Thursday, January 29, 2015

Introducing the US Unlimited Aerobatic Team

Preparing for the World Aerobatic Championships 2015

The Team

First, I want to congratulate the US Unlimited Aerobatic Team! The USA will be represented by a group of pilots who are long time aerobatic competitors. Everyone on the team has participated in at least one previous World Aerobatic Championship (WAC) in the past. This is very valuable experience!

The US team is comprised of Goody Thomas (Team Captain), Rob Holland, Jeff Boerboon, Nikolay Timofeev, Brett Hunter, Melissa Pemberton, Benjamin Freelove, Mark Nowosielski, and Tim Just.

This team will compete at the 28th FAI World Aerobatic Championships in Châteauroux-Déols (France) August 19-29, 2015. Who wants to go with me? I was lucky enough to help out in 2013 when the WAC was held at North Texas Regional Airport in Denison, TX. I’d be thrilled to go again and support our team.

Aerobatic Performance Zone – The Box

Competition Aerobatics takes place on a playing field just like most other sports. The only difference is our field is a “Box” in the sky.

Just like all sports there are penalties for leaving the “Box”. “Outs” or “Boundary Infringements” as they are referred to in Competition Aerobatics are verified by “Boundary Judges” that sit on the ground and use a sighting device to determine these penalties.

If you’ve ever seen clear panels on an Aerobatic Plane – this is why. We need to be able to see the ground positioning to stay in the box.

Sequence & Figures

The aerobatic sequence is made up of precisely defined maneuvers performed in a specific order and flown in a specified direction. Pilots are judged on both how well they fly the maneuvers and how well they follow their sequence.

The Aresti Catalog created by Colonel José Luis Aresti Aguirre shows each aerobatic figure via lines, arrows, geometric shapes and numbers representing the precise form of a maneuver to be flown.

Aresti Catalog

Judging & Flight Programs

Aerobatics sequences are judged similar to say, Gymnastics. Each figure can receive a score of between 10 and 0 based on the deviations from perfect. Each figure has a degree of difficulty called a “k-factor”. This k-factor is then multiplied by the score that the pilot received on the figure.  All scores are added up for the flight. 

Pilots can fly up to four programs in these aerobatic categories.  First, they fly the qualifications program first which is known as the “Q” program. The “Q” is the same for all competitors and is your “rite of passage” to the next phase.

They then move on to the Freestyle or “Free”, which is a sequence which each competitor creates – usually made to highlight their specific skill set. A “Free” is created based on a series of requirements and it is a way for the competitor to show a little of their creativity.   

If you pass through the “Free” you get to fly the Unknown. For this sequence, figures are selected by Teams, and then sequences are submitted to the Jury, checked and published. Pilots can then choose from the available Unknowns. The competitors do not get to fly these sequences to practice, but must jump right into flying them in the Box and in front of the Judges.

Once the devilish Unknowns are completed, additional cuts in the field are made.  At this time, the Four Minute Freestyle aka “4-minute” begins. The 4-minute is held at the end of the competition and is more closely associated with an airshow type routine. There is music and even smoke on some competitors. The timing is critical – so do not go over your 4 minute allotment.

Published Unknowns 2013 WAC

Then the waiting begins… followed by the Awards
Banquet and a new World Champion!

Helping Out - Sponsoring the Team

Because of the amateur nature of Competition Aerobatics in the US – each one of these members are paying their own way to get to France. They are also spending their own money to train and to get their aircrafts there as well. This is – as you can imagine – very expensive. Perhaps you can see helping out by donating to the team or to individual team members? Maybe even helping Sponsor them?

I’d like to introduce you to some of the team members. I've known all of them for years and consider some to be very good friends.

Introductions – Brett Hunter

Brett Hunter made the team for the second time. He competed at the WAC 2013 – where we first met. He flies a Pitts – like Ruby – during his airshow season, but flies an MXS in competition.  In his words:
My first memories of flying are sitting on a stack of phone books so that I could fly dad’s Piper Tri-Pacer. Ever since that day, I have been enamored with the people and the machines that fly. Aerobatics became my passion when I realized it was the key to unlock the secrets of true flight. Since that first spin, I have been building my life around aerobatics. From teaching aerobatics, to building a house next to a runway, to finding the perfect job that would support my interest, and finally owning a premier aerobatic airplane brings me here. – Brett Hunter

As you can see, Brett is VERY passionate about flying, aerobatics and representing the USA in France this August. Let’s see if we can help make his dream come true! 

Brett Hunter’s MXS
Used with permission from Brett Hunter


I’d like to introduce you to more of the team over the next few months. Please get in touch with me or one of the team members directly to see how you can help.