06 September 2012

Contest: Day -2

The showers passed, the ceiling eventually raised, and it turned out to be a great practice day. I managed to get two flights in. It was cool to meet some of the competing pilots and watch them practice. The biggest wave of arrivals will take place tomorrow.

The aerobatic box markings are easily visible on the ground and there are plenty of peripheral references to help with situational awareness. What a luxury! That didn't stop me from botching my positioning a few times, though. And the FAA-waivered box is just adjacent to the airport, so the usual 10-minute trip out to the practice area was missing today. We'd be taxiing off the runway less than two minutes after flying the last figure.

Today was the first time I've flown an aircraft with the altimeter set to 0 at field elevation. That eliminated the math when dealing with entry altitudes. I had to remember that adjustment, though, when joining the traffic pattern.  

The ground critique was invaluable in dialing-in my loop and half cuban eight. I had a tendency to "flat-spot" the top by unloading the wing too abruptly. Being smooth solves that problem. Pulling significantly harder during the first half of the loop seemed to help the shape as viewed from the ground as well. My spins were good today. I'm still barreling the slow roll, and the half roll in the cuban isn't perfect. 

I tried to help with ground critique, but my commentary is probably worse than useless. I can spot egregious errors, but that's about it.

I've got two more practice hops scheduled tomorrow to fine tune.

04 September 2012

East Coast Aerobatic Contest: Day -4

The RADAR picture overstated the conditions this afternoon. We flew through a trace of rain to get to the practice area, but the ceiling was high and the air was wonderfully smooth: there wasn't even the slightest bit turbulence to cover up flaws in my technique. A rainbow flew in loose formation with the Super D for a few miles, and the towering cumulus kept their distance.

I have plenty of tuning to do before this weekend. I'm registered to fly in the Primary category in the aerobatic contest, my first. Properly flown, the primary sequence should look like this. My 45-degree uplines were consistently shallow today. And my spin entries could be crisper. I let the airplane sink into a couple of the spins, which is caused by not keeping the nose trending upward as the airplane approaches the stall. After recovery, I need to hold the vertical downline a bit longer for the judges and wait to advance the throttle when I start to pull. I think I have that sorted out. The roll in the half cuban eight was relatively consistent until I botched a couple by overthinking them. My downwind loop will benefit from a ground observer's critique later in the week. The wind at altitude was around 20 knots this afternoon, and my positioning within the aerobatic box could also stand improvement: I need to drive into the headwind to put the slow roll at airshow center.

My altitudes looked good. I plan to adjust a bit lower for the contest: start my base leg prior to entering the aerobatic box at 3,000 feet AGL and dive for 140 miles per hour and 2,500 feet AGL at the beginning of the first figure, a 45-degree upline. That should put the spin entry at about 3,000 feet AGL, with recovery at around 2,000 feet. The floor of the aerobatic box for Primary is 1,500 feet AGL, so that should give me plenty of margin for minor mistakes (e.g. being slightly too steep on the downline in the half cuban eight).

My goal is to generally not embarrass myself. I will be content with a score of 85% or better. I have Thursday and Friday to practice, weather permitting. As of now, there are two other competitors registered in the category. I'm beyond excited.