Follow this link to an EAA Article Titled "My First Aerobatic Competition" describing Karl Gashler's experience flying an RV-8 at the 2017 Hammerhead Roundup contest sponsored by IAC Chapter 36.
The article below,"Flying Your First Contest", was written by Karl's fellow Chapter 36 member Daniel Wisehart:
|So you are considering flying your first contest. Great! Let me tell you a little about my experience so you will know what to expect and how to prepare.|
|I started off by attending several contests in my area; not as a competitor but as a volunteer. Volunteering lets you learn what is expected of a competitor while viewing the action from front-row seats. If you show up early on contest day, go find the Volunteer Coordinator. You will be treated to a day making new friends and acquiring a free education, but be sure to bring your sunscreen. The Volunteer Coordinator will be happy to have your help—even if you know nothing about competition aerobatics—and you can expect to work a variety of positions in one day.|
There is a huge range of activities that make up a contest—try to work as many positions as you can. As a recorder you will write down the scores and comments spoken by a grading judge who is grading or scoring each competitor. There are usually five grading judges and each one needs a recorder. As the assistant starter you will help the starter make sure that each competitor is ready to fly when it is his or her turn. In case you haven't heard: women fly wingtip-to-wingtip with the men: there are no woman’s categories in aerobatics, there are only pilot categories. When you take the assistant chief judge’s job you will talk to the corner workers via radio, make sure that all of the score sheets are filled out completely and record anything else the chief judge asks you to. Probably the best job is corner worker, because your job is to watch every flight from the best seat in the house: sitting on one of the boundary corners. The people you work with will often be pilots from other categories, and they usually will be happy to explain and show you what you need to do. Aerobatic Competition would not exist without volunteers—it takes more than 25 people on the ground to fly a single flight—so being a volunteer not only gives you a great learning opportunity, it helps make the contest possible.
Starting with an Aerobatic flight instructor is smart, but to know what the judges see—which is how you will be scored—you also need coaching from the ground. The joy I received from the coaching is knowing how much better I fly the figures—and from the judges' perspective, too—than I would have, and it shows in the contest results. The three of us who were competing for the first time and received coaching finished first-second-third in a field of six competitors including pilots who had previously won the Primary Category. The coaching took place on the two days just before the contest, which meant we had a chance to learn the area and improve our flying at the same time.
After you return from your fun in the sun—with a T-shirt, a hat, a few new friends and lots of good memories—it is time to prepare to compete. I recommend starting with an Aerobatic flight instructor, who will work with you on the ground and in the air to prepare you to fly the figures the way they are flown in competition. I started with Bill Hill at Sunrise Aviation, where I now work. Many people start competing in the Primary Category—I did—which has only six figures. The great thing about flying in Primary is that you have a chance to learn the pilot's side of aerobatic competition in a lower-stress competition: there are no boundaries to worry about, everyone you are flying with is just getting started and the figures you fly are well within your capabilities.
The Primary Sequence is a 45-degree line up; a one-turn spin with a straight-down exit; a half-Cuban; a loop; a competition turn (roll into a bank, pause, change direction by 180 degrees, pause, roll out of the bank) and a roll at constant altitude. These figures—especially the roll—require training to fly them safely and to score well. In all of the aerobatic flying you will ever do, safety is the top priority, whether you are flying in competition or (hopefully) alone in your local practice area. Foundation skills like checking your belts, resetting the g-meter and clearing the area must be accomplished before you begin any maneuver. Aerobatic competitors are not stunt pilots who take great risks; they are precision aviators who are judged by the toughest critics on the planet: other aerobatic pilots.
In order to compete or to practice in the box you need to be a member of the IAC, which means you need to be a member of the EAA. If you go to the IAC website you can join both at once: IAC Membership.
Once you are cleared into the box just relax, enjoy your flying and fly consistently. If there is time and the weather holds you will likely fly three flights. Now is not the time to make major changes: just keep doing what you know. You will have many hours back home to review the judge's scoresheets and to improve your maneuvers. A couple of hours after each flight the results will be posted and the scoresheets will become available. Personally, I look at the results but I don't look at the scoresheets until after the contest is over. I don't want to change my flying in the way I think the judges want, I just fly as I best know how.
After the contest ends there will be a banquet and they are great fun to attend, though you will likely have to spend the night because the banquet will end late. Before you head off be sure to help tear down all of the equipment that was set up for the contest and remove everything that was brought in.
Now you know what you need to do to get ready for your first contest. Practice, practice, practice, and you will earn the right to fly with some of the best pilots on the planet.