Back in the Saddle Again

Posted by in Aerobatics, Aviation

“Riding the range once more, toting my old Pitts S-2B…”

Doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it? No matter. It was so nice taking the Pitts up today — I made two practice flights at the Blockhouse, concentrating on the Intermediate Known sequence for the upcoming season. It’s a bit tougher than last season’s sequence. The total K value (difficulty) is about the same, but this year it’s front loaded with harder figures, while at the end of the sequence the K values drop off significantly.

2008 intermediate known sequence

My practice strategy seems to differ from most aerobatic pilots. For whatever reason, most pilots begin by working with individual figures. On the surface this seems like a logical building-block approach. However, I prefer to run the new sequences all the way through until I can do them without any hard zeros. My reasoning is that a beautifully flown sequence is of little value if you zero most of it because you end up going the wrong direction or misread the card. Also, by the time the sequence can be flown properly, it should be clear which figures need the most work.

Let’s just say I have a long way to go before this is ready for public consumption. I’m trying to get ready for the Copperstate contest in Arizona, which will hopefully tune me up enough to benefit from a training camp in Borrego so that when the California season begins at Apple Valley, I will at least have a fighting chance. Last year, I didn’t fly for the whole season. Then I had one practice flight to prepare for the AcroFest. In case you were wondering, I do not recommend that training regime.

Anyway, back to the present. As usual, my 45s are shallow going up, steep going down, and I have to recalibrate my sense of the aircraft’s energy state going vertical. In other words, I keep torquing out of push humpties and other such maneuvers because I’m spending too long on the upline and running out of energy. I’m sure my rolls aren’t centered on the appropriate lines, either.

These things always happen in the off season. It’s almost as if I have an internal mechanism which falls out of adjustment after a period of inactivity. The frustrating thing is, I’ve been flying every day, and flying the Pitts a lot, too. But it’s primarily been demo flights, checkouts, advanced spin training, rides, and other non-competition stuff.

I haven’t even started working on rolling turns or getting my snap rolls back in order. All day long my snap rolls had an extra 200 degrees of rotation before I could get them stopped. But that’s okay. I’m glad just to be up there, zooming through the sky without a care in the world.

In honor of my new focus on not sucking this season, here are a group of pilots who definitely don’t stink: The Four Horsemen. This team still flies, but now it’s down to two Mustangs and they’re simply called “The Horsemen”. This video clip is well edited, and best of all, there’s no narration from an air show announcer. I’m not a big fan of announcers in general, but in this case it would be outright sacrilege. When a quartet of Mustangs is in the air, an announcer — whoever he may be — should just be quiet and let the sound of those Merlin engines speak for itself.

But that’s just my opinion.