I obtained my PPL towards the end of last year. One of the principle reasons I learnt to fly was with the ambition to get into aerobatics/competition flying, etc. rather than just flying from A to B each weekend for that £200 burger.
Therefore, earlier this year I went out to Arizona and completed a 11 hour Extra 300 checkout course with APS Training (can't recommend these guys highly enough). The course had two main aspects: (a) unusual attitude recover training, which included spin (upright and inverted) and stall recognition recovery; and (b) learning to operate the Extra 300 from the backseat including tailwheel training (all my flights apart from the first were flown from the back seat). My principle reason going was (a) as its incredibly useful and transferable to all aircraft (could even save your life one day), but whilst I was out there thought I would do (b) as well. The Extra 300, as anyone knows who has flown it, is an incredible bit of kit. It feels like you've just strapped a pair of wings on and you will give in far before it does!
By the end of the course I was competent with flying the Extra 300L and although APS don't hire aircraft out for solo flights, my instructor said he would be happy to send me solo if they did. I had also become competent with 3 point and 2 wheel landings, albeit on a fairly wide hard runway. We also had done a fair few aerobatics manouvers.
So now I am back in the UK and wondering how to progress this. Whether I should try and find a share in an Extra 300 (don't appear to me many for hire) or perhaps think about other aircraft as well, maybe starting my own syndicate if necessary. Obviously the Extra has capabilities far beyond my current abilities, but it is also a very nice aircraft to learn/build skills on.
Once concern I have is that I am a low hours post PPL pilot, so insurance could be an issue, although I would not be adverse to paying a premium due to this and I hear that sometimes hour requirements can be waived. This is one reason why I think perhaps setting up a syndicate from scratch with new insurance could be necessary. I'm not sure if people would also take an issue with a low hours pilot joining an existing group.
I would be grateful for anyones advice on where to go from here. If it helps I am based in London so would be looking at airfields within the vicinity.
There are Extras for Hire, UH at Kemble have the 300, though you would need to satisfy them you were competent, and I am sure this would apply to anyone hiring out such a machine. Cambridge also has an Extra, though this is only a 200 - still enough to start competitions on.
Location: The Burrow, N53:48:02 W1:48:57, The Tin Tent - EGBS, EGBO
There are lots of people at White Waltham who do aerobatics so, as you are in London, a visit there might prove useful. The best source of information regarding competitions in the UK is the British Aerobatic Association (BAeA), they can be contacted through their website.You will find everyone very helpful and friendly and if you can get yourself to one of the events which they are organising then you will be able to talk to some of them. You could also come along to one or more events and help out if you don't feel up to competing just yet. There are several Loop Beginners' Days during the year but I think the next one isn't until 19th July at Little Gransden - you've just missed Leicester which was held today. Hope this helps.
Are you set on the Extra 300? It is quite an expensive machine to buy and to run. There are lost of cheaper ones and a share in a Pitts might be a better start. Many of these are on PFA permits and therefore very cheap to run. Insurance is not often a problem once you're over 100 hrs as they figure that you will be pretty careful as its your skin you are risking.
A little less conversation, a little more aviation...
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Bracknell, UK
Firstly, congratulations on you decision to make the transition to aerobatics early in your PPL career - I've just got back from the Loop event at Leicester today, and it was evident from the grinning faces at the debrief quite how much an introduction to competition aerobatics has motivated the participating pilots.
I'd echo DJ's comments regarding the Extra 300 - you're right that its a fantastic bit of kit - I've been punting the one at White Waltham around for a couple of years on-and-off (including today) - but I'd say its overkill for Standard and Intermediate level - for which the weapon of choice is a Pitts, with a large nod to the l@ser and similar 4 cylinder monoplanes. 6 cylinder, 300 HP aerobatics comes at 300HP prices - and even if cost wasn't a factor, I'd rather fly my Pitts S1 at Intermediate level, rather than the 300 - you're working 20% harder in the Extra, and for a while at least the additional performance will be working against you, instead of in your favour (in fact, one of the co-owners of my Pitts has just taken delivery of a shiny new Extra 300 - we're using it as a high-speed transport to the next competition, where he'll still be flying the Pitts).
Insurance for renting 300s is a variable factor - it can be the case that the operation offering rental have identified that the regular hirers have a certain number of hours, and negotiate a better deal from the insurers based on those hours - but its always possible to have named exceptions.
In terms of airfields around London, I'd say Waltham has the largest group of regular competition pilots, and has world-class instruction available. If I were you, I'd book a few sessions with Alan Cassidy in the Pitts S2 - you'll notice that a) the roll rate is a little more pedestrian than the Extra and b) the rudder response makes the Extra feel like a PA28 in comparison!
Feel free to PM if you're planning to fly at Waltham.