In 1991, Patty Wagstaff became the first woman to win the title of U.S. National Aerobatic Champion, a title she then defended in 1992 and 1993. She was the first woman to win this title since the men's and women's aerobatic competitions were merged in 1972. Wagstaff was also a six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team, which competes in word competition every two years, until her retirement from competition in 1996. Today, she is a premier aerobatic pilot in air shows throughout the United States, performing dynamic and precise routines in her Extra 300L. The aircraft in which she became U.S. National Aerobatic Champion is the Extra 260, a German-built aircraft which is on display in the Museum.
This denim jacket belonged to former National Aerobatic Champion Patty Wagstaff.
In September 1991, Patty Wagstaff became the United States National Aerobatic Champion, flying the Extra 260 aerobatic aircraft. She successfully defended the title in 1992 in the Extra 260 and in 1993 in an Extra 300S. She was the first woman to win this title since the men's and women's aerobatic competitions were merged in 1972. The National Aerobatic Championships are held each September in Denison/Sherman, Texas.
The Extra 260 is a one-of-a-kind aircraft created by Walter Extra, a German aerobatic competitor and one of the world's premier aerobatic aircraft designers and builders. This hand-built aircraft is recognized for its beauty, high performance, and maneuverability. It can roll at the rate of 360 degrees per second and climb vertically at 1,200 meters (4,000 feet) per minute.
In 1982, Walter Extra of Dinslaken, Germany, participated in the World Aerobatic Championships, flying a Pitts Special biplane. During the competition, he recognized the limitations of the biplane design and noticed the success of new designs based on the Stephens Akro monoplane. The Stephens Akro, a small midwing monoplane, was developed in 1967 by Clayton Stephens, and has earned a landmark place in aerobatic history as the inspiration for the very powerful and maneuverable aerobatic monoplanes of the 1980s and 1990s. One of the earliest and most successful derivatives was the Laser 200, built by Leo Loudenslager who went on to win seven U.S. National Championships and one World Aerobatic Championship. Walter Extra decided to build his own monoplane.
The Extra 230, built by Walter Extra's own firm, Extra Flugzeugbau, was completed in 1983 and he flew it in world competition in 1984. Designed to obtain maximum strength and minimum weight, the aircraft had superb performance and handling characteristics. With a fully symmetrical wing, the Extra 230 was a good start for attaining acceptability within the highest levels of aerobatic competition, the Unlimited categories of aircraft and pilots.
Extra soon made the decision to develop a high performance version of that airplane. The Extra 260 was first flown in 1986 and in 1990 was acquired by Patty Wagstaff Airshows, Inc. for her use in competition and air show flights. While three other aircraft were built around the Extra 230 design, they contained significant differences and have been referred to as "320s."
The Extra 260 is a successful blend of traditional and high-technology construction. The steel-tube fuselage and wings, made of Polish pine box spar and solid ribs, covered in birch plywood, are covered with Ceconite fabric. These standard aircraft construction materials contrast with the modern composite material used for the horizontal and vertical tail surfaces and landing gear. In addition, the wing features an almost full-length, carbon fiber aileron.
The wing is designed to give the aircraft lateral instability so that it does not stop slipping and skidding maneuvers by rolling against them, as other aircraft are designed to do. This instability results in more maneuverability and faster response to the pilot's touch. Each wingtip has a sighting device to aid in precision maneuvering.
The aircraft's Textron Lycoming AEIO-540-D4A5 engine is a modified version of the standard 540 high-performance, six cylinder engine used in many general aviation aircraft. In its modified form, the engine makes possible complex maneuvers, such as multiple vertical snap rolls and knife-edge flight. It powers many U.S. and European aerobatic aircraft.
The engine was highly modified by Barrett Performance Aircraft, Inc., of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Major changes were made not only to increase its power, but to provide strength for the increased stress and strain of aerobatic flight. These modifications included increasing the compression ratio, modifying the cylinders to increase intake airflow and to match airflow in all the cylinders, using a cold air induction system, ensuring superior uniformity among parts, dynamically balancing the rotating assembly, and strengthening critical engine components. Wagstaff ran the engine continuously at and above the "red line" (maximum rpm) during competitions and air shows. The aircraft has a MT 4-blade composite propeller.
Patty Wagstaff received her private pilot's license in a Cessna 185 on floats in Alaska in 1979 and began aerobatic instruction in 1983. She moved quickly into competition flying and advanced to the Unlimited category of competition in only two years. In 1986, she qualified as a member of the U.S. Aerobatic team and competed in six biennial World Aerobatic Competitions. With her three National Championships, medals in world competition, and numerous trophies, she was a dominating force in aerobatic contests until her retirement from competition flight in 1996. As well as being a great personal success, Wagstaff's achievement was also the culmination of years of aerobatic flying by women who competed in the female national championships, including multiple time champions Betty Skelton and Mary Gaffaney. Today, Wagstaff is a premier aerobatic pilot in air shows throughout the United States. She is also a commercially rated helicopter pilot, a flight instructor for unlimited aerobatics, and she flies for motion pictures and television. Wagstaff is a four-time winner of the Betty Skelton First Lady of Aerobatics Trophy and was the 1995 recipient of the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement in Aviation. In 2004 she was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. She is the author, with Ann Cooper, of her autobiography, Fire and Air: A Life on the Edge.
In 1993, after winning her second National Championship, Patty Wagstaff retired the Extra 260, N618PW, and ordered Walter Extra's next model, the Extra 300S. Katherine Hall Wagstaff donated the Extra 260 in memory of her late husband, Robert W. Wagstaff.