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Thorite helps put a disabled aerobatic pilot in a spin

Thorite helps put a disabled aerobatic pilot in a spin

Tuesday 4th October 2011

63 year old John Askew, originally from Huddersfield but now resident in Lincolnshire, is one of the UK's top competition aerobatics pilots, flying an ultra-high performance CAP 232 which has a roll rate of 420° per second and a climb rate of nearly 3,300 feet per minute.  Watching John hurtle across the skies you'd never realise that his flying skills are performed using only his hands, as he broke his back and lost the use of his legs in a riding accident in 1994.

John's aerobatic excellence has been achieved by utilising his own engineering skills, which have enabled him to perfect the art of total hand control of the aircraft: his left hand operates the rudder and throttle, while his right hand operates the stick.

Fast transitions into flick rolls, or the application of full power to recover from spins, mean the throttle has to be activated fast.  To achieve this John has installed a pneumatically operated system he also designed, with all components supplied and assembled by Thorite.

Speaking of the throttle system, John said: "Aerobatic manoeuvres have to be carried out very quickly and put a huge strain on both the airframe and the pilot, with pushing and pulling nine Gs being quite normal.  I needed the ability for the throttle to be really whacked open or closed ultra-quickly and Thorite suggested a combination of a Norgren 10mm dia. double acting pneumatic actuator combined with 12 volt solenoid shuttle valves.  The system is powered from an onboard Co2 tank and regulator, using a rocker switch on top of the rudder lever.  Thorite's Max Crosland has assisted me a great deal in perfecting the system and I'm extremely grateful for all his contributions."

This year John has been training in France with internationally acclaimed Red Bull Air Race pilot Nicolas Ivanoff.  His successes include a 3rd place in an Advanced Aerobatics competition at Elvington, leading to his selection for the British Team with which he gained 4th place in the Nationals.  John is now one of only a handful of UK pilots who have the ability to train for the ultimate aerobatics discipline - the Unlimited Level and he has high hopes of success in this rarified company in 2012.

Anyone wishing to see John in aerobatic action should take a look at the short YouTube video which can be Googled at John Askew Aerobatics.

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