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!


Michigan Aerobatic Open 2012 – Day -2

Another day in Jackson.  I got up first thing this morning with Don and worked on hammerheads and the humpty.  A productive flight.

I’m not at a good acro tolerance point yet.  It could have been that I flew first thing this morning and I’m just not a morning acro guy.  It could be that I’m just not an acro guy.  But we’ve talked about that before.  And it’s not going to stop me.

The order of the day was hammers.  Lots and lots of hammers.  I got to the point where I could do a hammer with the only talk from the front seat being suggestions for improvement.  And that’s a good thing.  I’m pretty happy about that.  I need to keep the aircraft at right angles all the way around and wait for the roll to the left.  Then it’s right stick to about the halfway point and kick.  I’m feeling as though I get it and it’s really just a matter of getting a more intuitive feel on top of the mechanical stepwise process.

I noticed on the video from yesterday that we spent three potatoes or so on the upline in the humpty on that flight.  We got slow and had to work it over the top.  On the humpty this morning, I started the pull over the top after only a single potato and it worked out well.  Positive control all the way over the top and a good float.

After we landed, it was time to set up the box markers.  The Jackson box is a little odd in several respects.  It’s aligned with Runway 6/24 (and, therefore, not with any of the section lines or anything else intuitive.  Part of the box is situated over the swamp to the west of the field.  That means that we have to put markers in the swamp and in several other interesting locations.  It was 85 F early on and it only got worse.  Humping markers around the airport will take a lot out of you in that kind of heat.  By the time we were done and Don had done several other flights, I was pretty well done for the day.  Discretion being the better part of valor, I packed it in for the day and returned to the Tri-Pi House .

I have stuff to work on tomorrow.  I think I’ll hit the shark’s tooth (vertical up, pull over to a 45 down, half roll to upright, and exit level) and then do each of the other maneuvers other than the spin.  I’m guessing that the spin will do my tummy in, so I’ll conclude with that.  If I can get the spin dialed, it’ll be time to fly the entire sequence out in the practice area.  If I can make it through the maneuvers themselves, then I’ll bring it into the box and see how it works in the box itself.  Most likely, I’ll stay in the practice area on the first flight.  Them I’ll bring it into the box for the second flight (which might or might not start out in the practice area.  The Unlimited guys will show up tomorrow and the box will only get more crowded from here on out, so it’s time to get into the box and see how these things go in a confined space.

Lots to do, but this is all doable.  I’m looking forward to it!