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Saugus pilot breaks world record for inverted flat spins - on purpose

Posted: March 24, 2014 5:03 p.m.
Updated: March 24, 2014 5:03 p.m.
Pilot Spencer Suderman of Saugus has set a world record for aerobatics. Pilot Spencer Suderman of Saugus has set a world record for aerobatics.
Pilot Spencer Suderman of Saugus has set a world record for aerobatics.

Air show pilot Spencer Suderman of Saugus has broken the world record for the most number of inverted flat spins done in an aircraft — which means he is now the only person to drop from the sky, upside down, spinning 81 times in an airplane.

Twice he tried to get his name in the Guinness Book of World Records, but on March 13 at the 2014 Naval Air Facility in El Centro, Suderman beat the existing record of 78 inverted flat spins held by Wayne Handley.

“Third time’s a charm,” Suderman, 47, said Sunday at his hangar at the Camarillo Airport where he keeps his Meteor Pitts “hot rod of airplanes.”

“An inverted flat spin is where the plane is inverted and it is spinning flat almost like a Frisbee,’ Suderman explained. “Think of a Frisbee spinning and simply falling from the sky.”

Suderman, who by day works with high technology as an IT strategist, spends his off time 23,000 feet above the ground in a piece of aviation technology that hasn’t changed in almost a century.

“The airplanes flying around here are flying around with technology, literally, from the 1930s and 1940s,” he said.

If Suderman used any advanced technology during his record-breaking adventure, it was in the three video cameras used to document his fall and his number of spins.

“I didn’t know officially that I broke the record until I got back to the airport, where the judges were counting the turns,” he said.

Unofficially, however, Suderman said he knew he broke the record the second he stepped out of his plane.

“I knew I did it,” he said with a big smile Sunday. “I didn’t know by how much, but I knew.

“Because this was my third time doing it, I had learned so much from the first two attempts,” he said.

“Attempt No. 1 (in 2011), I did only 64 turns. Attempt No. 2, in December, I did 77 turns, so I had a near miss with the record,” he said. “You take all the things you learn and all the improvements you make to the airplane and you try again.”

Paperwork still has to be sent to officials at Guninness World Records to have the record officially recorded.

At 23,000 feet above the ground, Suderman flipped his Pitts S-2b biplane upside and started falling. The plane is one a series of light aerobatic biplanes designed by Curtis Pitts.

“If you look at the video, the ground is above my head,” Suderman said. “I’m falling straight towards the earth, falling and spinning.

“The camera was pointed straight up which, of course, was straight down when I was inverted,” he said. “It saw the ground and it could see roads and some farms in the distance — that’s how the judges counted the turns.

Watch the dashcam video of Suderman's record-breaking spin:

But doesn’t he get dizzy?

No, Suderman said, explaining that the closer he sits to the center of the spinning plane the less spin he experiences.

“Think about the middle of a Frisbee,” he said. “Nothing spins at the middle.”

Tell that to the eight passengers who lost their lunch during one of his “flat spin” demonstrations.

Just as First World War pilots notched their biplanes with the number of enemy aircraft they shot down, Suderman has notched his Meteor Pitts with decals depicting a stick figure vomiting.

And, isn’t it dangerous?

“Danger is relative,” he said. “Most of my relatives think it’s dangerous.”

And, yes, he wears a parachute while spinning and falling.

[email protected]
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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