The World Aerobatic Championships come to the USA once every 10 years or so. This year, they were held at North Texas Regional Airport in Grayson County, TX. The good news was– everyone had a great time. The bad news was – the weather did NOT cooperate.
Before racing in the Biplane Class at Reno, I was involved in local IAC Competition. The challenge of flying competitive aerobatics was something I very much enjoyed and something I may plan to return to – now that things are rocky at RARA. I found that I couldn’t do both at the same time – the airplane I was using needed to be changed for each sport and I didn’t have the time or resources to do it each year. But, if the Reno Air Races are over (more on this next month) –it is likely will I will throw my time and energy back into Aerobatics.
Beautiful Aerobatic Machines
Local or Regional competitions are followed by a National Competition (also in September – see the problem?). This National Competition in the US produces a US Team – either the WAC (World Aerobatic Championship) - for Unlimited Competitors or the AWAC (Advanced World Aerobatic Championship) for Advanced Competitors. Each National Team can have up to 8 male members and 3 female members.
This year, eighteen countries were represented along with Hors Concours Competitors – who were not part of any national team, but were flying in the contest for themselves. Nearly 80 of the world’s best aerobatic pilots were there after traveling to the US and either finding a plane to borrow, or bring their own from home.
The week started out windy and rainy and the weather was the story. Doug Sowder, IAC President, was in charge of Wind Reports. He would set up a Wind Balloon several times a day to obtain the current winds, not just at ground level, but at the altitude the competitors were flying. Most reports were “out of limits” for International Competition – based on FAI rules. The daily joke was “What time is the 7am pilot brief”… since it was delayed and delayed and delayed each day.
Weather posed a major problem all week
When the winds died down, the rains began. For 2 days, we couldn’t fly at all and didn’t even bother to go to the airport.
What do you do with 80 competitive pilots and dozens of volunteers when you can’t fly?
One night, we went to the Rodeo. The next day we went to see the movie “Rush” and then Go-Kart Racing! It was all we could do not to go stir crazy.
The flying resumed. A standard international WAC contest consists of 2 sections – the first set of flights include Known (or Compulsory), Freestyle (something you put together yourself in accordance with very strict standards) and 2 Unknowns (routines that were pieced together based on recommended figures). Because of the delays, not everyone was able to fly the first Unknown and no second Unknown flight was even attempted.
Aresti Code Figures for the first Unknown
The second section is the 4-minute Freestyle. This is more of an airshow type routine – with smoke and music and non-standard figures. Saturday – the final day of the competition – was set aside to make sure we were able to finish the 4-minute routines. Oddly enough, the US seems to excel in this area.
Four Minute Freestyle
Several famous names were listed amongst the competitors including three Red Bull Air Racers: Hannes Arch, Martin Sonka and Nicolas Ivanoff. Previous World Champions were onsite also including Mikhail Mamistov, Victor Chmal and Patrick Paris. There is a separate individual championship for women, with returning champion Svetlana Kapanina was beat out by Aude Lemordant from France. And USA Team Member, Rob Holland won the 4-minute Freestyle – his forte being a highly sought after airshow pilot.
The last time an American won the Championship was in 1988 when Henry Haigh won in Red Deer, Canada flying a Superstar. Rob Holland has won the 4-Minute twice since then – and Zach Heffley won the 4-minute in 2007.
The French Team came away with the Gold, riding on great performances by Francois LeVot (the overall winner), Olivier Masurel, Francois Rallet, Ivanoff and Alexandre Leboulanger – all finishing in the top ten. The USA Team earned the Silver with Rob Holland, Michael Racy and Nikolay Timofeev in the top 10. The Russian Team walked away with the Bronze, with Mamistov finishing second overall.
The best part of attending the WAC 2013 is the Friendships. The names may not roll off the tongue of the average pilot, but these people are Rockstars to some of us. Each of them is a world level competitor and an inspiration. This level of flying requires non-stop focus and determination. I walked away with a book filled with autographs, Better Aerobatics by Alan Cassidy – who was also on-site as a Judge.
Even with the wind and the rain – I know I’m glad I volunteered to be part of the Team. Special appreciation to Chris Rudd, the Contest Director; Lorrie Penner, the Assistant Contest Director; Joy McKinney, the Volunteer Coordinator, Lynn Bowes, the Registrar; Douglas Lovell for the Website, etc., and all the other volunteers who made this experience possible. Special thanks to Laurie Zaleski and Patty Anderson for their photographs.
Don’t forget to buy your Aviation Calendar at http://www.cafepress.com/aviation_calendar -- Great gift idea for the pilot in your life!
Next month we’ll take a look at what’s happening with the Reno Air Races. Happy Holidays!