Rick started with a Team Rocket kit and mixed that with a new Mattituck TMX IO-540 parallel-valve engine. Rick added 9.2-
to- 1 pistons and Light Speed electronic ignition. The horsepower
is converted to thrust by a Whirl Wind 400C Rocket prop that’s 78
inches in diameter.
The panel is deceptively simple because it’s mostly glass. He uses
Garmin avionics including a GNS 430 nav/comm, a GTX 327 transponder, a GMA 340 audio panel, and an SL40 as a backup radio. The
Grand Rapids Horizon One is used for the flight and engine instruments and a Tru Trak autopilot to hold course and altitude.
Rick fabricated all of the interior panels, then he and his wife
worked with Abby from Flightline Interiors for the sewing and covering. Rick wanted his interior to look like a new car, but it had to
be user-friendly and practical. He spent a lot of time on things like
the custom rear-seat rudder pedals that swivel in and out, forward
foot supports to help entry and exit, the unique glareshield cover,
and the ergonomic throttle and switch consoles.
Lauren autographs a wing skin after priming.
says. “My wife is in charge of the interiors, including the
materials and design, but when she said she wanted to do
the seat belts in black and tan, I said, ‘No way!’ And, of
course, now that they are in, I love them.”
Same thing with the colors in general. Helen had Rick
bring home the paint books for her and told him to trust
her. “I do all the ginger bread fancy trim, but they have
final rights of refusal, and they’ve exercised those rights
many times,” Rick says. “Or I’ll say, ‘You know it needs
something right here’ like on the headrest, and they came
up with the checkers. Same thing down inside the induction scoop. Those checkers with the ‘F1 Rocket’ insignia
were their idea, too.”
The final paint process was mostly PPG and started
out with a self-etching black primer with a two-part gray
over the top, and that’s where all the sanding takes place,
which Lauren did. The system is three-step, meaning there
was the base coat, the top coat, and then the clear coat.
The base is called White Chocolate Pearl. The outer part of
the ghost flames were masked, then red pearl was misted
over the base. Then reverse flames were added by masking some of the flames and airbrushing a black shadow
around the taped areas. Rick did the paint prep right up
to shooting the final coats and then enlisted the aid of
Brushes Paint Shop in Lubeck, West Virginia, to do the
final shooting when he realized he was in over his head.
“I love the way it looks and, of course, it flies even better than it looks,” Rick said. “It climbs like a rocket ship,
2,500 to 3,500 fpm, depending on how much you don’t
want to see over the nose, and the roll rate is much higher
than I can use. At 24 square and 8,000 to 10,000 feet, I’m
truing 210 knots and burning 12. 5 gallons per hour. If I
want to economize, and come back to 23 square, I’m seeing 195 knots true and less than 10 gallons per hour. With
52 gallons on board, it gives me 800 miles’ range, so it’s a
real traveling machine.”
Needless to say, Rick is very happy with his airplane.
Budd Davisson is an aeronautical engineer and has logged
more than 4,000 hours of dual-given in his Pitts, has flown
300 different types, has published four books, and has written more than 2,500 articles. He is editor-in-chief of Flight
Journal magazine. Visit him on www.AirBum.com.