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ACRO E-mail Archive Thread: [Acro] Re: ICAS - Fees

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ACRO E-mail Archive Thread: [Acro] Re: ICAS - Fees


Thread: [Acro] Re: ICAS - Fees

Message: [Acro] Re: ICAS - Fees

Follow-Up To: ACRO Email list (for List Members only)

From: John Cornwell <jwcornwell at>

Date: Fri, 24 May 2002 00:26:39 UTC


Neither extensive airshow experience nor success in competitions means you
will be any good at the other.  Obviously, winning competitions does not
qualify you to perform a low-level airshow for the paying public, as there is
far more to an airshow routine than the aerobatic maneuvers themselves.  On
the other hand, take a seasoned airshow performer (who doesn't compete
regularly) and enter him in the next contest, and I guarantee you will see low
scores for such things as pinched loops, shallow lines, climbing into the
maneuver, etc., all of which are common and prudent occurences in airshow

I think the point is, frequent practice for, and participation in, aerobatic
competitions enhances both altitude and attitude awareness.  A "competition
sharp" pilot is always thinking ahead in the sequence, he knows, at all times,
where he is in the box (especially vertically) and how much altitude he needs
for the next maneuver.  If he is 3 degrees off in a line, he knows it and is
pissed!  If something goes wrong, he knows when to break it off and regroup. 
All of these skills are necessary to fly a successful and safe airshow
routine.  Competition by itself doesn't give you everything you need, but it
sure doesn't hurt.

"Michael Hennessy" <hennessy at> wrote:
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I am reminded of the advice a former partner, unlimited competitor and airshow
pilot (now retired) offfered to a young friend thinking about the airshow
world - he suggested no one should consider airshow flying until they had
succeeded in competition aerobatics.  Clearly, the "box" is where it is
learned.  To dismiss that seems to me a further bit "oversimplified".  There
must be some reasonable middle ground.  Of course, I am also from Montana.

Mike Hennessy
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Cudahy at 
  To: acro at 
  Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2002 3:58 PM
  Subject: [Acro] Re: ICAS - Fees

  The over-simplified answer is that recent experience suggests that aerobatic
competition experience does not translate particularly well to air show

  In the early and mid 1990s, several aerobatic competition pilots were killed
flying at air shows. In each case, they were relatively inexperienced air show
pilots. In some cases, they were very experienced aerobatic competitors. In
other cases, they were not so experienced. Several other competition/air show
pilots were killed flying their air show sequence during practice sessions. 

  No telling what the reasons are. Some have said that the crowds and the
atmosphere and the excitement at air shows often have more effect on the pilot
than that pilot had expected. Others have said that there's a big change going
from an environment where going below a certain altitude means you've failed
to an environment where the goal, at least for some, is to get as close the
ground as possible without actually hitting it.  No one can say for sure. But
it was clear to the people making the rules at the time that roughly equating
aerobatic competition experience with air show flying experience was not
producing the equivalent level of safety that everybody had assumed it would.
The business had been presented with too many fatal examples of how this
simply wasn't the case. So, allowances for aerobatic competition experience
were eliminated from the rules.

  At a more personal level, I can tell you that we see a good many problems
each year and our single biggest problem is with aerobatic competitors who
believe that their competition experience translates directly to air shows.
They often take a "been there, done that" attitude with the evaluators. They
are frequently not as familiar with the air show specific rules as a less
talented or skilled aerobatic pilot who has not flown aerobatic competitions.
I don't know if it's a lack of familiarity with the rules or difficulty in
moving back and forth from one type of flying to another. But, like I said,
it's our single biggest source of problems during evaluations, counseling
during air shows, and questions here at ICAS.

  Of course, none of this is true for the vast majority of aerobatic
competition pilots trying to break into the air show business. In fact, of all
the top air show performers in the U.S., virtually all of them got their start
in competitive aerobatics. But there were also too many fatal accidents among
aerobatic competitors trying to break into the air show business to ignore the
fact that aerobatic competition experience was not translating into safe air
show flying as well as all of us would have liked. New rules were instituted
and the problem has been largely eliminated.

  Clearly, it would be much, much more convenient to make some allowances for
an aerobatic competitor's aerobatic experience. But, in the face of recent
experience, the relative advantages will not outweigh the harsh, practical
reality that such a policy puts people's lives at unnecessary risk. 

  I know that this message will generate a new blizzard of e-mail from people
who are very sure that ICAS is wrong on this issue. And for any particular
pilot, this may be true, but the rules under which we run the program must be
oriented toward a lower common denominator. And, though it may sound harsh,
those lower common denominators (and any of you who have been in the
aerobatics arena for any length of time know several examples) have
demonstrated that we cannot make the assumption that aerobatic competition
experience translates well and safely to air show experience.

  John Cudahy
  International Council of Air Shows, Inc.

  In a message dated 5/22/2002 5:32:48 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
kleing at writes:

    What I'd like to know is why can't ICAS have a program specifically 
    designed for IAC members to get a card with an appropriate set of 
    limitations that would accommodate the above (and possibly other 
    issues)?  I know I'd be willing to accept limitations as to number of
    per year, fees charged (expenses only), altitudes and maneuvers
    to the level of IAC competition I've been involved in, etc.  Maybe it
    be as simple as the applicant sends in the previous season's competition 
    records (along with fees, etc) and is issued an Aerobatic Competency card

    with a corresponding set of limitations.  Maybe what I'm describing might

    be called the "ICAS, Amateur Division".  Other motor sports such as auto 
    and motorcycle racing have such things.  Why not aerobatics?


© Dr. Günther Eichhorn
Email Guenther Eichhorn