formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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April 1, 2008 First Aerobatics

The Liberty Gazette
April 1, 2008

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

My first aerobatic experience came in November, 2005. I had only been in flight training for a month when I traveled to Mesa, Arizona, to check out Fighter Combat International. The organization uses a high performance aerobatic airplane called an Extra 300. This was the “L” model (“L” for low wing). This airplane is the highest performance aerobatic airplane in the world, made by retired German aerobatic pilot, Walter Extra. Fighter Combat offers aerobatic packages and “dog fighting.” Specially equipped with an integrated projected gun-sight, smoke generators, and a combat sound card to provide a true-to-life affect, the Extra 300L is stressed to +/- 10G’s, and will climb faster than 3,200 feet per minute.

The instructor pilot I flew with was J. Clarke McNeace, a highly accomplished military pilot. Last year the National Association of Flight Instructors created a new Master Flight Instructor designation for aerobatic training and named McNeace as the first Master CFI-Aerobatic. A former F/A-18 Strike Fighter Pilot and Weapons Tactics Instructor with the U.S. Navy, McNeace can lay claim to 36 combat missions and 300 carrier landings. He’s used to going 0 to 190 m.p.h. in 1.5 seconds off a moving ship.

Clarke expertly showed me how to complete several aerobatic maneuvers. Picture holding a tube and spinning that tube as you move it horizontally through the air. That’s a roll. The roll rate is how many degrees the airplane rotates per second. The Extra 300L has a roll rate of 360 degrees per second, meaning it can complete an entire roll, all the way around, in one second.
In a program called “Demo and Do,“ Clarke demonstrated snap rolls, vertical rolls, aileron rolls, four-point rolls, spins, and Cuban Eights, and after each maneuver handed over the controls to me to try on my own. This stuff is right up my alley. The whole thing was filmed using three mounted cameras, and if you saw the “Tango Seventy-Eight” video on YouTube, Mike used some of my aerobatic flight in that video.

A gift certificate to Fighter Combat would be a great gift for any aviation enthusiast because you don’t even have to be a licensed pilot to do it.

Mike: Linda’s flight reminded me of my first flight over 35 years ago when I was introduced to airplanes and aerobatics on the same flight in an Aeronca Citabria (Airbatic spelled backwards). Later I would do aerobatic training in a Cessna 150 Aerobat and later still a Pitts Special, a biplane designed for unlimited aerobatics competition and the precursor to the Extra 300 at world aerobatic competitions. Aerobatics are fun, and develop pilot skill and precision.

Linda’s aerobatic experiences will continue as she was this years’ recipient of the Jan Jones Memorial Scholarship by the International Council of Air Shows Foundation. She will be continuing her aerobatic training over the summer. So instead of “blue skies,” for Linda, it’s “blue-brown-blue-brown…”

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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