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Bruce Bohannon Employs EZ Pilot in Quest for Record Altitude

Bruce Bohannon set two more records in the Exxon Flyin' Tiger on Saturday, November 13, and the Trio Avionics EZ Pilot played a big part in the flight.

Flying from his home airport in Angleton, Texas, Bohannon flew his by now world-renowned, highly modified RV-4 to an altitude of 47,530 feet - just 380 feet lower than the all-time U.S. piston altitude record of 47,910 set in 1946 by a U.S. Air Force B-29.

But he broke two of his own previous world records in the process. Bohannon hit 12,000 meters in 20 minutes, 36 seconds, to establish new time-to-climb standards in the Unlimited and C-1.b classes. The old record was 22:29.

Much of the flight was flown “hands off” while the Trio Avionics EZ Pilot autopilot handled the navigation duties.  Even at the ultimate altitude of 47,530 feet the EZ Pilot was in control. 

“Outside temperatures were extremely cold, but the EZ Pilot continued to operate normally,” Bohannon said.  “Once I determined that the plane wasn’t capable of going any higher, I just hit the Mode button to see if the automatic 180 degree turn feature would work, and it took me back home while I descended.  Even at that extreme altitude and temperature it worked exactly as advertised.”

“When I first saw a demonstration of the EZ Pilot at the Copperstate Fly-In, I was skeptical that it could do everything that you claimed,” Bohannon continued, “but now that I have tested it I’m a real believer.  It does everything that you said it would do.”

After his record flight, Bruce wrote Trio to say:

"I'm writing in regards to the recent installation of our new Trio Avionics EZ Pilot autopilot in the Exxon Flyin' Tiger. Our conversation at the 2004 Copperstate Fly-In convinced me to give the EZ Pilot a try but honestly I had my doubts as to the performance you promised of this product. I've heard this type of enthusiasm and hype for many new products that just didn't measure up. Upon receiving my autopilot I read the installation and operation manual with interest, as it reiterated everything you told me in person. It's one thing to say a product is revolutionary but it's another to put it in writing. I still had reservations about the promised performance.


As we already had a competing autopilot in the plane that used the same servo as your unit, installation was simple. Mike Sojourner, owner of Solapp Avionics, moved 2 wires in the servo plug, wired a disconnect and selector switch to the control stick and installed the new EZ pilot head on the panel. Pre-flight adjustment to the aileron neutral position was simple and the servo disconnect and over-ride were tested, all worked perfectly.  Your installation instructions were quite complete and the entire installation process went without any surprises.


On the way back to Flyin' Tiger Airport from Solapp Avioncs in Sugar Land, TX (SGR), I put the EZ pilot through the first tests and was surprised to find that no in-flight adjustments were necessary. I entered a flight plan on the GPS from SGR direct Flyin' Tiger Airport and the unit tracked the line perfectly. What I couldn't wait to see was an affordable wing leveler that would intercept and track from "any angle".  I pressed and held the disconnect button on the stick and turned off heading about 45 degrees.  I released the button and the unit flew this new heading for about 2 miles off my original course line. I then executed the intercept mode and the EZ Pilot turned to the 25-degree intercept angle exactly and flew the intercept with no overshoot at all! This may not surprise you but I was amazed at the accuracy and apparent ease with which this took place. The EZ Pilot held the course to Flyin' Tiger Airport within .03 miles of the centerline and proceeded to turn the airplane and circle the field after passing directly overhead. With a world record attempt coming up within 4 days, it was a pleasure to see that the EZ Pilot performed so well.


I flew the Exxon Flyin' Tiger to a personal best of just over 47,500 feet on November 13th, coming up a mere 380 feet short of tying the U.S. altitude record for piston aircraft. We did break our own time to climb record to 12,000 Meters on the way giving the Tiger an even 30 world records in 6 years. The EZ Pilot performed perfectly even in this brutal environment. Outside air temperature was a balmy -66 degrees with temps in the cockpit approaching -40 degrees.


The EZ Pilot delivers bang for the buck because it does exactly what you said. It's a real pleasure to get more than you expect from a new product.


 Fly high and fast,


 Bruce Bohannon"