Michigan Aerobatic Open 2012 – Day 1

The first day of competition here at the Michigan Aerobatic Open is complete.  I’m in second place after two flights and pretty happy about it.

I think that I weathered the disappointment of having to drop down from Sportsman to Primary pretty well.  And, considering that I got up and ran the routine only four times in the box yesterday, I’m pretty happy with today’s performance.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that it helped a lot to fly something simpler this time out.  The payoff is that I’m a LOT more situationally aware in the box.  I’ll be perfectly honest:  Last year, I pretty much waved into the box and just did the sequence without paying much attention to the ground and hoped that the sequence would keep itself in the box.

Not so this year.  This year I’ve developed some much improved situational awareness (“SA”).  I found the box all by myself. (Go ahead.  Laugh.  It ain’t easy.  It’s tiny.  The markings don’t jump out at you.  It’s not aligned with anything other than Runway 6/24.  And there are lots of other ground features that beg you to fly them.)  I entered the box in the upwind third.  I stayed in the box.  Mostly.

There’s nothing quite like coming around on the back side of the loop and seeing that you’re diving right for the box center marker on the numbers of Runway 14.  There’s a real satisfaction in knowing that you’re planning a maneuver or two ahead.  That you’re a responsible competitor under his own navigation.  It’s pretty good stuff.

I’m also getting a good spin entry up there.  Last year, I’d get to the top of the 45 up and leave the power in through level.  Then I’d wallow

So what am I goofing up?  Oddly enough, it’s mostly stuff that I know how to fix.  I’m shallow or steep on the Cubans.  I pinched the loop a couple of times.  All of this is stuff that I know how to fix.  The slow roll continues to evade me, but I’m going to try forcing myself to wait to push so i don’t drag the aircraft off track.  The only thing that I really don’t have a game plan to fix is the spin.  I’m consistently negative in the recovery.  I’m sure that some more optimal combination of stick and rudder would work, but I’m coming out on heading even if I am throwing myself into the straps by pushing the nose down.  And coming out on heading is critical to the remainder of the sequence.  So I’m just planning to stress the straps again tomorrow and work on rounding out the loops and nailing the Cuban downlines.

I’m likely out of the hunt for first.  Giles is just too far ahead.  And he’s flying very well.  But I’m flying very consistently and I’ve poked into the 80% range.  There’s no good reason that I couldn’t score in the 530s or 540s tomorrow.  I know what I have to do.

And, besides, as always, I came here to satisfy just one guy.  And that’s me.  Yeah!


Michigan Aerobatic Open – Days -1 and 0

Yeah, it’s been a busy couple of days.  Day -1 and Day 0, Thursday and Friday before the Michigan Aerobatic Open.  It’s been hotter than hell here.  And Hell, Michigan is not far from here, so we know from Hell.  99 to 103 in the afternoons and a lot hotter than that in the Pitts cockpit.

I only got up once on Thursday.  The idea was to work on the spin and then put all of the pieces together to take the Sportsman to the box today.  Not happening.  I have most of the maneuvers together, but the spin took it right out of me and I just didn’t have the time to get everything else so that it’ll fit in the box.  So I’m flying primary at this contest and I’ll try to make my Sportsman debut at some later contest.  (Perhaps one at which I’m not working, which should make things a lot easier.)

With that decided, I took the Primary to the box today.  i have some work to do getting the maneuvers to fit in the box, but I’m not as awful as I was last year.  I actually have SA and I can at least tell that I’m near the edges.

This shot is a pretty good example.  It’s from this evening’s practice.  I got up once this morning and once this evening and managed to get a much better feel this evening.  The above shot is more or less right over the center of the box (which is essentially the numbers of Runway 14).


Just before this evening’s flight, I managed my only truly stupid move of the contest.  While sticking the fuel tank, I dropped the stick into the tank.  Disappeared.  Gone.  We could slosh the fuel around and see it floating around in there, but it’s a ruler-sized stick and it was floating flat.  A run to the auto parts store resulted in obtaining a grabber (like a large pickle fork), a flashlight, and a mirror.  We then spent a the better part of an hour fishing around for it.

Christian Smith managed to get it hooked with a but of coat hanger, then I worked it the rest of the way diagonally in the tank at the surface and managed to get it out.  Of course, to get the stick higher in the tank, we had to add 12 gallons of gas.  Which meant that I had to go up and fly it off.  Not a tall order, considering how much fun Sleazy is to fly and how much I needed the practice.

So the contest proper is tomorrow.  I have to confess that I’m a little blue about not being able to fly Sportsman.  But I’m feeling pretty good about the primary routine and it’ll be a good time up there in the box.  I get to fly back seat with the attendant better visibility and I get the best safety pilot that anyone could ask for in the person of Don Weaver.  And I get to hang out with the best bunch of people with which one could hope to hang out.  Aerobatic pilots!

More soon.  Now to hit the rack for some crew rest!


Making Good on a Deal – Audio Episode Show Notes

These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio by clicking here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/airspeed/AirspeedDeal.mp3.  Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

As many of you know, I recently flew my first aerobatic competition, placing second in the Primary category at the IAC Michigan Aerobatic Open in Jackson, Michigan 9-10 July 2011.  I kept a diary of the experience and turned it into an episode.  You can hear the audio by clicking the link above and you can check out the actual diary text and images at the links below.

Sunday 3 July 2011:  The Deal
Thursday 7 July 2011:  Setting Up the Box
Thursday 7 July 2011: I Suck!
Saturday 9 July 2011: Flying Aerobatics in Anger
Sunday 10 July 2011: Making Good on a Deal

For those interested, the Jackson contest will be 7-8 July 2012 at Jackson County Reynolds Field.  Organizers in the host city have some great ideas about organizing events around the contest to turn it into a destination attraction.  Head to IAC Chapter 88′s website for additional details as they become available.

In the meantime, if you’ve never flown aerobatics, now might be a good time to think about starting.  You have plenty of time to consider your options, head to a few local IAC chapter meetings, find an instructor and an aircraft, and go get upside down.  Though I’ve been flying acro on and off since 2008, I didn’t get serious about it until this year.  And I flew my first contest after less than two hours of flying the Pitts aerobatically.  This is a doable thing.

And there’s an amazingly supportive group of people that does this.  You know how pilots are such a reliably stalwart, competent, and friendly group?  Aerobatic pilots are even more so.  You’re going to love flying acro and love competing even more.