One summer day 12 years ago, I received a call from Avalon, California. Jon Hardy, founder of ScubaLab, was on the other end. Jon and I chatted about vintage single and double hose regulators for a while, and the conversation turned to the topic of the Scubapro Pilot. Jon asked if I had ever had the opportunity to use a Pilot. I told him that I had not had the pleasure, but would like to do so someday. About a week later, I found a package on my doorstep from Avalon.
Upon hurriedly opening the box, I found a Mark 5 first stage attached to a Pilot second. It was in somewhat rough condition, but at least I had my hands on a regulator that had a legendary past.
For those not familiar with the Pilot, here is information directly from Scubapro's factory site:
"The Pilot regulator was actually designed by an engineering student as a class project. SCUBAPRO picked the regulator up from him and it became the best deep diving regulator ever made. The Pilot regulator is the only American made Regulator with a servo operated second stage. This “pilot valve” system provided an extremely high air flow and was very easy to breath, especially at the deeper depths. The valve is actually two valves; one valve pilots the other and was extremely revolutionary. The U.S. Navy used this regulator for their record deep dives in 1979, rating the Pilot as the best deep diving regulator. They presented SCUBAPRO with a plaque now proudly displayed at SCUBAPRO USA headquarters in El Cajon, CA."
Upon speaking to staff members of local Scubapro dealers, I found that Scubapro was no longer providing parts for the Pilot. One shop owner told me that very few technicians had experience with the Pilot, and that I had a nice "wall hanger".
Last winter, I decided to have Dave Ali refinish the second stage, so that I could at least have a beautiful "wall hanger". About the same time that I shipped the reg off to Dave, I had some ongoing communication with Pete Wolfinger. Pete literally "wrote the book" on servicing Scubapro regulators for many years. He is also the author of the outstanding book, Regulator Savvy
. Pete's reputation as a master regulator technician is widely known. In fact, many consider him to be the authoritative figure on the Pilot. Even though Pete is now enjoying retirement along with his wife, Maija, he agreed to service my Pilot when it came back from Dave.
Yesterday, the Pilot arrived... It is an object of beauty. Pete put it back into its original state, just as I requested. He even installed a NOS mouthpiece and lanyard.
I am planning on making some dives tomorrow, and the Pilot will certainly get wet. In less than 3 weeks, I hope to be diving on wrecks in the St. Lawrence with Rob, Barb, and Allan.
Thanks, again, to the late Jon Hardy, Dave Ali, and Pete Wolfinger, for giving me the opportunity to have a restored Scubapro Pilot regulator!