Getting Started in Aerobatics
I'm a Commercial ASEL pilot working on my CFI and I want to begin exploring the world of flying beyond keeping the dirty side down and the shiny side up. As a self proclaimed nerd and a bookworm, I've already done some reading about aerobatics. I've read Kershner's "Basic Aerobatic Manual" and Szurovy and Goulian's "Basic Aerobatics", but know that book knowledge only goes so far. Just last week I had the chance to take an intro acro flight in a Great Lakes at Chandler Air Service in Chandler, Arizona. I loved it and I'm trying to figure how to work aerobatics into my flight training over the next few months.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll take this moment to say that I am a college student studying Aerospace Engineering at NC State University (Go Wolfpack!!). I usually reserve the summers to focus on flight and ground training. I finished my Commercial over Spring Break this year and will hopefully complete my CFI over this coming summer.
I am particularly interested both in competition and performance aerobatics. I'd love to get any advice about how to break into the competition or performance world. To the best of my knowledge, my home airport (KRDU) doesn't have any aerobatic aircraft with the FBOs or flight schools on the field. I'm curious how others have done it. Is it feasible to even begin to learn and practice aerobatics if the only aerobatic aircraft you have access to is a 30-45 minute drive away? Any advice in general would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance!
First off, connect with your local IAC chapter:
Through them you can find someone that teaches aerobatics and shows up at local contests. Competition aerobatics is a good path to air shows, if that's your end desire. Competition will give you good basic discipline to help you fly safe shows.
stwest, I'm CDing the contest IAC 19 is hosting next month, May 17-20 in Wilson, NC (W03), so come on out. Thursday is a practice day, contest flights Friday and Saturday. We can always use volunteers and it's a good way to meet everyone, get involved, and learn how things work. Guaranteed better time than just standing around and watching...you really won't get much out of doing that. You can find my contact info at iac19.org.
To answer you questions - most folks attending contests have their own planes, and got into the sport via the natural progression of their aerobatic interest. Others may not own their own aerobatic plane, but happen to live in an area where there's an aerobatic operator who makes their airplane available for their students to fly at contests. I always tell folks that the only prerequisite for getting involved with contest flying is the ability to do a loop, roll, and spin without killing yourself. Doing aerobatics without killing yourself is easy. But flying even the basic figures with a high level of precision can be very challenging. Most of your improvement will come from ground critiquing, a little dual, and from studying on your own. Books really can help a lot. IMO, Alan Cassidy's book, 'Better Aerobatics' is by far the best and most comprehensive aerobatic book available. I would definitely recommend picking that one up, even if you have read the others you mentioned. But you sure don't need to be some polished pro to fly a contest. It's all about the personal challenge, the folks you meet, and enjoying yourself. The only competitive atmosphere at a contest exists within yourself. Everybody wants you to fly well, and they'll help you with that.
There are 5 competition categories that allow for the whole range pilot skill and aircraft performance to participate. The Primary category is designed for acro newbies and first-time competitors, and can be flown with an experienced safety pilot in the plane with you. This is the way many folks experience their first contest. You might be surprised how much folks can be willing to help you (fly) if you show real interest and commitment. We've had a couple guys attending our contests who have brought a plane for use by their students, flying Primary.
But realize that driving 30-45 minutes isn't very far for someone in your position. I live in Cary and am based in Sanford. Your options are fairly limited in this area as far as aerobatic training goes. The closest guy I would personally recommend to provide you with the proper spin/aerobatic training needed to make you safe and competent is Johnny White in Abingdon, VA. There's also a guy in the Charlotte area with a Decathlon who does basic aerobatic training, but I don't know anything about him. You can find them both in the aerobatic school list the IAC maintains: http://www.iacusn.org/schools/index.php There's also a guy at Sanford (TTA) who could possibly do some basic intro aerobatic training with you in a Citabria. But these are just "official" aerobatic operators. You never know what you can arrange with folks you get to know, who like you, and are interested in helping you. Unfortunately I've only got a single-hole Pitts, so can't do much myself.
But anyway, definitely come to the contest. Hope to see you there.
Last edited by RetroAcro; 04-11-2012 at 06:47 PM.
Thanks for the responses guys! I will definitely come out to the Carolina Boogie in May. I've heard great things about it and would love to volunteer this year. Eric, I'll shoot you an email to get details from you and to make sure I'm all signed, sealed, and committed to help out.