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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Game Changer

Why air-show star Rob Holland is expecting big things from the new MX Aircraft MXS-RH

In the relatively short span of aviation history, invention—usually driven by the necessity of war and/or competition—has accelerated the growth of aircraft performance at an amazing pace. In less than 40 years, in just the speed category, we went from the Wright Flyer topping out at 30 mph in 1903 to the first-ever operational jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262, which clocked speeds over 550 mph. In the next 35 years, jet performance took off and peaked in 1976, when the SR-71 Blackbird sped to a still unsurpassed (as far as we know!) record 2,193 mph.

You can’t achieve that type of growth rate without having “game changers” along the way. A “game changer” would be an aircraft that redefines an ability and/or performance in its category by accomplishing something that previously wasn’t feasible, practical or even safe. Examples include the 1915 Fokker Eindecker with it’s then-new ability to fire a gun through the propeller arc straight ahead, defining the airplane as a weapon. In the early ’30s, response to fears about wooden aircraft being safe airliners brought about the innovative all-metal construction of the DC-2, changing the airline industry forever. The perfect combination of a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and the P-51 Mustang with its laminar-flow wing, allowing for speed, maneuverability and the range to escort bombers all the way to target and back, changed the tide of World War II. Bill Lear and his Model 23 jets showed the world that if time is money, now there’s a class of business aircraft that can save gobs of it with speed and luxury. And in the world of aerobatics ruled by the biplane, Leo Loudenslager and his custom Laser 200 won a still-unprecedented seven U.S. Aerobatic Championships, showing the sport-aircraft world that the monoplane was going to be the new direction for competition and air-show flying in the future.

Today, with the exception of military aircraft, you don’t hear much about “game changers.” That’s why my heart leapt when I heard air-show performer Rob Holland’s voice-mail message after he had tested out the latest offering from MX Aircraft (, the MXS-RH. “This aircraft is going to be a game changer,” he said in his always-calm voice about his first impressions of the new plane.

“Pulling straight, I climbed 3,500 feet effortlessly and then accelerated unbelievably quickly out of the top,” Holland continued. “This plane carries energy like a 2,000 hp warbird that weighs only 1,200 pounds! The controls are so light, and the rudder authority is unbelievable. I will be able to do maneuvers I could only dream of before!” But a game changer? That’s a pretty bold prediction.

Holland would know; he has one of the most sought-after air-show acts ( and a list of aerobatic titles as long as your arm, including Advanced World Champion. For the past four years, he has been flying the MX2, the two-place version from MX Aircraft, and has worked with the company to help it become one of the premier builders of top-level aerobatic aircraft in the world.

“We listen to the best in the business for design ideas,” says company founder and owner Chris Meyer. “In addition to building state-of-the-art, safe, solid designs, our goals include continued improvements in speed, maneuverability and even more control responsiveness while, all the time, working on making the aircraft lighter. The MXS-RH is the culmination of everything we’ve learned in speed modifications, from working with the Red Bull Air Race to incorporating ideas from champions like Sergey Rakhmanin and Rob Holland on making a more potent tail for unprecedented pitch and yaw authority.”

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Which of the following military aircraft do you think is the sexiest?

P-51D Mustang
SR-71 Blackbird

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