The 2012 USA Advanced Aerobatic team is deeply saddened by the loss of our teammate and friend. We will always remember our time with Reinaldo, and express our sympathies for his family and others in the aerobatic community.
Fact: Any conversation with a Hungarian about the contest, aerobatics, or aviation in general will include the name Peter Besenyei. The face of Hungarian aerobatics and an accomplished air show performer, Besenyei headlined the air show program that wrapped up WAAC 2012. Certainly a crowd pleasing performance, one of the more interesting parts for the pilots was the exhibition of the cutting-edge Corvus Racer 540. Imagine an Edge 540, wrapped in carbon fiber, and tuned specifically for the Red Bull Air Race. More than a few folks almost wrote a check for the sleek machine on the spot.
After his air show performance and evading the mob of local fans, Peter Besenyei paid a visit to his old friend Nikolay while the latter was busy disassembling his Sukhoi. The whole Sukhoi tear-down and shipping process peaked Peter’s interest, so Nik gave him a quick briefing on the plane, the process, and the truck with the Florida license plate. Fellow competitor and contest organizer, Tamas Abranyi joined the conversation and made sure the American team had everything they needed for the 2-day mechanical marathon they faced. Just another example of the Hungarians’ insistance on good hospitality.
For the past month, Nikolay has been inside the mind of each pilot to effectively push him or her to their maximum flying potential. I believe his aerobatic coaching was brilliant, but the results really speak for themselves. To have so many pilots in contention going into the final round is a luxury that most countries do not have. Nikolay utilized this depth of talent to the absolute fullest, but some days the cards (or scores) just don’t go your way. My amateur analysis is only the tip of the iceberg. The best person to give a full recap of the contest is the coach himself; watch Nikolay’s local interview below to get a more seasoned perspective:
While the contest is over and the journey is nearing the end, I will continue to post photos and other content from the contest to try to convey the atmosphere of sportsmanship that pervades an international aerobatic contest. Many friendships were made and plans laid down for the next WAAC to be held in South Africa. Along the same lines, we made sure to welcome them to the unlimited world championships held next year in Denison, Texas. The USA may be on the outside this go round, but with the precedent set by the team this year, future American teams will be a strong, well-trained force to be dealt with.
Before we get started with the final flights of the contest, we wanted to thank the people responsible for getting the US Team to the 10th World Advanced Aerobatic Championship. Their strong performance so far has been a result of the continued support through regional contests, training camps, and shipping the aircraft.
IAC Chapter 89 (Leeward Air Ranch)
Albany Regional Plastic Surgery, Inc.
Steve And Alice Johnson
Ken And Ellen Lumpkin
Foster And Lauren Bachschmidt
Bill And Laura Barnard
Harry O. Barr
Midwest Aerobatic Club
Stan And Geri Moye
Nebraska Chapter Ninety Nines
Hector And Laurie Ramirez
Chris And Mary Beth Rudd
Southern Bracing Systems
Robert A. Hardy
Fred And Liza Weaver
Don And Monique Hartman
John And Cecilia Young
(If I forgot anyone, feel free to send me a snide email chewing me out. It builds character. email@example.com)
The strong wind of the previous afternoon combined with the blistering Hungarian sun to create an exhausting marathon of unknown preparation, leaderboard watching, and keeping bloody cool (Some of us our converting to South African). Once again, Kelly started off the flying for the USA with a no-frills, zero-free unknown sequence. Coach Nik captured the team atmosphere after the flight with his exclamation of “Kelly is back!” His consistent flying is making his zero during the Q a faint memory, but fighting for 1st group scores while still in the 2nd group has been an uphill battle that Kelly fought in full force.
Mark nailed the unknown by sticking to the card like he practiced in the first two rounds. Much like Tuesday, the wind howled through the box and forced Mark onto the outer limit of the box where he received costly penalties. The calls were questionable, but the team decided it better not to protest. Beginning with the most aggressive entry I’ve ever seen, Craig opened up the six cylinder Lycoming to charge into the box for a strong, confident start to the unknown. While a few mistakes throughout the sequence left Craig unsatisfied, his ability to fly within the box and avoid penalties resulted in a solid score for the Americans.
You can tell from the results of the Q and Free that Reinaldo’s flying is what the judges are looking for. The difficulties of flying the unknown became clear when a skilled pilot such as Reinaldo got caught too low on the 2 figures after a mind-bending outside push. The resulting 400 penalty points devastated an otherwise good score.
In the #63 slot, Ben flew an absolutely brilliant flight. One of the best unknowns of the day, his excellent presentation received high marks that will be invaluable to the Team USA overall score. If he can keep it up, USA can really make a run in this thing. Not long after Ben, Marty executed sequence D in a calm, deliberate fashion that kept the ball rolling for the team. Although their styles differ, Marty and Craig both avoided box outs and received similar positive scores. Nikolay finished off the day with a flawless unknown flight in typical Timofeev fashion. He aided Ben in boosting the Team score to currently give the Americans a hold of third place. The US will have to fly lights-out in the 2nd Free Unknown to contend, but as you’ve seen from their intense training and the immense effort it took to get here, their desire to win is unquestionable.
Strong winds howled down runway 36 as pilots fought for positioning during the 1st round of Free Unknowns.
“Why did they move the box 100 yards south?”
Outs began to outnumber snap rolls with most pilots having a difficult time flying a new sequence and making the proper wind correction. With the Q and Freestyle, pilots are familiar with the maneuvers that tend to push the box limits and have practiced making in-flight adjustments during windy training sessions. The unknowns are a different story. Pilots factor in the wind when walking through the sequence on the ground and observe the wind’s effect on flights before them, but once in the air, the pilot begins a never-ending battle. I overhead one judge mention that the afternoon had been total scoring “carnage,” with even the most skilled pilots receiving a healthy portion of penalty points.
Against these odds, Jessy flew the last unknown of the day in the favorable flat-light of the evening sky. Aside from a few outs which had now become commonplace, Jessy had a smooth first go at sequence D with improved spins and not a zero on the scoresheet. Now for the rest of the team to read the card, stay aggressive, and post some good scores.
This morning began with a team meeting at breakfast in the Park Hotel. We discussed our strategy for flying the Free Programme as well as tactics for picking Unknown figures. We then packed up and headed to the airport for the pilots briefing and selection of Unknown figures. The Free Unknown programmes are built from maneuvers submitted by each team. The teams take these maneuvers and design a unique sequence to optimize the order of the figures. Each pilot can then choose to fly any sequence designed by any team. As is usual with Unknowns, the flight can only be practiced mentally before it is actually flown. It’s a very interesting process that requires a good understanding of sequence design as well as a knack for how to select a sequence that will work well for your particular aircraft.The US team all elected to fly the same sequence for the 1st Unknown. The sequence was designed by US team coach, Nik Timofeev, and should work well for altitude and positioning management. I was able to take the rest of the day off as the earlier groups began to fly the Free Programme. The weather continues to be unbearably hot, and retreating to the air-conditioned hotel to study my Free sequence was a welcome break.”
“July 30, 2012
WAAC – Day 5
Free Programme! The heat gave us a slight break today with temperatures ranging in the mere mid-eighties. The wind also picked up today, and there was a lot of waiting for ornery, low clouds to blow out of the box. My chance to fly finally came later in the evening. With an optional break for cloud ceilings right at the legal limit, there was a lot of pressure to make sure I could fit all of my figures in without accidentally flying in the clouds. Doing so earns the maneuver a zero, which would be the end of any real chance at the championship.I took off and immediately climbed up to check the cloud bases. The layer consisted of scattered cumulus clouds, and the first one I found had a base of 2500 feet. This is below the legal limit, but I didn’t want to risk refusing to fly, only to have the official weather aircraft find the bases higher. I flew my warm up figures near a small cloud in the box, and experimented with pulling the power on the vertical up line. Pulling to vertical from 700 feet, I was able to top out at around 2300 feet – well below the cloud base. I could do this.The flight went extremely well. I have been slowly crafting my current Free Programme for the right mix of exciting figures as well as easy positioning. My goal after a somewhat hectic Qualifying flight was to fly a very controlled, relaxed sequence. All went according to plan, and I couldn’t be happier with the flight.” –Ben Freelove
The rainstorms that poured down much of the night passed through and left a cloudy morning sky that thankfully rested above the minimum ceiling needed to fly. The first pilot in the air for the Americans would be Marty Flournoy. Despite being positioned between two very skilled French pilots, Marty flew his Freestyle very similar to his Q flight, a few rough places here and there, but generally mistake free. The picture of the left displays the starter’s information board presented to pilots before each flight. There has been more than one good pilot that has zeroed every maneuver by flying the opposite of the official direction of flight. We feel the pain of those pilots, but it served as a great fundamental lesson for all of us.
After lunch, the sun burned off the cloud layer that had lingered since morning, yet it brought in a decent amount of wind that caused small patches of drifting clouds to halt the contest until they passed. Nik’s sukhoi powered through his freestyle routine, stopping on command for each point of the rolls and snapping abruptly when commanded. While it is hard for Nikolay and the rest of the team to critique the unique combination of Ben’s West Coast flying style with the air-splitting speed of the Edge 540, his polished flying skill led him through another successful flight in the Freestyle. Not trying to mend the unbroken, Nikolay has been telling Ben that if the judges like it then keep doing what you’re doing.
Mark flew through another good routine by managing his speed and keeping the Giles in full view of the judges. He approached the flight just like he would an unknown, reading the card and flying one figure at a time. This method is great preparation for the last 2 rounds. Craig admitted earlier that when he fully relaxes for a flight, he tends to fly the sequence higher in the box than he would like. In the Q, Craig flew a solid flight, but had a weaker box position. However in his Freestyle, Craig made the adjustment for better box positioning, but his maneuvers weren’t quite as crisp as in the first flight. We expect for the pieces to come together in the 3rd round and for Craig to be a top contender.
All of the Americans are flying sequence “D” for the 1st Free Unknown. Below is sequence D and a full list of the sequences chosen by each contestant; they are separated by a picture of our ZZ Top mechanic.
The first 2 rounds have provided the opportunity to scout out the field of pilots and gauge who will be a serious competitor in the final Free Unknowns. The flying hasn’t been easy, but most pilots will admit that the Q and Free rounds tend to be slow and mundane. These are the sequences that pilots have been practicing at their home airfield all year, making mistakes a rarity and results a mere product of judging style and presentation nuances.
The game begins with the Unknowns. The contest will shift from its current casual, repetitive status to a heated test of skill and mental fortitude. Teams will now pay attention when a pilot in-the-hunt wing-wags into the box. Mistakes will be clear. The leader board will be shifting. It will be time for the Americans to utilize the instincts developed during the punishing unknowns in Hosin. Lets keep the support coming.