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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

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

From: "Pete & Farrell Rouse" <rousep at>

Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 14:43:34 UTC



It's pilots in your situation that gave me the idea for a weekend clinic.  The clinic is for education and flight proficiency, not strictly competition.  The clinic would be an introduction to or a refresher to aerobatics.  The clinic could be a springboard to competition, or just a weekend spent getting some acro training like a bi-annual flight review.  I realize that to be truly competitive (which I'm not), takes a lot of dedication.  I have the dedication; however, my personal situation would not allow me the time for competition this year.  My friends and I have a little biplane group that does the $100 hamburger and we fly formation to the destination airport (very LOOSE formation).  It is fun and it keeps the aerobatic interest up.  Only a couple of guys in the group fly competition, but we all like aerobatics.  My clinic idea is for recreational pilots as well as budding competitors.  I feel that additional flight training is always a good thing.  I didn't start out wanting to compete, rather I just wanted upset training.  My upset training turned into the love of aerobatics and the desire to compete.

The points concerning families at aerobatic contests are pretty good.  We need the support of our friends and families.  I don't think I could sell my wife the idea of sitting all day in the hot sun, watching a bunch of airplanes scream around the sky, and then do it again the next day until we have the awards banquet.  Well, maybe I could, but it would also involve some semi-precious stones and a lot of groveling on my part.  Activities for the family of the competitor are a good idea.  Get the event to be somewhat of a family affair, and it then becomes more plausible.

I appreciate your suggestions.  We may have different ideas of how to help the IAC, but at least we're trying to help.


Pete Rouse

----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Jeffrey Lo 
  To: acro at 
  Sent: Thursday, July 11, 2002 1:50 AM
  Subject: [Acro] RE: Helpful Suggestions

  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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