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Monday, Sep. 1, 2014

Aerobatics competition coming to Spencer

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An air show is fun. An aerobatics competition is serious fun. The half-loops, rolls and spins are still in, but a panel of judges replaces the trails of smoke when the International Aerobatic Club (IAC) brings a sanctioned, major-regional event -- the Doug Yost Challenge -- to Spencer for the first time.

An air show is fun. An aerobatics competition is serious fun.

The half-loops, rolls and spins are still in, but a panel of judges replaces the trails of smoke when the International Aerobatic Club (IAC) brings a sanctioned, major-regional event -- the Doug Yost Challenge -- to Spencer for the first time.

The event moves to Spencer from Albert Lea, Minn., and will be held Aug. 14-16. Organizers expect about 25 competitors to participate in the Spencer event.

"IAC Chapter 78, my local chapter, has been hosting contests at Albert Lea, Minn., for nearly 20 years," said Aaron McCartan an IAC member from Pocahontas. "Albert Lea has had a lot of businesses built in the vicinity of the airport -- specifically right underneath our aerobatic box -- our competition arena. We can no longer get a waiver to utilize that box because of businesses directly under. We went searching for an airport that had adequate hangar space."

The club also looked for an airport on the outskirts of a city, with motel space and catering available nearby. Chapter 78 members also wanted to hold the event somewhere in southern Minnesota or northern Iowa.

"We were looking at Estherville and Spencer but, boy, Spencer sure has a nice airport," McCartan said. "We really like the look of that airport."

The Doug Yost Challenge is one of about 40 events that take place around the country. It is part of a qualifying process for an international aerobatics competition in 2010.

"Each nation hosts several local or regional events -- this is a major regional event that's moving to Spencer," McCartan said. "All of these regional events build up and we culminate at the United States Nationals, which is in Texas toward the end of September every year."

Pilots are placed in one of five categories based on their skill level beginning with competition in the Primary division. Competitors move up through Sportsman, Intermediate, Advanced and Unlimited as they develop their ability.

Each of the pilots is graded on their ability to execute required elements while staying within the aerobatic box, or restricted air space.

"This box will have markers -- tarps laid out on the ground to mark the perimeter of the box," McCartan said. "We'll mark the corners and the center. That way, the pilots will have ground reference for what we're doing. All of the maneuvers have to be flown within this really small airspace."

The panel of five judges each has an assistant to help score the competition.

"The judges will score each maneuver as the competitors are flying the maneuver," McCartan said. "If a competitor exits the box -- if they can't control wind or they get mixed up or turn a wrong direction, there's points penalties for violating that airspace -- exiting the airspace. There's penalties if you do a maneuver wrong. If they exit the airspace by a big margin, that gets to be a safety hazard so we stop the flight and disqualify them."

Trophies will be handed out in each skill division and a collegiate division runs concurrently with the regional aerobatics competition.

Weather can also play a factor in the schedule. If pilots have less than three miles visibility and less than 4,000 foot cloud ceilings, they are not allowed to fly. Wind speeds of 30 mph or more also are too dangerous for parachuting, so that, too, can delay or cancel a competition.

The International Aerobatic Club has been hosting competitions for 35 years and organizers report no major mishaps.

"It's an impressive safety record and we hope to continue that," McCartan said. "That's where, with our altitude minimums, with our parachutes, with our technical inspections of the aircraft prior to flight -- all of these stringent requirements and all of these rules are placed on it. It's a very safe and very fun event and it's open to the public and free to anyone who wants to come out and watch."

Even if conditions make aerobatics unfavorable, organizers try to get as much of the competition in as possible and are willing to adjust the schedule to get the program in.

"The ultimate goal is to develop a pilot that can fly competition at the world level eventually," McCartan said.



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