By ANN Contributor Aleta Vinas
Sean D. Tucker is one of 25 living legends of flight according
to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. If you've seen any of
Tucker's performances, you'll agree. Billed as "Industrial Strength
Aerobatics", Tucker's been pushing the envelope for over 20,000
hours. That's more than two years of 24/7 flying, if you choose to
do it all at once.
Tucker flies a highly modified Christen Eagle. Over half the
maneuvers in his aerial break dance are original. Tucker commands
his aircraft to fly backwards -- twice. He'll fly straight down,
tail first, at more than 100 MPH. Yet, not once in 12 years of
performing has one of Sean's flights been cancelled for mechanical
reasons. His Team Oracle crew is the reason.
What can Tucker do to top this? "As an airshow aviator," he
says, "you always want to push yourself. You want to push your own
personal envelope. You want to push the limits of your aircraft.
You want to keep learning and evolving or you become stagnant. Once
you become stagnant, things get dangerous because you get bored.
For me, it's just real important to always keep changing".
To that effect, Tucker and his team are working on a concept
used by Radio Control (RC) modelers. It's called 3D flight. Design
work is being done on the tail section to do "very cool little back
flips and front flips in the high alpha mode, slow speed." To
accomplish this, Tucker needs different control surfaces on the
aircraft he flies. Tucker's team is experimenting with oversized
control surfaces and big "throws" found in the RC world. Team
Oracle will produce a life size RC model airplane.
Right now, Tucker and Team Oracle are working on the horizontal
stabilizer. This winter will see it on the drawing board. Ed
Sauerman, former Aviat designer, is the engineer on the tail
section. The wings are being built by Steve Wolf. "These are the
two most critical pieces," says Tucker.
The fuselage and engine-propeller combo will be next. Tucker's
Oracle Challenger has a Lycoming engine. He praises it as "the most
reliable, high performance motor you can get."
But designers are also looking at the Russian Radial Vedeneyev.
Tucker says he is "trying to evaluate slow speed thrust and
The vertical stabilizer, horizontal stabilizer and wings should
be on Tucker's plane for the 2005 airshow season. In 2006, the
fuselage, engine and prop should be ready. Tucker estimates 500
flights in the airplane "to figure it out."
While their efforts will certainly develop a new plane, Tucker
says he's not in it to make money on any possible patents. "I care
about sharing my knowledge with the aviation community," he says.
"I don't want to take money from people who are going to make the
Tucker believes the
plane will be a success. "It's gonna change airshow aerobatics in a
whole new, revolutionary way. The pilot's are now ready with their
technical skills to make that happen." Once it's certified, Tucker
says he'll have "the ultimate airshow airplane."
The research and development on these innovations doesn't come
cheap. "Lift, weight, thrust and drag theoretically makes an
airplane fly. But what really makes an airplane fly is money."
As important as progress is to Tucker, safety is foremost in his
mind. Over a decade ago, he opened the Sean D. Tucker School of
Aerobatic Flight. "The reason we have that flight school, it's a
spin training and aerobatic flight school and it keeps people
alive," he tells ANN. The school has trained airshow pilots from
around the world. It's also trained US airshow pilots now on the
circuit. "My goal is to show them everything I know so they can be
better than me and stay alive."
As for the next generation of flight, Tucker says, "The guys I'm
working with and myself, we're going to be part of that in terms of
airshow flying. With the (Ansari) X-Prize going and civilians going
to space I think the next two decades are going to be revolutionary
and I'm just so glad I'm going to be a part of it."
Tucker says he plans to continue flying and training at his
flight school. He also plans to continue the Stars of Tomorrow
program with Mike Goulian. That program, started in 2003, mentors
six young rising aerobatic pilots. Goulian and Tucker also help
find sponsorships for young pilots to help them achieve their
dreams of leading the next generation of airshow performers. We may
see some at EAA AirVenture 2005.
Tucker says he loves coming to EAA AirVenture because he strives
to be his best for the 700,000 or more people who have the same
passion for the sky that he does. "Aviators come from all walks of
life," he says. "We have one common theme, one common passion --
the magic of flight."