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ACRO E-mail Archive Thread: [Acro] RE: Helpful Suggestions

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ACRO E-mail Archive Thread: [Acro] RE: Helpful Suggestions


Thread: [Acro] RE: Helpful Suggestions

Message: [Acro] RE: Helpful Suggestions

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From: Jeffrey Lo <jlo at>

Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 06:53:28 UTC


I'm coming out of lurk mode here as one of the silent majority...

As Budd Davisson said in his post, for every competing pilot there are a
bunch who don't, but who support the organization.  I see people suggesting
ways to try involve the non-competitors and entice then into competition.  I
don't see this as the solution.  I doubt there is anything the IAC can do to
get me to compete again before my 3 year old graduates from college.  In my
opinion, you will never get a significant percentage of the non-competitors
to compete.  I competed for a couple of years in Sportsman and Intermediate,
but I finally admitted to myself that trying to compete without a great deal
of dedication to the sport (not only on my part, but my family's) is folly,
and that I am now a *former* aerobatic competition pilot.

Here are the facts in my case:
When I started flying aerobatics and competition, I was single.  I could do
what I wanted, when I wanted.  Flying all weekend wasn't necessarily a
problem, nor was taking off for 3-4 days for a contest.  What percentage of
aerobatic pilots are married, possibly with kids, and want to stay that way?
To make all 5 (well, now 4) California aerobatic contests would take 10 days
of vacation.  By itself, that was a problem.  I didn't have the vacation
time to do all that and the other things that the family wanted to do on
vacation besides sitting in 100+ degree heat on the ramp of an airport in
the middle of nowhere.
To be safe, to say nothing of being competitive, requires practice, not
everyday or necessarily even every week, but even finding time to get out
twice a month, especially as the single parent of a 3 year old, is difficult
at best, and often near impossible.  To be competitive in Sportsman or
Intermediate probably requires getting out at least once a week during the
season.  Forget about Unlimited.  When I can get out it is for a single
quick flight of less than an hour, 15 minutes to someplace acro is legal, 15
minutes back, and maybe a couple sequences sandwiched in the middle.  Not
exactly a day at the aerobatic box spent critiquing and being critiqued.
With the amount of practice time I can get in, flying acro at 1500 feet
again makes the trees look awfully big, since most of my acro now happens at
5000 feet and above.
So, I end up spending my flights going up high and flying whatever figures
feel like would be fun to fly sometimes making it up as I go, sometimes
grabbing the Sportsman or Intermediate sequence just to show myself that I
could fly it, or I go fly formation with friends and I make my flying
oriented vacation a week at the Reno Air Races.

I don't think I'm that different from a lot of the people who fly acro.  We
have simply realized that we enjoy flying acro, we just can't or won't
commit the time required to realistically fly competition.

Given all this, I think the IAC should think hard about how to interest the
90% that don't compete to participate in other ways that don't involve an
aircraft in a 1000 meter box and to support the 10% that do compete, even if
it is only by continuing to pay their annual membership dues.  Don't try to
make everyone compete, just provide them enough value that they are
supportive.  Dues for the IAC and the local chapter really aren't that much
compared to what it costs to keep and fly a Pitts, so I continue to belong
to the whole alphabet soup: IAC, EAA, A/C, AOPA, Warbirds of America, etc.,
but truth be told I get very little value besides knowing that I am
supporting these organizations.  I occasionally flip through Sport
Aerobatics and maybe read an article or two, but I've got so many magazines
laying around that I only read a small percentage of them.  If I stopped
paying my dues to the IAC and chapter 38, it would make little difference to
me, but if everyone who didn't fly competition stopped mailing in their
checks, the IAC would cease to exist.

So, what are some solid suggestions?  My local chapter: IAC38, has a number
of practice days where people critique before a contest, but I haven't
really gotten in to them.  They are of little value to me since I don't
compete, and no one would be able to see me at the altitudes I've taken to
flying acro at anyway.  The one thing the chapter did recently that really
did get my interest was when the local town where our box is located asked
the chapter to do a formation fly-by on the 4th of July.  Not only was it
great PR for the chapter in front of the non-flying public, it was something
that involved all of the participating pilots at the same time and didn't
take all day for everyone to get a chance to fly.  Most GA pilots never fly
formation, but I know a great many acro pilots that do.  What about chapter
events where a dozen pilots go for a $100 hamburger in 3 flights of 4 single
seat aerobatic planes.  Sure there is some planning and briefing that needs
to happen, and those participating need a certain skill level, but it is not
that different from the level of attention needed for competition flying.
It doesn't always have to be an event where someone is flying aerobatics in
a box, just make it something that acro pilots as a group like to do.  I
would love it if the local guys in the chapter who are perhaps military
trained and are very strong formation pilots doing coaching and critiquing
of formation flying.

What about some suggestions for keeping the competitors competing?  A number
of family members, etc., have little interest in going to contests because
they consist mainly of sitting in the sun watching one plane after another
fly the same routine.  So they don't go, and suddenly you have a bunch of
weekends that are dedicated only to the pilot's desires to the exclusion of
the desires of the others in the family.  Not necessarily the best way to
keep a happy home.  So how do you make a contest interesting for the family
members?  Don't say volunteer to be a corner judge.  Do that and they're
hot, in the sun, bored, watching one plane after another fly the same
routine, and they're all alone.  Have you ever noticed that the EAA has
forums for wives to do various craft oriented things at Oshkosh while their
husbands are rummaging around the Fly Market?  I'm not saying that IAC HQ
needs to start sending out needlepoint patterns along with the unknown
sequences, but maybe the local chapter members can brainstorm about what the
rest of their families like to do and find some common interest that can
somehow be worked into an event that happens at the same time and place as
the chapter's contest.  If it is needlepoint, so be it, but maybe you have a
CFI teach a pinch-hitter course with some ground school and an introductory
flight.  Maybe some of the families want to learn more about computers and
you have someone teach an intro to the internet course.  Maybe you teach the
kids how to build a rib and hotwire foam.  Maybe its bridge and gin rummy.
Just find something so that the families want to go to the contests together
and aren't resentful of the pilot in the family spending a weekend away from
home playing with the airplane all day and drinking beer all night.

Lastly, has anyone thought about the impact of actually increasing the
number of competitors?  What if it doubled?  I can remember contests at
Delano where we had something like 65 pilots flying.  Could you handle 130
in a weekend?  I've already heard people gripe when Sportsman only gets 2
flights.  Could you find hotel rooms and hangar space?  Could you have twice
as many contests with 65 pilots?  Anyone want to be CD twice a year instead
of just once?

Just remember, for a lot of aerobatic pilots, life does not revolve around 1
plane flying around an imaginary box while 15 people on the ground watch and
make comments like: "did it snap?", "5 degrees off the vertical", "torqued
over the hammerhead", or "pinched the top of the loop".  We fly a Pitts or
an Extra because we like being at 3000 feet when we're abeam the numbers on
downwind when we take-off and because we like responsive machines that we
can fly at any attitude we like.  We fly aerobatics just because it feels
good and puts a smile on our faces.  We don't have the patience for the
contests, so don't try to "entice" us into competing.  Been there, done
that.  Well, enough ranting for me, back to lurk mode...

Jeff Lo, IAC #18759
jlo at
1988 Pitts Special S1S N230MP

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