flying high on lucas ALL THAT SMOKE MEANS AEROBATICS CAN GET GRIMY
Among an ever-growing product
portfolio, Lucas Oil has lines of
marine lubricants, motorcycle oils,
racing-specific lubricants and car
care products. But there’s no
aircraft division just yet. Still,
Michael Wiskus has found plenty of
uses for existing Lucas products in
and on his Lucas Oil Pitts biplane.
“The oil additive keeps a coating
on the engine in between starts.
It’s a lot easier on the engine,” he
says. “I cut open my filters every
15 hours – which sounds ridiculous,
but when you’re running the engine
as hard as I am, and you’re hitting
260 on the oil temperature, it will
break down pretty quick – and I’ve
noticed a reduction in metal shavings
in my filter. You still get some, but
I’ve really noticed a difference.”
Another product Wiskus finds
useful is Slick Mist, the company’s
spray-on/wipe-off detailing spray.
“That stuff really cleans up the
airplane quick,” he says. “I tumble
the airplane end over end through
the oil smoke, so I get those little oil
droplets all over the airplane. With
a good rag, you spray it and wipe it
down and it works perfect.”
(TOP) Michael Wiskus’
little Pitts often shares
the bill with some
serious heavy metal
at airshows. That
F/A- 18 Hornet might
kick out 17,500lb-plus
of thrust and hit Mach
1.8, but can it do a
“Superman” or 15
a U.S. National Championship. Eventually he
gave up competition for airshows and now
performs more than 20 times a year.
“In a 13-minute performance, about
25 times I’m pushing or pulling 7 to 9G,”
he explains. “Usually 9G on the positive side
– pushing me into the seat – or upside
down pulling me out of the seat at 7G.”
Wiskus soaks up those forces while trying
to control the airplane, keep below 1,000ft
so the crowd can see everything and be
sure that he doesn’t cross the 500ft line,
the distance he must maintain from the
crowd. If he crosses that line, he’s parked
for the weekend, and that’s especially hard
to control if there’s an on-crowd wind.
But the crowd doesn’t see any of that.
They just see somersaults, rolls, loops,
upside-down flying. Some tricks, the plane
wants to do – it was built for loops and rolls.
Others mean running closer to the edge.
“The gyroscopics, all that stuff is pretty
crazy. There are only two of us in the nation
who can do this forward somersault, where
you actually get the airplane to stop. It’s
pretty off the wall. Those maneuvers, you’ll
finally pull it off, then you have to figure out
how to do it again and again,” says Wiskus.
“The hardest to do is what’s called a high
alpha,” he adds. It’s not a high-speed
maneuver. But imagine, while driving,
having to steer right to accelerate, steer left
to slow down, and use the throttle and
brake to steer – that’s sort of what it’s like.
The wings are no longer flying, it’s just the
fuselage. I’m down low to the ground – it’s
knife-edge, but it’s very slow. You’re flying
off the prop thrust and you convert the
rudder [normally used to steer left and
right] to be an elevator and the elevator
[which controls the pitch of the plane] into a
rudder. So, instead of pulling the stick back
to go up, you’re shoving the right rudder
because the left wing is down. You’re right
on the edge of a stall; it’s kind of a rush
and I enjoy it, especially over water.”
His favorite maneuver is one he calls the
“We’re always trying to do
something a little bit better; crawl
up to the edge of the envelope”
Superman. He comes into the show at
100ft, dives down in a descending left turn,
and then at center stage he pulls up vertical
and starts rolling. At the top of his climb, he
shoves the stick over and lets the airplane
tumble until he’s into an inverted flat spin.
At about 900ft, he recovers it. “That’s a
combination of all the good stuff,” he says.
There are a few more things Wiskus wants
to pull off, areas where he still wants to push
himself. One is trying to do 16 or more
torque rolls, where he points the aircraft
straight up and starts rolling. He keeps rolling
even as the plane stops and slides backward.
He managed 15 in Toronto last year.
“We’re always trying to do something
a little bit better; crawl up to the edge of
the envelope and peer over,” he says.
“We’re never satisfied.”
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