Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Aerobatic Contest Rules

Last year I developed some rule change proposals for discussion and I believe that some-one submitted them so time to compare those with the last round of rule changes.

Rule #1.8 still has liability insurance at $1M. That doesn't cover much damage if you think about it. They'll go after the event organisers for the rest (the event insurance policy excludes aircraft accidents). Also, insurance policies have contests as a general exclusion so perhaps the aircraft's policy isn't even valid. Personally, I would not get involved with running a contest with that approach to risk management.

Rule #2.2 still does not clarify the responsibilities and authority of a safety pilot. Furthermore it allows a member of the AAC with a low level permission to be a safety pilot. The current conditions on permissions per the CAAP would seem to be contrary to this. There is nothing in the assessment for an individual's low level permission which considers riding along as safety pilot – whatever that is as there is still no definition for it.

Also, despite some categories being permitted to have a safety pilot, rule #2.3 i) still requires a contestant to hold an appropriate low level permisison. i.e. if a pilot doesn't have a low level permission then it prevents participation in the contest per rule #2.3. i.e. what is the purpose of a safety pilot?

Rule #3.8 still does not allow for special cases of competitors arriving late. Even if the contest jury and the other competitors agree it still can't happen.

Rule #4.15 Height Limitations
Well, Intermediate was changed but still an issue with Sportsman and Graduate.
Graduate and Sportsman pilots are expected to have a Low Level Permission to 1500 ft. The current rule 4.16 provides for disqualification if judged to fly below 1500 ft. The other categories have a buffer of 1-200 ft where a points penalty is awarded. The proposal will provide for that same buffer to Graduate and Sportsman. Such a buffer recognises that judgement of height is not absolute.
The effect will be increased safety which is the objective of the disqualification rule. With a specified higher limit, pilots will be obliged to fly higher per the rules rather than consider 1500 ft to be the lower limit. A higher margin of safety will result. Most pilots in these categories already use an effective lower height limit of about 1700 ft to ensure that they are not disqualified as a result of inaccuracy of judgement.

Rule #4.16 relates to the above.
There is a clear statement in the rule “An infringement of the lower disqualification level must be agreed by at least a two-thirds majority of the Judges” which is ignored – people in Graduate and Sportsman are being disqualified on a simple majority rather than a two-thirds majority as required.

Rule #4.17. The Aerobatic Performance Zone, was not changed.
The CASA rules relating to the deadline applies only to aerobatics flown below 1500 ft so is not applicable to Sportsman or Graduate. The location of the Zone itself per the general rules for conduct of aerobatics should be adequate for the categories flown above 1500 ft.

An approximate tolerance is specified for measurement of distance for the location of the judges. Some judges have been observed to be located as close as approx 100 meters from the edge of the Zone and, as a result, penalised pilots for flying too close to the judges. Pilots fly in the defined Zone and expect the judges to be located per the rules. This rule change would make it clearer to the judges how far from the edge of the Zone they should be located.

Rule #5.4
The rule for on the maximum number of figures for a Sportsman Free was changed from “same as current compulsory” to “12”.

Rule 5.1 refers to Sportsman Programme 2 as primarily the Free Programme. Rule 5.4 also refers to it as the Free Programme and notes that a competitor has the option of reflying the Known instead of the Free. I.e. the norm has become flying the Known twice whereas the clear intent of the rule is to fly the Known and a Free.

The original rule was the same as is proposed. i.e. no limit on the number of figures. The IAC has been running successfully with this rule for many years. When the rule was changed the rationale was that it was not fair to allow a Free with more figures than the Known however this simply entrenches the wrong approach of flying the Known twice. The approach should be to encourage competitors to fly a Free sequence as intended by the rules. The 2009 rule change did encourage a very few to fly a Free programme but it has not gone far enough.

A limit on the number of figures for Sportsman category figues is unduly restrictive. It is very difficult to develop a Sportsman Free. The result is a strong discouragement to the development of Free sequences which is contrary to the overall rules. All competitors have the option of developing a Free sequence so this proposal retains fairness for all. (Perhaps the AAC could offer a default Free as well as a Known).

Recent competitions are noted for high scoring Sportsman flights. This rule change will provide more of a challenge with no increase in difficulty so contribute to more successful contests. The challenge comes from the additional preparation needed to develop and practice a Free. In the IAC, all acknowledge that a Free should be flown by competitors at National level.