hard act to follow...
...That's Denny Dobson and his Extra 300XS, writes Gary Parsons
Many an airshow act groan when they find they follow Denny in the flying programme, as his dazzling aerobatic routine puts many more orthodox display items in the shade!
Denny's finely honed skills and his love of flying have made him among the best at what he does. An established airshow act for some time, Denny has in fact only been flying for fifteen years. Taught to fly by Wing Commander Derek Day (RAF retired) in a vintage Auster, Denny had a varied career before the flying bug bit. But when it bit, it bit hard! Prior to taking up the challenge of aerobatics he spent most of his time ferrying aircraft, enabling him to gain a lot of experience in a short space of time. He has had no dual instruction in the art of aerobatics, being completely self taught.
Denny began professional airshow flying in 1992, flying his homebuilt Pitts Special. A typical season will see Denny carry out some sixty public displays per season, with a typical weekend in the height of the season seeing Denny perform at up to seven different venues, with hundreds of miles to transit between each display. For so long now Denny has been associated with his Pitts Special G-BIRD, but for the 2001 season he will be concentrating on his new Extra EA-300XS, with sponsorship from local Key Publishing, although his Pitts Special and Christen Eagle aerobatic displays are still available if required. G-BIRD, however, has been sold to a friend in the north of England and will be seen on the display circuit this year. His Extra 300XS, G-EIII, provides high negative and positive G forces, during a display Denny will be subjected to G forces of +9 and -6 while dazzling audiences with manoeuvres such as the Upward Charlie, and the Dobson Double. His enthusiasm for flying is infectious, and he is always longing to get in the cockpit, no matter what the task - this was exemplified in our air-to-air session as he made no complaint of two sorties to 6,000 feet and temperatures of minus five degrees centigrade in the Extra, which has no heater or creature comforts to speak of.
Performance of the diminutive 300bhp Extra is sprightly, to say the least. Composite construction helps keep the weight of the airframe down to 950kg wet, and provides a maximum speed of 220 knots with a stall speed down as low as 55 knots. Stressed to +/-10g, the airframe ably copes with what Denny subjects it to.
To date, Denny will be performing his full unlimited aerobatic routine at some fifty shows this year. After a punishing display of unlimited aerobatics, including some new manouvres in his display this year - the upward accelerated spin, the turnaround tumble, the slicer and the rolling loop, Denny will first perform the limbo. He will fly his Extra at speeds of up to 300mph, at a height of only three feet, underneath a streamer suspended from two poles which are just twelve feet high. He will then perform a rolling manoeuvre to reposition for the knife edge 'ribbon cut', cutting the two-inch tape with the propeller.
This year's Foot & Mouth crisis has had a knock on bookings for the year, as many of the smaller country fairs that Denny supports have been cancelled. To combat this, the CAA has agreed with Denny to shorten the time period for submitting exemption plans for his displays, meaning he can accept bookings at much shorter than before. So, if you're still looking for that crowd-pulling act for your village fete or fly-in, contact Denny at www.dennydobsonaerobatics.com.