Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009 Nationals

Well, I just managed to get to the Victorian Aerobatic Championships with our “new” 1974 model Pitts S-2A. VH-MCR was formerly N20MC and was imported to Australia at the end of 2008. We did quite a bit of work on it including rebuilding much of firewall forward and tarting up the paintwork. It flew for the first time in Australia on 18/2/09 and took a few flights to get the rigging just right. I arrived at Tocumwal on Thursday, the day before the contest started so my first contest flight was also my first aerobatics in MCR as well as my first sequence in a Pitts for some time. Consequently I stayed high which, combined with the smoke from the bushfires, displeased the judges. Pitot-static problems aggravated the situation and resulted in some breaks, unnecessary in retrospect.

After the contest a formation sortie with Rob in the other S-2A from Moorabbin, VH-SZE. You should see the photos from this in a future issue of the AOPA magazine. Then departed for Moorabbin with Rob and Bart in SZE. SZE is definitely a few knots faster which is not surprising given the old wing with frise ailerons plus the big beacon on MCR.

Apart from the distraction of the Avalon Airshow in March there's plenty of time to prepare for the Nationals. My Free sequence needs a little bit more development. I've been using OLAN which is excellent for my requirements. Beats me if I'm going to pay for Microsoft Visio etc just to make up one sequence every 5 years or so. The California Freestyle guidelines are still valid even though they were developed over 20 years ago. Alan Cassidy's book, Better Aerobatics, also has some useful guidance on developing free sequences (buy his Aresti software if you're an up and coming pilot as you'll use it a lot as you progress to Advanced category).

The most important part of the preparation will be practice, ideally with critiquing from the ground by some-one with a tape recorder. I don't need some-one telling me what to do over the radio – I want detailed refinements to be considered in depth when I get back on the ground. Perhaps a weekend training camp at either Kyneton or Tocumwal near the end of March.
Practice of the Known and my final Free sequence is obviously going to be a big part of it so too will be performances of a number of Unknown sequences. The IAC has a made some Unknowns from 2008 public so there is plenty of raw material there.

Most serious competition pilots practice solidly just prior to the Nationals but it is important not to overdo it. The question is where? Rules state that “All competitors will be allowed one training flight for familiarisation with the local conditions over the performance zone“. I've always taken that to mean that no practice at the contest venue is permitted prior to official practice at which one flight is permitted. That is consistent with those people who want the Nationals at a site which is not used for practice throughout the year. On the other hand there are some who turn up at the venue two weeks prior to the contest and practice solidly – sort of makes a mockery of any policy not to allow pilots to become familiar with the Aerobatic Performance Zone at the contest site. Regardless, I see that the contest officials condone practice prior to official practice on Friday. My plan is to arrive on Wednesday to get two serious practice flights in. All practice flights mirror the competition scenario, beginning with the pre-flight walk through the sequence and ending with the three wing dips.

Finally, base will be the Comfort Inn Parkes International.