March 17, 2014
By Dave Hirschman
Airshow performer Spencer Suderman appears to have set a new world record with an 81-turn, three-minute-plus inverted flat spin in a Pitts S-2B that took him from 23,000 feet to less than 2,000 feet over the California desert.
It was Suderman’s third attempt at the previous record of 78 turns set by airshow legend Wayne Handley in a Giles 202 in 1999.
Suderman coordinated the attempt with the FAA to get permission to fly his VFR biplane (built in 1984) above 18,000 feet over El Centro near the Salton Sea. He also wore an oxygen mask, gloves, and several layers of clothes to cope with the outside air temperature of negative 9 degrees Fahrenheit. He recorded the event with three onboard video cameras.
“I knew the airplane could do it because it’s such a beautiful spinner,” Suderman said. “The trick was getting high enough.”
Suderman credits ElectroAir, a Michigan firm that makes an FAA-certified, variable-timing, electronic ignition system for his success.
“Nothing on that airplane works as well at 23,000 feet as it does down low,” he said. “But it still had some climb left at 23,000.”
Suderman is helping ElectroAir collect engine data for FAA certification in six-cylinder Lycoming engines. The units are FAA certified in Continental and Lycoming four-cylinder engines as well as some Continental six-cylinder models.
It took about 30 minutes for Suderman to climb to 23,000 feet. The spin recovery initiated at 2,000 feet was no different after 81 turns than it is after just a few, he said.
Suderman has applied to Guinness World Records for a new standard in consecutive inverted flat spins. His previous efforts resulted in spins of 64 and 77 turns.
“I’m as excited as hell!” he said. “I’ve been trying for this for a long time.”
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
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