Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Monday, June 5, 2017

Precision Aerobatics Make the Grade at the Salem Regional Aerobatic Contest

By Carmelo Turdo pilots from across the region gathered early Saturday morning at Salem-Leckrone Airport in central Illinois to participate in the 42nd Annual International Aerobatic Club (IAC) Regional Aerobatic Contest.  This longest-running IAC contest attracted nine pilots from several states, flying a variety of aircraft types, for the chance to get some feedback on their aerobatic flying abilities.     

The IAC, a division of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) based in Oshkosh, WI, provides rules governing the aerobatic contests for each category - Primary, Sportsman, Intermediate, Advanced and Unlimited - in order of increasing difficulty.  The size of the aerobatic box (airspace used for the judged flying) is 1000m x 1000m, with the lower and upper altitude limits also varying by category.  The aerobatic box footprint is marked using large white panels on the ground, positioned to give a proper line of sight from the judges' position.  During each flight, a competitor flies a set of maneuvers that are documented by uniform figures in a specified order.  The judges calculate the scores, from 0-10, for each maneuver and add a difficulty coefficient multiplier.  Competitors are ranked by their total scores.      

The competitors arrived Friday, and throughout the day preparations such as marking the aerobatic box, stocking supplies and practice flights were accomplished.  Early Saturday morning, the aircraft were positioned on the apron and the briefing started just after 7:30am.  The briefing centered on the flight operations, including startup and taxi procedures, ingress and egress from the aerobatic box, radio frequencies and the flight order for each category.  Experienced chapter members performed key duties, including Contest Director Joe Overman, Starter Dennis McAlee, Chief Judges Bruce Ballew and Sanford Langworthy, and the numerous other support jobs necessary for a fair and safe contest.  Support from Salem-Leckrone Airport was again essential in providing a base of operations including a large apron, fuel and the needed office and hangar space.    

The judges assembled at their observation station between the apron and aerobatic box following the morning briefing.  The tents provided a welcome shelter from the growing heat of the day, and plenty of water and snacks were available.  Contest flights were conducted during morning and afternoon sessions, and the flight operations were concluded by mid afternoon.  

The Aero Experience was on site for our second year to capture the day's flying activities.  Aircraft flying in the aerobatic box were too far away for quality images, but we have some views of each aircraft as they took off and landed during the contest.  They are featured here in their competition categories:

Primary: First Place - Bruce Ballew in Pitts S-2B


Primary: Second Place - Giles Henderson in Clipped-Wing Piper Cub


Sportsman: First Place - Jason Noll in Pitts S-2B

Sportsman: Second Place - Robert Hamilton in Pitts S-1C

Sportsman: Third Place - Karl Icenogle in Pitts S-2B

Sportsman: Fourth Place - David Schmitz in RV-8


Advanced: First Place - Gerald Molidor in Sukhoi SU-29

Advanced: Second Place - John Housley in Pitts S-2B

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Unlimited: First Place - Steven Grohsmeyer in MXS

The Salem Regional Aerobatic Contest is a great example of Midwest Aviation resources coming together to evaluate and improve the skills and safety of its pilots.  IAC Chapter 61 President John Housley stresses that the IAC chapter membership activities and contests serve primarily to provide instruction and mentoring in aerobatic flying in an organized manner.  Having at least some aerobatic training makes a pilot safer and comfortable in unusual attitude situations that may occur unexpectedly in conventional flying. Anyone interested in developing and improving aerobatic flying skills, and making connections with the area's aviation community, are encouraged to contact IAC Chapter 61 or find a chapter near their home airport.

The Aero Experience thanks IAC Chapter 61, Salem-Leckrone Airport and the participants for their hospitality and assistance in preparing this story.

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