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.