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 2012 – Day -3

A down day to get some work done for clients, do laundry, and snag a little sleep, and it’s back to it.

On Sunday, I left the Battle Creek airshow shortly after finishing my narration gig for the Tuskegee Airmen glider demo team.  I picked up Don Weaver in Jackson and drove him to Ray and loaded up a care package for the Pitts.  Don then flew the Pitts to Jackson and I headed home, where such laundry, work, and other more mundane activities ensued.

Fast forward to this morning, when I awoke at the Pi Pi Pi House (which is what we’ve dubbed this dorm at Spring Arbor University where many of us are staying).  Off to Jackson County Reynolds Field, where the Pitts awaited.

I signed on to my second FAA waiver.  As you’ll recall, the waiver is necessary to cover things like aerobatic maneuvering, fuel requirements, altitudes, and other matters.  It essentially allows us to do stuff in Class D airspace that not even a retiring Lt Col on a fini flight would consider.

I realized that I couldn’t find my acro shoes.  They’re actually just wrestling shoes and there isn’t anything special about them other than the fact that they’re narrower than my usual tennies and are less likely to snag when I move my feet up or down on the rudder pedals to use the brakes.  I can feel the pedals a little better and wrap my toes around the turface features of the pedals, too, so that’s a plus.  I had to hit Dunham’s to buy another pair, but was rewarded with a pair that fits even better than my old pair.

The flying was reasonably good.  A couple of half-hour flights.  The idea is to get my tummy settled down.  As many of you know, I don’t really have the stomach for acro.  I’m the dog who continues to chase cars even though I have little business doing so.

The first flight was all positive G with little or no roll.  I can pull G all day long.  It’s roll that messes with my head.  So we flew loops and half Cubans for awhile.  I’d been having issues with getting all wing-low on the float in the loop maneuvers anyway, mostly because I’m pulling the stick back and to the right.  I’m now pulling straight back and that’s really helping.  It’s always easier when you’re not trying to correct in the float when you see the horizon appear and start creeping down the glass all cock-eyed.

On the second flight, it was all about the reverse half Cubans.  (Pull up to a 45, roll inverted, stick it there for a few potatoes, then pull over the last 5/8 of a loop.  I had never flown a reverse half Cuban before, but managed to pull them off.  The issue was figuring out what the float is supposed to look like and how long to hold it.  I also needed a sight picture.  I tried looking left to the sight gage, but, if you’re a guy who doesn’t like roll, you should not be rapidly turning your head left and back while inverted.  It turns out that, if you can find a cloud as a reference, that’s best.  If you can’t, you can try to use the horizon low and outside as a gage, assuming that your roll to inverted was true.

Toward the end of that flight, I had Don demonstrate a humpty-bump (the fifth maneuver in the 2012 sportsman).  That’s a pull to the vertical with a half loop at the top.  Very short upline (unlike the hammer) because you need the energy to get you up into the float for the half loop.  We got a little slow up there, but made it over.  I’m going to pull after only three potatoes or so in the upline.

Tomorrow, we hit the hammerhead hard.  That’s the newest maneuver and the one I’m most concerned about getting right.  If I can nail the hammer and the spin, I think that everything else will fall into place.  (We’ll see how that process works out for me . . .)

Off to bed.  Three flights to get in tomorrow!


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.