Flying With Bob Hoyt May 2003
My father Doyse, friend Phil and I flew up to PDX and got to ride in N80XP while it was Bob Hoyt's.
Since N80XP is the original Model 12 prototype and represents the plans built versions,
it was interesting to get some time in it. I am not by any means an accomplished aerobatic
pilot, so I did not fly N80XP or the Kimball HP version N80JR anywhere near their limits.
For the fun flying we did with some aerobatics I found they both flew very much alike. N80XP
was very responsive, with excellent roll rate and feel. In the air and on the ground the longer wings
and fuselage made no noticable difference from what I remember of my flight in N80JR back in February.
I suspect that it requires some time getting proficient in aerobatics to realize the capabilities of this airplane and then appreciate the extra performance offered by the Kimball HP version.
The Garbage Can Incident
That morning, unbeknownst to us and sometime just before we pulled the airplane out to go flying, Bob's non-pilot neighbor down the street put her garbage can
out on the road/taxiway at their airpark - a day earlier than garbage day. When Bob and my Dad taxied down the street Bob was concerned about a
truck parked close to the side of the road, and right after manuvering to avoid the truck the left wing of the Pitts knocked over the
garbage can which was near the truck. Bob and my Dad didn't think any harm was done except for all the garbage blowing around, there
was no visible damage to the leading edge and since they were worried about the truck, they were going very slow when they bumped the can over.
After we were done flying and putting the airplane away, we noticed an unusual bump on the bottom of the wing, which turned out to be a broken non-structural truss rib. Basically one of the 1/4" x 1/4" sticks got broken, which in no way affected the safety of the aircraft, but still needed to be fixed. Bob had Steve Wolf do the repairs, and he did a great job of restoring that section of wing to previous condition.
Since his neighbor had put her can out a day early and too close to the road/raxiway in violation of the Airpark's CC&R's, Bob attempted to obtain compensation towards the roughly $5K in repairs. His neighbor refused so Bob filed in small claims court, and eventually one of Judge Judy's scouts contacted them. This woman didn't share her husband's love of airplanes flying in her backyard and taxiing down the street, and Bob happened to be one of the more active pilots in the neighborhood, certainly with the hottest flashiest plane which she obviously didn't like. Just prior to taping the show, she warned Bob, "I'm going to get you on TV Bob Hoyt!" and she certainly tried to make the most of her eleven minutes nine seconds of fame. Since the show promises to pay the plaintiff's damage awards, in addition to expenses and appearance compensation, she couldn't lose.
What is actually shown on TV is just a short condensed version of the whole case presented before Judge Judy. For example, they cut all of my Dad's time on the stand, ignoring a 27-year airline Captain's testimony to Bob's diligence and competency in operating his Pitts. What is shown on TV is highly edited to be as entertaining as possible and of course, to make Judge Judy look good. Any legal facts or concepts presented are only an incidental byproduct of this highly successful TV show.
The case also illustrates the disdain and misconceptions of the general public when it comes to aviation, "why did you get an airplane you can't see over the nose?" and the caution pilots should take when operating in a mixed use environment of aviation and ignorance.
In the end it was an OK deal for Bob, he got some compensation towards his repair, the case was settled five times faster than the county court system plus Bob and my Dad got an expense paid trip down to Burbank with hotel and dinner! That and being famous TV stars of course:)