The annual Chapter 61 aerobatic contest at Salem, Illinois is the longest continuously running contest in IAC history. The first contest was held in 1976. This year (2023) will be the 48th time the event has been held! Registration and practice will take place on Friday, September 8th, 2023. All power categories will be flown. We plan to fly two flights in each category on Saturday and the final flight in each category on Sunday. Normally, the first flight is the Known, the second the Free, and the third the Unknown. However, the schedule may be adjusted depending on weather.
Salem Airport and Box
The Salem box is perfectly located just north of the airport, with the airport's only runway nearly exactly on the box centerline. Highway 57 to the west provides a reference that is impossible to miss and the section lines make heading changes and vertical rolls easy. There is ample hangar space for all aircraft and hotels are just a 5 minute drive south to the town of Salem. There is very little activity on the field and we have friends/allies on-site. The town supports our contest as well.
2023 Planning Information
Preregistration either at the IAC website or by completing this form and submitting it to email@example.com will be greatly appreciated. Please send a pdf of your Free forms A, B, and C to the same address by 7 September 2023. We will make all the required copies, so you don’t have to worry about that!
Plan to bring a check, credit card, Venmo, or PayPal to the contest to complete registration.
If you don’t have a Twitter account, please get one (free) and follow our chapter (@IChapter61) as that is how we will be providing real-time contest info (order of flight, score results, volunteer assignments, news updates, etc.).
Tech Inspections and Practice will be held on Friday 8 September 2023, starting at 10:00. The contest will begin with a 7:30 briefing on Saturday, 9 September 2023 and conclude by noon on Sunday 10 September.
Lodging and Transportation:
Each of these hotels is conveniently located near the airport and within walking distance to local restaurants.
Holiday Inn Express: 618-740-0913. Use this link to obtain a discount on a room reservation: International Aerobatic Club (valid until 1 September 2023).
Quality Inn & Suites: 618-548-2177
Super 8: 618-548-5882
Days Inn: 618-479-0381
Chapter members will provide shuttle service between the hotels and airport.
Entry fees for competitors (includes banquet, Friday pizza party, and T shirt):
As a tribute to Sean Sweeney, one of our members/officers who enjoyed our contest very much and was tragically killed in an aircraft accident this year, Chapter 61 will sponsor the entry fees ($190) for the first 4 first-time competitors to arrive at our 2023 contest. They can compete in any category as long as it’s their first contest.
For non-first-time competitors:
Primary – Unlimited: $190
Entry fee includes: 2 nights hangar, T-shirt, 1 banquet ticket (Saturday dinner), lunch & dinner Friday, lunch & dinner Saturday, lunch Sunday, and 1 raffle ticket. Extra nights in hangar are $20, extra banquet tickets $25, extra raffle tickets $10 for 5 tickets.
2022 Contest Results
The 2022 contest had the best weather for the entire event that we could remember. There were no adverse weather conditions that would have prevented pilots from traveling safely to or from the contest, and during the event, there were light winds, excellent visibility, and the few clouds that were present did not interfere with the flying.
As it turned out, 9 pilots competed among the Sportsman, Advanced, and Unlimited categories. Since the weather was perfect, we decided to fly 4 competition flights for each category. On Saturday we flew the Known and Unknown #1 flights, and on Sunday we flew the Free and Unknown #2 flights. More flying equaled more fun and the contest was concluded by noon on Sunday. Vinny Ferrari (Chapter 61 go-to guy for everything) captured some fine photos to tell the contest story in pictures:
Phillip Gragg flew his Pitts S-2A, which is based in San Diego, California, in the Sportsman category. He finished first after the four flights with an excellent score of 85.99%. This also earned him the coveted Highest Scoring Biplane medallion, sponsored by Aviat. Fittingly, the medallion features a Pitts S-2A on the front! Phillip also met the requirements for an IAC Stars achievement award.
Bruce Ballew of St. Louis, MO. flew his sleek Extra 300L in Advanced and finished in a respectable 4th place with a score of 77.5%. Bruce’s flying skills also meet the requirements for an IAC Stars achievement award.
Tom Hartvigsen came from Winchester, Tennessee (near Tullahoma) and flew his clean Pitts S-2B in the Sportsman category. He finished in second place with a score of 79.4%.
Craig Fitzgerald came from Collinsville, Oklahoma with his wife Ronda in an effortless flight with their Extra 300L. Craig competed in Advanced and finished in second place with a score of 82.59% while also meeting the IAC Stars achievement award requirements. Ronda also joined the fun on the judges’ line as a volunteer.
Steve Grohsmeyer, of Franklin, Kentucky, flew his MXS in the Unlimited category. Steve has a wealth of aviation experience (both civilian and military) and set the example for professionalism in his flying and volunteer support on the judges’ line. Steve finished 1st in Unlimited with a score of 72.26%.
Jordan Heuerman, of Hidalgo, Illinois, returned to our contest flying Sportsman for the first time. Jordan flew his pristine Pitts S-2S to a fourth-place finish with a score of 58.75% and was the highest scoring first time Sportsman.
Brooks Mershon, of Asheville, North Carolina, was our eastern-most pilot. Brooks flew his Pitts S1-S in Sportsman to a third-place finish with a score of 74.60% and also reached the IAC Stars Achievement award performance threshold.
Steve Johnson, of Nashville, Tennessee, flew his patriotic (red, white, blue) MX2 in the Advanced category. Steve has won this category at our contest more times than I can recall and he won again this year with a score of 85.47%. He also qualified (again) for the IAC Stars Achievement award. Way to go Steve!
Kyle Collins, of New Smyrna Beach, Florida flew his S-330 Panzl in Advanced and finished in third place with a score of of 82.50%. Kyle’s Panzl has a lot of aerobatic history behind it and he flew it well.
Sherri Roberts shown standing with Steve Grohsmeyer, came from Louisville, Kentucky just to help with box monitoring and assisting the Chief Judge. Sherri is a former Navy Air Traffic Controller and current multi-engine commercial pilot. She also flies a T-34 Mentor.
Craig Fitzgerald taxis out for a flight in his Extra 300L.
Bruce Ballew in his Extra 300L – ready for takeoff!
Sherri Roberts controlling our box and the flow of competition traffic.
Jordan Heuerman in his Pitts S-1S.
Phillip Gragg on the takeoff roll in his S-2A.
Steve Johnson in his MX2, ready to takeoff and dominate the Advanced category again.
Bruce Ballew making one final check before departing for the hold in his Extra 300L.
Steve Johnson providing some pre-contest critique.
The skies were nearly perfectly clear with light breezes down the runway for the entire contest.
Steve Grohsmeyer in his MXS ready to depart.
Bruce Ballew enjoying the flying and friendships of the Salem contest.
Jordan Heuerman in his Pitts S-1S climbing out.
Jordan Heuerman rolling out in his Pitts S-1S.
Phillip Gragg departing for the hold in his Pitts S-2A.
Kyle Collins in the Panzl S-330.
Phillip Gragg returning from a successful flight in his Pitts S-2A.
Ronda and Craig Fitzgerald swap flying stories with Bruce Ballew.
Steve Grohsmeyer and Steve Johnson share their winning strategies.
Phillip Gragg shows off the checkerboard paint scheme on his Pitts S-2A wings.
Tom Hartvigsen brings his beautiful Pitts S-2B back from a flight.
Brooks Mershon sported a coffee sponsorship on the side of his Pitts S-1S.
Spectators and supporters watched the flying from the terminal building.
Jonathan Adams, from Chapter 61, supported the judges’ line while his Decathlon and Eagle are in work.
Craig Fitzgerald, Steve Johnson, and Chastin made up a Judge team. Chastin previously volunteered as a score runner, but has move up to Recorder. Chastin and her friend Ireland volunteered and learned a lot about maneuvers and Aresti code during our contest. Next year they may move up to being an assistant judge!
Phillip Gragg is lined up for a perfect landing in his Pitts S-2A.
Jordan Heuerman heading for the hold in his Pitts S-1S.
Brooks Mershon heading for the hold in his Pitts S-1S.
Tom Hartvigsen taxis out for a flight in his Pitts S-2B.
Sherri Roberts (Chief Judge Assistant) and John Housley (Chief Judge) kept the contest moving safely.
Jonathan Adams, Craig Fitzgerald, and Jim Heinz formed a judge team for the Sportsman category and provided some OJT.
Ireland Trevino, Bruce Ballew, and Ronda Fitzgerald formed a judge team for the Sportsman category.
The heroes of the contest were Vinny Ferrari and Chibi. Vinny opted not to fly his Decathlon in the contest so that he could do so many of the ground duties before, during, and after the contest. Vinny’s reward was an instant friendship with Chibi, the little dog seen here rescued from a puppy mill operation.
All the folks (volunteers and pilots) at the contest signed a photo for the CD that Vinny had taken after his first flight in his new airplane this past May.
2021 Contest Results
A comparatively large number of pilots (28) either pre-registered or indicated they were going to attend the contest this year. Unfortunately, many of them were unable to attend due to COVID, mechanical difficulties, or weather. We had excellent weather on Thursday and Friday when competitors arrived and practiced in the box. Saturday had rain and mist throughout ,much of the day and we were only able to complete the Advanced and Unlimited Known flights. On Sunday, the forecast was much better, but the actual weather took longer than expected to improve to competition/waiver minimums and we were only able to complete the Sportsman and Intermediate Known flights. There were no Primary category pilots this year. In spite of the weather, those that attended enjoyed friendship, a banquet, and a single flight contest with excellent weather to begin the journey home. Carmelo Turdo of The Aero Experience blog attended our event on Saturday and Sunday and provided the excellent photos below.
Hollywood won the Sportsman category flying his Pitts S-2A. (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
Gunnar Jeannette earned second place in Sportsman as well as the Highest Scoring First Time Sportsman award, This was Gunnar's first contest and first time in an aerobatic box - excellent flying! (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
Elizabeth (Liz) Birch first flew at our contest in 2018 while she was a student on the UND Aerobatic team. She took third place this year and won the American Champion Award flying Dave Butler's Super Decathlon. (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
Dave Butler finished fourth in Sportsman, but FIRST in Sportsmanship as he shared his plane (Super Decathlon) with Liz Birch so she could fly. (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
Jerry Esquenazi won first place in Intermediate flying his Extra 300S (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
Justin Hickson, flying his Pitts S-2B, finished just behind Jerry in a very close Intermediate contest. Justin also won the highest scoring biplane award. (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
Shaun Brautigan took home top honors in the Advanced category flying his Extra 300SC. (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
Steve Johnson was second in Advanced, flying his MX2. (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
Tom Rybarczyk finished third in Advanced flying his Ultimate Pitts S-1S. (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
Bruce Ballew finished fourth in Advanced flying his Extra 300L (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
Steve Grohsmeyer took first place in Unlimited flying his MXS aircraft.
Hugo Ritzenthaler showed what a Pitts can do with the right pilot at the controls. He took home second in Unlimited. (Photo courtesy The Aero Experience).
2020 Contest Results
We rescheduled our contest from May to October due to COVID restrictions; however, we ultimately decided it was in the best interest to cancel the 2020 contest.
We had an excellent event between 16 and 19 May 2019. This was the earliest that we have held our contest, and the spring rainfall experienced prior to the event made accessing the boundary markers extremely difficult/impossible. We had anticipated this possibility and obtained IAC approval to use the natural box markers that exist (runway, highway, roads, ponds, tree lines, section lines) in lieu of plastic sheet markers normally placed. Weather prevented a number of pilots from attending and our total competitor count was 15. Strong winds form the south/southwest provided a challenge to maintain good box position in front of the judges and rain forced the contest to conclude after 2 flights on Saturday (Primary competitors achieved 3 flights). Most importantly, we flew safely, had fun, and made new friends.
Carmelo Turdo from The Aero Experience covered our contest on Saturday and took excellent photos. We have included many of them in the results that follow.
Jordan Heuerman from our own Chapter 61 took home the first place Primary plaque this year flying his beautiful Pitts S-1S. (photo courtesy The Aero Experience)
Alyssa Pasquale, or Dr. P as she is also known, flew Todd Ashcraft's Skybolt to a close second place finish in Primary. (photo courtesy TJ Smyka)
Bob Hamilton, from Chapter 61, earned 1st place in Sportsman flying his Pitts S-1C (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience). He was also the winner of the Grass Roots medallion this year.
John Strong made the long trip to compete in our contest and won second place in Sportsman. This was John's first contest flying Sportsman and he was the highest scoring first time Sportsman pilot. You can see John's technique to handle the crosswind at Salem in the above photo (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience).
Todd Aschcraft was an excellent ambassador for IAC competition flying, sharing his Skybolt N50DF with two other competitors. He had the most box time of anyone at the contest! In addition, he earned 3rd place in the Sportsman category (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience).
Galen Killam took home 4th place in Sportsman flying his unique RV-8 (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience).
Dave Schmitz, who joined our chapter at the contest, finished 5th in Sportsman in a closely fought competition with Galen, who was only 0.18 percentage points ahead overall (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience).
Chapter 61 Vice President Sean Sweeney flew his beautiful Staudacher to a 6th place finish in Sportsman. Sean and Cleta Sweeney are extremely busy running multiple businesses but yet they find a way to help others aspiring to be better pilots and new judges (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience).
Mariano Rosales had a blast flying Todd Ashcraft's Sklybolt to a 7th place finish in Sportsman (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience).
Jim Heinz, a long-time member of Chapter 61, flew the Pitts S-2A once owned by Bill Thomas to an 8th place finish in Sportsman. It was good to see Jim flying the Pitts again after missing the 2018 contest. (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience).
Cameron Grossl was the only Intermediate category entrant and flew his beautiful Christen Eagle II hors concours (outside of the contest). (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience)
Steve Johnson captured 1st place in Advanced with his MX2 (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience).
John Housley few his patriotic (or Pepsi-inspired) Pitts S-2C to a 2nd place finish in Advanced.
Brent Smith flew his Pitts S-1S to a 3rd place finish in Advanced (photo courtesy of The Aero Experience).
Steve Grohsmeyer showed us how to fly an airplane in the Unlimited category. He was without a competitor and so flew hors concours. He did an amazing job with the airplane and would have surely won first place if only there had been someone skilled enough to compete against him!