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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: Darren_Pleasance at

Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002 00:52:49 UTC



You just described my situation to a tee.  I like the contests but life's
priorities make it very difficult to do more than maybe one or two a year
and those have to be within an hour or two of home so I can arrive on
Friday morning rather than Thursday given work commitments.

I was part of the 4th of July formation you mentioned below and it was a
ton of fun.  It took about a 3-hour commitment from me and a little more
for the one person who organized it and everyone had a great time with lots
of good video to show for it.  It even resulted in a follow up party over
the weekend to consume left overs from the 4th and rewatch the video -
significant others were welcome to.

Net net, finding ways to promote these activities in addition to the
contests is a great idea.  The formation clinic is a perfect step in this
direction and I'm sure the collective brainpower of this group can come up
with others.



Darren Pleasance
McKinsey & Company
555 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
415-318-5145  Office
415-318-4857  Fax

                     Jeffrey Lo                                                                                    
                     <jlo at pacbell        To:     acro at                                                      
                     .net>               cc:     (bcc: Darren Pleasance/SFO/NorthAmerica/MCKINSEY)                 
                     07/10/2002          Subject:     [Acro] RE: Helpful Suggestions                               
                     11:50 PM                                                                                      

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
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,  as anyone thought about the impact of actually increasing the
number of  competitors?  What if it doubled?  I can remember contestsat
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 contestswith 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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