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ACRO E-mail Archive Thread: US Team Training Program/Sport Aerobatics


Thread: US Team Training Program/Sport Aerobatics

Message: US Team Training Program/Sport Aerobatics

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From: cks at (Carlys Sjoholm)

Date: Tue, 16 Jan 1996 16:43:20 UTC



Below is an advance copy of the U.S. Aerobatic Team News column scheduled
to appear in the February issue of Sport Aerobatics.

Carlys Sjoholm
Executive Secretary

New Individual Pilot Training Program

by Carlys Sjoholm
U.S. Aerobatic Foundation Executive Secretary

Objective:  To provide scheduling flexibility and financial incentive to
Team Pilots to report to the Team Trainer with perfected individual
technique, determination and execution of any necessary aircraft
modifications, a developed and tested individual Freestyle, and critiqued
exposure to both the Freestyle and the Known Compulsory sequences.

"When I took the job this year as Team Trainer my goal was to try to create
a system which would put our program back on a competitive track.  I felt
that we had to reverse the non-competitive trend, which began in 1990, and
then move back into a competitive position."  Team Trainer/Delegate John
Morrissey explained, "The individual training program was designed to
provide qualified training by people experienced in international
competition and in the aircraft our pilots are flying.  The training needed
to be available on a flexible and timely basis to assist our Team prior to
the main training camps which begin in late May.  It is a financial and
training incentive which allows our pilots to get on line early."

The individual training program initiated this season by the U.S. Aerobatic
Foundation Board of Directors was an attempt to design the best possible
solution to meet these goals and to make the U.S. Aerobatic Team a strong
force in the international arena once again.

>From an historical perspective, John explained, "When the U.S. was
extremely competitive in international competition, we had not only
talented pilots, but clearly superior airplanes.  When the Pitts entered
the international arena, it was a world-beater.  We refined the biplane
design with the Weeks Solution and the Weeks Special, and then pioneered
competitive monoplanes with Leo Loudenslager's and Henry Haigh's
monoplanes.  The Russians were competing in the Yak 50.  The French were
still in the CAP 21 phase.  The English had nothing and the Germans had
only old Zlins."

That is no longer the case.

There's no arguing the fact that the French and Russians have recently
pulled ahead of the United States competitively.  In the case of the
Russians, competition aerobatics is their pilots' state job.  They have the
benefit of the formidable Sukhoi Design Bureau's engineering expertise.
Their team has only one type of aircraft to service and maintain, and one
technique to learn.  Thorough year-round training is provided in multiple

The French are heavily subsidized through their aero club system, as well
as their Air Force.  They fly only two types of aerobatic aircraft (the
latest versions of the CAP and an occasional Extra), making parts,
maintenance, and training much simpler.

The United States no longer has the hardware advantage.  The French and
Russians have now combined excellent, well-trained pilots with great
airplanes provided by one of their national aircraft manufacturers.

The situation in the United States is very different.  In an ideal world,
we, too, would provide training camps throughout the year.  We would supply
the team members with superior aircraft and keep it to one or two
silhouettes.  However, our society does not allow these luxuries.  Our team
members each have careers they must maintain.  They have families and
private lives to lead. As John Morrissey commented, "If I scheduled four
training camps from, say, November to Memorial Day, we would lose most of
our good people.  It would require someone who was out of work, very
wealthy, or in a position to take a sabbatical.  It just is not practical."

Our pilots must supply their own competition aircraft.  At the WAC '94 in
Hungary, there were nine different types of planes on the U.S. Team, with
nine different sets of maintenance challenges, nine different techniques to
teach, and nine distinct silhouettes to critique.  There are six
silhouettes on the 1996 Team: Extra, CAP 231 and 231 EX, Texas Hurricane,
Pitts Super Stinker, and Staudacher.

Challenge #1:  Since there will be six different aircraft types on the 1996
U.S. Team, a larger training staff was needed to provide the pilots with
access to trainers who are experienced in their particular aircraft.
Solution:  Allot our pilots a specific amount of funding to use for
training/critiquing sessions with a qualified trainer of his or her choice
(approved by the U.S. Aerobatic Foundation Board of Directors and the Team
Trainer).  The trainer/critiquer must be knowledgeable of international
aerobatic competition by virtue of having been a trainer, a competitor, or
a judge.  John Morrissey would provide a set of guidelines of specific
issues to be considered at each session, and the independent trainer would
be obligated to submit a summary report to Morrissey following the session.

Challenge #2:  Pilots must arrive at the official training camps with their
aircraft properly serviced and modified to meet the demands of rigorous
Unlimited aerobatic flights.  Solution:  By providing the incentive to
train early with individual trainers, any aircraft servicing problems or
modification needs can be detected, attended to, and tested well before the
group training sessions.  Thus, efficient use of the training resources at
the camps is ensured, with a minimum of down time.

Challenge #3:  Each pilot should arrive at spring training camp with a
developed and tested Freestyle program which can be further refined at the
camp.  Solution:  Again, the incentive to train early, with a specific set
of guidelines, ensures that the pilots have addressed the issue early,
worked to create a competitive Freestyle sequence and developed some
proficiency in the execution of it.

Challenge #4:  Critiqued exposure to the Known Compulsory and the Freestyle
prior to the official training camps allows more efficient use of training
time and resources, and allows concentration on the Unknown program.
Solution:  Same as above.  The individual trainers, in following John
Morrissey's guidelines of critical issues, will have drilled their students
in these areas, resulting in pilots who are generally better prepared than
ever before to understand and work on the refinements of technique and
style in preparation for competition in the international arena.

Challenge #5:  The European system in which the U.S. Team must compete in
the World Aerobatic Championships is different from the American style.
The French and Russians have been setting the standard for excellence the
European judges are accustomed to seeing.  Our pilots must know how to
conform to a system in which they are only seen once every two years.
Remember that the international pilots are seen once a year by the same
judges as they compete in the European Championships as well as the World
Aerobatic Championships.  Solution:  By offering the opportunity for our
pilots to train with European trainers/critiquers, such as Xavier de
Lapparent or Sergei Boriak, they will gain the insight into the European
style the majority of WAC judges are accustomed to seeing.  We are
individuals competing against a system; we must learn to intelligently work
within it.

John noted there has been some "heat" from a few IAC members about using
non-American critiquers to train our pilots.  The question seems to be:
What's the matter with our talented trainers and critiquers?  According to
John, "There's nothing wrong with us, but we're individuals competing
against a system.  Basically, I'm trying to do two things at once: catch
up, but move through that phase to a phase in which we're self-sufficient
in both trainers and aircraft."

The Foundation Board is wholeheartedly supportive of John Morrissey in his
new approach to training of the 1996 Team.  President Paul Erdmann said,
"We have great confidence in John's abilities as a trainer and in his
judgment of how to best prepare the 1996 U.S. Team for the formidable
challenges awaiting us in Oklahoma City."

How is the program working so far?  According to John Morrissey, "The
pilots feel good about it.  I am very hopeful.  I really won't know until I
see how things look during the early spring review.  If they have been
working on the Known and Free, if their aircraft are in shape, if the
pilots are in G-tolerance, then we will have made good progress toward
achieving our goals."

Team Pilot and U.S. Aerobatic Foundation Director Phil Knight trained twice
with Xavier de Lapparent last fall; one six day session along with Mike
Goulian, Matt Chapman, and John Lillberg, and once for three days without
his team mates. Diane Hakala also brought Xavier out to Phoenix in November
for a six day session.  Phil described that first session as a "very
rigorous workout".  The four pilots each got in a minimum of three flights
a day, each flight being of 20 to 30 minutes duration.  "Xavier is an
outstanding critiquer.  I gained a lot of knowledge from the time spent
with him," claimed Phil.  The other pilots also felt the time spent with
the 1994 World Champion was an extremely valuable experience.

The other pilots are scheduling training sessions with American and
European critiquers over the next several months.  Sergei Boriak and U.S.
Judge Alan Geringer, for example, have been engaged by Patty Wagstaff and
Phil Knight, respectively.  Robert Armstrong is exploring the possibility
of traveling to Russia to train there.

"I am trying to create a system which is not dependent upon personalities,
but to provide more training and exposure to what is considered the norm in
the international arena," John Morrissey said.  "It has never been my
intention to use French and Russian trainers and aircraft as the final
solution to U.S. Team success. But I feel it is a necessary interim step
until we can, hopefully, get some American aircraft firms on-line.  Maybe
someone like Stuart Horn at Aviat, or Richard Giles at AkroTech, or Bill
Zivko at Zivko Aeronautics could produce a superior American aerobatic
aircraft if they had access to the resources that Extra, CAP, and Sukhoi
have (national engineering data, wind tunnel testing, and other such
expertise).  I think the days are gone when someone can go out behind the
barn and build one for the Gipper to win a World Aerobatic Championship."

In early March, John Morrissey will meet with the team pilots for the first
assessment of their flying since the U.S. Nationals.  That's when we'll
know whether the U.S. Aerobatic Foundation's financial investment in this
new individual training theory has produced good, sound results.  Following
that, the Team will be ready to hit it hard at the traditional two week
spring training camp in Oklahoma during the last two weeks in May.

- END -


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