History of the Ultimate Biplane

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Which came first?

Did the design of the Ultimate begin with an RC model or a full-scale aircraft?

I started working on this site in response to a question in rec.models.rc.air. The question was which came first: the full-scale or the radio-control airplane? Gordon Price saw the first draft of these pages and sent me some notes and photos. Later on, Devin York contributed a whole folder full of information.

The design of the 10-100 came from Gordon's work on replacement parts for the Pitts. After designing the Ultimate wing kits, canopy, and fairings for the Pitts, Gordon decided to design his own fuselage as well. That was the genesis and birth of Ultimate Aircraft.

A letter from Don Lowe was published in the late R/C Report (Issue 239, June 2006, p. 38). It's part of "The Big Picture" by Dick Petit. I'm going to break Lowe's letter into pieces comment on each point individually.

"The Ultimate was developed by Gordon Price as an entirely new design that would profit from his experience with a modified Pitts and what he learned at the TOC's [Tournament of Champions] where he was a judge."
Lowe downplays what Gordon learned from building and flying two full-scale biplanes and emphasizes "what he [Gordon] learned at the TOC's when he was a judge." Gordon remembers things differently.
"I and others had many conversations with him about the design parameters of a really good bipe. With this and other knowledge, he laid out the first design."
Yes, Gordon had "other knowledge" besides what the RC guys think they taught him at the TOC.
"He, Bob Godfrey, and I met at my workshop in Florida to finalize a configuration, which Bob would build as a model, and Gordon would follow it with the first full scale airplane. We generated 3-views of a 1/3 scale model, which Bob built and I flew. Unfortunately, it crashed from control failure on the first flight. Bob then developed several sized Ultimates which were extremely successful at the TOC and other events."
The crash of the scale model is confirmed by Donald Sudbury's e-mail below. My impression is that this was a model of the 10-300, not the 10-100. It was the 10-300 that was kitted and sold.
"This biplane is unique in the fact that it evolved from a combination of full scale and model-design experience and has proven to be the best aerobatic bipe ever developed. The wing spacing, tail moment, tail areas, and vertical placement of the wing and stab all evolved from model experience. Even the raked LG evolved from a desire to mount the gear near the firewall for maximum strength. My good friend Bob Godfrey, who's no longer with us, must be given due credit for pioneering this model for all the modeling world to enjoy."
And no undue credit--that would be unjust to Gordon. I think Don has an inflated view of how much he and Bob contributed to the design of the 10-300.
Ask yourself exactly how much useful information could have been derived from one (1) test flight that ended in a crash. "Well, the model flew great, Gord! It took off just fine. After that, the elevator broke off and it crashed. If you can get your full-scale plane not to lose its elevator on the first flight, you'll be delighted with the outcome."
A true test program with models would require a control aircraft (to provide baseline data for the original design) and variations of that aircraft to test against the baseline. There would have to be some method of measuring results. One 'test flight' does not a program make.
I'll concede that Bob Godfrey pioneered "this model for all the modeling world to enjoy"--in the sense that he built the first RC model and provided the first RC kit. I deny that he pioneered the design of the Ultimate. I see that as Gordon's baby all the way.

"The full scale airplane proceeded with the setup we felt was best. Gordon Price flew the Pitts in competition and had developed an 'Ultimate' wing configuration, which he installed on his Pitts. That wing configuration was also used on the new airplane."

That's the point I've been making: Gordon's design work preceeded the RC model, not the other way around. Don seems to have no awareness that the 10-100 and 10-200 existed before the 10-300.
"The model history is outstanding since Bob's design was used to win the TOC."
Now we know for sure what we're talking about: Chip Hyde won the TOC in 1990 and 1991 with Bob's design. It was a model of the 10-300, not a model of the 10-100 or the 10-200.

Dick Petit ends this section by saying, "There you have it folks, straight from one of the original cast members. It was the full size Ultimate that was developed from a 1/3 scale model, not the other way around. Thanks, Don, for bringing us all up to speed."

I consider Gordon to be "one of the original cast members." He disagrees with the way Don and Dick tell the story. So do I.

Original Message --------

Subject: Full scale or model Date: Sat, 4 Jul 2009 16:54:43 -0400 From: Donald Sudbury <rcmodeler724...>

Hi Marty,

I wrote you sometime back about what I knew about the history between full scale and the model. I finally found the article that I was looking for in Model Airplane News, April 1991. A sidebar was included with a review of the Carl Goldberg Models Ultimate 10-300.

Bottom line, Don Lowe and Bob Godfrey had built a model based on the design drawings of Gordon Price. That model was to act as a test bed for some design changes they thought would improve stability and reduce control coupling. It crashed on the first flight when the elevator began to flutter. Supposedly, Gordon did incorporate some of the suggestions in the full scale, but there were no other models built before the full scale was completed and flying. A 30 % scale Ultimate was kitted by Godfrey's Precision Models after the full-size 10-300 had been completed.

Hope that helps to put the rumor to bed.

I don't have a subscription to that magazine anymore and can't say if they could provide you a back issue or just the article from the archives. I still have my copy and, if I can get it working again, could scan the article in and email.

Happy Landings

Don Sudbury

It began with the Pitts

The first products of the Ultimate Aircraft Company were designed to improve the looks and performance of the Pitts Special.

Gordon Price ad for Pitts parts.JPG
Gordon Price Pitts fuselage.JPG
Gordon Price Pitts Ultimate wing.jpg
Gordon Price Pitts wing kit 01.JPG

After Gordon had produced new wings, canopy, fuselages, and wheel pants for the Pitts, it was a natural step to produce his own airplane.

The 10 Dash Series

10-100 prototype

"We built kits for 3 types of the ten dash series at Ultimate Aircraft Corp in Guelph Ontario: the 10-100, 10-200 and 10-300. The picture of the 10-300 is from Finland, the 10-100 is the original prototype that was badly damaged in an accident, rebuilt and now sits rotting at a junk dealer north of Hamilton, the 10-200 was in Ontario but I have lost track of it. We had some great people working there. It was too bad that I was unable to keep it going. Warm regards, Gordon"

10 Dash 100/180

10-100 specifications
10-180 specifications

Dale Geo 10-100new.jpg Gordon Price 10-100.jpg

The 10 Dash 100 was designed to take a 100 HP Continental O-200, 150 HP, or 180 HP engine. Builders could fit any of the three engines by trimming the cowling and installing a new engine mount. The gross weight with a 100 HP engine was 650 pounds (!).


The 10-100 prototype was last seen on hwy 6 on the west side of the road north of Hamilton. [It's been sold to someone in Ohio (2006). Photos here.] The owner was and maybe still is, Ken Gamble. He has a landing strip on his farm. He bought the aircraft for around $1500 at a bank auction about 1990.
The 10-100 was a marvelous airplane but tough to fly airshows because of the limiting horsepower. I managed to fly the Capital Air show with it on July 1, 1986 or 1987, I think. I remember it was tricky to maintain altitude and fly over the Ottawa river behind the parliament buildings. When I flew the Sun and Fun Airshow in Lakeland Florida, I managed to eke out 3 vertical rolls before beating a hasty retreat for speed from the top of a hammerhead.
It rolled at 360 degrees per second. A real performer on 100 HP but as I say quite difficult to fly and conserve altitude due to the lack of power ... you just can't have everything. All airplanes are a compromise.
The landing attitude and lack of visibility contributed to the landing accident (mid air) and some serious injuries to a friend of mine. The trip to Sun and Fun in a skidoo suit with chemical hand and foot warmers and minus 30 degree temperature is another story. Some stuff I don't miss.
This drawing must be in error. The 10-100 was shorter than the 10-180.

Gordon Price poster 01.jpg

Andre Probst:

Just came across your site and was amazed to see photos of Gord Price's planes and examples of my graphic work and paint jobs.
I worked for Gord in those ambitious years as his graphic artist and aircraft painter. I produced the original three view drawings for the 10-100, 180, 200 and 300 and still have the originals. I produced his logos, ads and flyers as well as all of his signage requirements, but my proudest involvement was the custom blended paint job on the 10-100 prototype (silver-blue-purple blend) that was featured in all of the sports aviation magazines of the day. Consisting of over four gallons of metallic silver, candy blue and purple polyurethane enamel and a few clearcoats, Gord commented that the paint job added excess weight to the aircraft that was noticeable in performance, even though it was real pretty. What a sad sight it was in Gamble's field with weeds growing through it.
If you are interested in further anecdotes, I'd be happy to assist.
Best regards,
Andre Probst
Creative Design Inc.
Kitchener Ontario

Devin York reports that the 10-100 prototype hit a 172 on landing. That must be the "mid-air" that Gordon refers to. But it was repaired after that and was in flyable condition when it was sold in 1990.

10 Dash 200

10-200 specifications
Gordon Price & Ultimate Aircraft's New 10 Dash 200
10-200, last sighted in Ontario.

The fuselage of the 10-200 was 6 inches longer than the 10-100 (17' 4").

For those short on cash, the 10-200 could be built for a 180 HP engine and a fixed-pitch propeller.

10 Dash 300

10-300 specifications
OH-XSF: Finnish 10 Dash 300

The fuselage is 3 feet longer than the 10-200 (21'?). It was extended primarily for aestheic reasons.

Designed for a 300 HP engine.

From cover of Trade-a-plane, second May issue 1991.

The caption reads: "This Canadian-built Ultimate 10-300 "DYSLEXIC" is owned by Bill Baird, Sturgis, Kentucky, and flown by airshow pilot, Nick Smith, Crossville, Tennessee..." [N6521R was 'substantially damaged' in July, 1991, when the pilot ran the lower tanks dry and didn't have enough altitude to restart the engine after switching to the top tanks. Cf. NTSB Report.]

Questions & Answers about the 10 Dash 300S

Gordon was asked some questions about this design by the team preparing Rob Holland's 10-300S for flight.

Gordon, I hope to talk to you some day. Rob will be flying 10-300S #3 in the world advanced contest this July (Sweden). The guys from Finland have offered him use of the airplane. Rob also plans to fly the 20-300S in his 2nd airshow season this coming summer. He placed 2nd at the nationals this year. I think that through the airshows and competition scene, this airplane will gain the exposure that it should've had and will make a substantial impact on the sport aviation community. There is a huge need for biplane that can kick the crap out of most monoplanes. Aviat won't address this issue. This is the machine. Remember, you are ALWAYS welcome to come fly the 20-300S. You can find Rob or myself at KASH, or NH69 (Windsock Village). Thank you for your time and inspiration!!! All the best to you and your family.

If anyone has further observations, I'll place them here with proper attribution.

Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 16:47:38 EST
Subject: Questions
Bingo ... I found some spare time. I am sitting at the airport waiting for our flight to London. Here are some answers. I dislike having gottados hanging over my head. I will leave it to you to forward them and as long as I am not providing fodder for the lawyers you can publish whatever if you wish.
1) What was the empty weight? Heavy IO-540, or light?
The most important item on any aerobatic aircraft is weight control. The lighter the better. Bezak painted the instruments on his Zlin in 1960 to save weight. Forget the radios, fancy instruments and building for comfort. If it is a true competitive airplane it must be light.
I cannot recall the weight of C-GILB but it was heavier than I wanted because it was a prototype. The engine was a light 0-540 260hp hot-rodded to 325HP on the dyno.
2) Where was the CG? Was it too far aft?
Again, I cannot recall specifically but I think 25% MAC is was our target.
3) Were all of the 10-300's the same? How did they differ?
The first 10-300 was a traditional rag wing and did not have the same performance as the 300S which had the plywood wing. I remember a fellow by the name of Stanislov from the Sukoi design bureau studying my aerofoil carefully and noting the soviet pilots were complaining about their existing wing. I don't know if they changed their design but he indicated that it would solve their problem. There is a picture of the 10-300 on your site on the cover of trade-a-plane [see above]. The Finish airplane and my airplane were pretty well identical. Probably a little on the heavy side.
4) Were there any differences between the 20-300S & the 10-300S other than the additional seat area?
We never did complete the formal design of the 20-300. David was working with Terry Dieno in Saskatchewan from drawings that we had at the time. [The Dieno/LEA plane has been sold to a pilot in New Hampshire in 2003. Stay tuned for a pirep when he and his friends get it flying.]
Essentially the only change is the additional seat. I don't recall a longer fuselage. The second pilot was very close to our target MAC which did not cause much change in design.
5) How did the 10-300S snap? Was it a good-snapping airplane? Any special techniques?
The 10-300 was designed for the judges. We then had to make it fly for the pilot. The long lines gave it the same visual characteristics of the monoplanes. If you were straight, there was no doubt. If you were 5 degrees off there was no doubt. Whereas with a Pitts you could fudge a few degrees but the judges never accepted it for drawing crisp straight lines because of the visual fudge factor.
The full scale 10-300 series is longitudinally stable which is a disaster for the aerobatic pilot (but a delight for the licensing authorities). The stick loads are unbearable without some sort of assist. Our solution was the integrated control system which provides for 5 degree full span aileron (flap) movement opposite to the 30 elevator deflection. Pull back and the ailerons droop. Push forward and the ailerons go up. And presto! the corners were sharp and stick loads were manageable.
The snap is a horizontal spin. To spin the airfoil must be stalled. A high speed stall after inducing a skid makes the airplane "snap." Flaps reduce stalling speed. So in effect we have a contradiction. We try to stall by pulling or pushing but the effect is counteracted by the action of the 'flaps' which is trying to prevent the stall. So does it snap well? Yes?.
For a positive snap a good sharp pull satisfies the judges as they see the positive pitching of the nose, then you ram the stick into a forward corner (removing the lift) and the rate of rotation is magnificent. It took a little getting used to but it was a fabulous snapper. I remember that the YAK-50 did a fabulous outside snap but stopping it was a problem since the stick remained in the forward corner unless forcibly removed. This was due to a large lead counterweight on the elevator inside the fuselage. But I digress.
6) What are your thoughts about the "S" wing performance characteristics vs. the original airfoil?
My observation (only by looking at them) is that the original airfoil would provide better snap characteristics and climb rate.
The "S" wing would provide more speed. It is a toss up. The S wing is faster and I think better, but it is heavier.
7) What was the max rate of climb?
Quite variable really depending on WAT [weight, altitude, temperature] and humidity. A light airplane has a better rate of climb.
8) How much vertical penetration?
Again variable. It depends on the ability of the pilot to conserve energy using optimum G loading and gentle control input at low speeds. It was adequate for any unlimited manouvre.
9) How many vertical rolls?
Sorry again variable depending on positive /negative fly-away, push, pull, hammer, torque or spin.
10) What was the roll rate?
360 degrees per second.
11) Did the full-span ailerons create a lot of drag or adverse yaw during multiple rolls?
No doubt there is adverse yaw but it was easily compensated for with proper application of rudder.
11) What was knife-edge flight like?
Knife edge was good left only if I remember correctly. I did develop a 'knife edge spin ' which was the most disorienting maneuver I was ever in. Wild is the word. I performed it once publicly at the 1988 CNE airshow in Toronto in the haze over Lake Ontario.
13) Rob Holland's (Terry Dienno/ David Lea) 20-300S has 2 inch bands of Kevlar cloth wrapped around the longerons approximately every 12 inches from the seat back to the tail post. Is this enough bonding area? How were the skins in your 10-300S bonded?
I can't recall. Our intention was to remove the steel structure and beef up the kevlar to reduce weight, but we never got that far.
14) Are the any changes that you would have made to the 10-300S if you had more time?
Lots but it would be empirically designed and tested as we gained experience.
15) While we were unloading the 20-300S, I noticed that the horizontal stab just barely fit into the truck trailer. Did you design it to be this way, or was it just coincidence?
I wish I could say yes but in all honesty the mating with a trailer did not enter my mind.
A final word of advice for test pilots:
Be careful and stay over the field. I was always very cautious when testing and it paid off a number of times. Also the airplane will not kill you but sudden contact with the ground will. Come close to the ground only on landing. I have a lot of dead friends.

Twenty Dash 300

20-300 specifications

Text of the article:

Ultimate Adds 2-Place Exhibition and Trainer Biplanes to Aerobatic Line
Guelph, Ont. — Ultimate Aircraft Corp. hs introduced two addition, both two-place, to its growing line of aerobatic biplanes.
Now offered by the Guelph Airpark-based company are the 20-300T (Trainer) and the 20-300E (Exhibition) aircraft. The 19½ ft. span biplanes have a maximum speed of 250 mph.
Both feature full bubble canopy, four full-span ailerons, Macro-flap system, super rudder, Whitmat style gear, Haigh tailwheel and three-blade Hoffman propeller. Available as options are the inverted fuel and smoke system and Ultimate's Super Wing.
As in the case of Ultimate's 10 Dash series aircraft, the 20 Dash models are offered in a variety of kit forms. At present, wing plans are immediately avilable and fuselage plans are near completion, with plans for other assemblies underway.
[Caption on the drawing:] Drawing shows Trainer model of Ultimate's 20 Dash 300 2-place aerobatic biplane, which is also offered in an Exhibition variant. Both have max. speed of 250 mph.

Gordon: "Enclosed a copy of a press release in 1987. Unfortunately we did not get a 2 seater completed before the demise of Utimate." 

Saskatchewan 20 Dash 300. Sold to Rob Holland, modernized, sold to Jago Stemberger, and still flying as N8UB.

10-300 crash

In the first version of this page, I had reported that Gordon Price seriously injured himself and a 10-300 in 1991. This is false. The airplane type was a "Gordon Price Ultimate," and it was built by him, but he was not the owner nor the pilot of the crashed airplane. Here is the NTSB report: 

NTSB Identification: BFO91DLQ01.

The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 48106.
Accident occurred Monday, July 29, 1991 at FRANKLIN, KY
Aircraft: GORDORN PRICE ULTIMATE 10-300, registration: N6521R
Injuries: 1 Serious.
The pilot was en route and as he was switching fuel tanks, the engine lost power. The pilot made a forced landing in field where the airplane was substantially damaged. The investigation did not disclose evidence of mechanical malfunction. There was four gallons of fuel in the top wing fuel tank and none in the forward and aft fuselage tanks.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident/incident as follows: Delay in switching fuel tanks which resulted in fuel exhaustion and loss of engine power.

Gordon wrote me to set the record straight:

Gord Morning Marty, 

Nice site you have. I may be able to help you enlarge it if you wish. I have lots of pics, articles info stored away. Sort of lost interest after I lost my shirt and wanted to keep my wife. 
One quick note. It was not I that ran out of fuel. I delivered that airplane, in a truck, to St. Augustine. It was later sold. Don't know who bought it but it made the cover of trade-a-plane before the crash ... yes I have the copies. Quite an interesting story to that one. A legal nightmare and the cause of my loss of interest. 
I am flying the 747-400 normally on the Toronto-London route with Air Canada. Off to London on 856 tonight 
All the best, 
Gordon Price 
Gordon Price ac-b747400-cgagn.JPG

Pitts Special Team

The Classic Aerobatics website has a page dedicated to their construction of an Ultimate 10-200.

The Ultimate started as a replacement wing for the Pitts S1 design and built by Gordon Price (Canada), by which he tried to improve it. The Ultimate wing ended-up providing two extra G in each direction by additional flight & landings wires at the rear spar as well as a much faster roll rate of 360° vs. 180° of a standard Pitts S1S, by significantly enlarging the ailerons. Then, Gordon Price decided to build a fuselage around it to lessen the football appearance of the Pitts which were costing points in lack of proper judgment at aerobatics contests.
The aircraft D-E_HW is build by Heintje Wyczisk and started January 2020. The goal is to certify and operate the aircraft under experimental category. The construction pages you will find under the following link.

See N40JU 10-200, which used to be part of their fleet, if I understand it correctly.