamin's Gee-Bee.
Pitts S-2 Special
Length: 18 feet, 3 inches
Height: 6 feet, 2 inches
Wingspan: 20 feet
Gross Weight: 1,400 lbs.
Max speed: 250 mph
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