Breighton 2013

With the first BAeA competition, Sandtoft, being cancelled due to the heavy amount of snow the UK was getting at the time, this made Breighton the first BAeA competition of 2013, and with it my first Standard level competition.

Myself and Aidan flew up to Breighton airfield in G-BUUK the Friday before the competition. Not only to save us from getting up super early to fly there in time for the 08:30 registration, but so that I could get that all important Standard level sign off. This sign off involved me flying the 2013 Known sequence in front of a judge, and once completed he would throw a few other figures at me to fly. The judge is not concerned with how well I am flying the figures during a sign off, as the main aim is to see if I can fly the sequence safely, so that I wont be a danger to myself or others in the sky or on the ground. Without this sign off I would not be able to enter the competition!

Shortly after we landed at Breighton, we met up with Nick Buckenham who would (hopefully) be signing me off. With a short briefing about what he will be looking for during the sign off, and whereabouts I am to fly, I was ready to step back into our trusty Slingsby and take to the skies above the airfield. One advantage of doing a sign off the day before the competition, at the airfield you're about to compete at, is that you get to have a sneaky look at the aerobatic box beforehand! I flew the Standard sequence in front of Nick, with the additional figures he asked me to demonstrate (such as a 1 1/4 spin, of which I had never done before!), and whilst it was far from perfect, he was happy with how I was flying and signed me off. In front of me now stands 6 Standard level competitions throughout the year.

The following day I was a little nervous about doing my first Standard competition, as before this day I had only flown the entire sequence solo around 6 times. I was a little rusty in places to say the least, but I would be getting invaluable feedback from the judges as to what I need to improve on for the next competition.

Before I flew I managed to meet up with Lauren Richardson, and whilst talking to her I said that I'll try not to make her laugh with my flying, she responded saying that she will only laugh if I end up flying in the wrong direction ... it's like she knew something that I didn't!

I climbed up into the hold just south of the aerobatic box and awaited the judges to call me in. After circling one last time to reposition myself with the aerobatic box, I entered and began the sequence. It all started well, with the first two figures getting some 9s and 8.5s from the judges (a 45* up line, followed by a 1 1/2 turn spin). However, the third figure, a loop, is where it all went wrong!

Previous to this flight I had developed a quirk of putting in aileron in the direction that I was looking. This meant that my loops were getting a little crooked and off heading. During the loop I realised that I had done this again, so I was focusing on getting things back to normal, however in the process I got completely confused as to which runway to align myself with! I had a major brain fail, and somehow I managed to do something that loosely resembled a half-cuban, which meant I was now pointing in the opposite direction. I still to this day do not know how this happened!

Amongst the confusion and panic, coupled with the nerves of my first Standard competition, I didn’t realise my mistake and continued to fly the sequence. I knew something felt weird with the loop, but I didn’t think it was that weird. As a result of this I got 8 hard-zeros (no score) since all of the following figures were being flow in the wrong direction, meaning a total score of roughly 30%. Hardly the score I was after! On the upside, if I had flown the sequence in the correct direction I would have ended up with quite a good score, as some of the judges continued to score me (unofficially).

So, my first big lesson of the year is this: If something feels weird or goes wrong, simply take a free break, collect your thoughts, and reposition to continue the rest of the sequence (in the correct direction!). Well, time to practice for the next competition which is at my home field of Sleap Airfield. Fingers crossed for better results.

2013 Aerobatic Season

So, a long time without any updates, but I can assure you that there has been lots of flying since the BAeA Sleap competition last year!

The BAeA 2012 season was my first year doing competition aerobatics, something that I never thought I'd be doing, and I have to say it was the most fun I've ever had flying. I've met a lot of very interesting and talented people whilst being at these competitions, and I'm looking forward to many further years competing. After coming 4th in my first competition, I later entered the competition at Fenland, of which I came 1st!

Currently I am training for the BAeA 2013 season, but this time entering in the next level up - Standard. Below is the 2013 Standard Known sequence:

Rather more complex than the 2012 Beginners sequence, however training is going well and I'm feeling confident that I'll be able to fly it without causing too many people to laugh. There is just one thing getting in my way:

With only 2 weeks left until the first competition at Breighton, and the UK being stuck in a perpetual winter season, things are not looking too good. Whilst I have done spinning before, both solo and with my instructor, it has been a very long time since I have done precision spinning to a competition standard - and never solo. Oh, and I also need to get signed off for Standard, to proove that I am safe and competent to fly the sequence, before I am even allowed to enter the competition.

Right now it doesn't look like either of these are going to happen in time, which means the first competition that I am most likely to enter is Sleap, my home airfield again, in early May.

For now I shall keep this post short, and I'll update you more often with reports from every competition I do this year in the Slingsby ... or maybe something else? That's a secret for now though :)

Golding Barrett, 4th place!

The BAeA Golding Barrett competition was held at Sleap on the 12th & 13th of May 2012, and I can sum it up in simply one word; inspiring.

This was my first aerobatic competition that I have ever taken part in, and I can guarantee that it wont be my last!

The original plan was for Beginners to fly first, followed by Standard and then Advanced. However with the cloud base not at the required 3,400ft AGL during the morning and after a few hours of waiting around, it was decided that Advanced would fly first due to their lower cloud base limit (2,800ft AGL I believe).

Advanced aerobatics is always a treat to watch and at Sleap it was no exception, the standard of flying by these pilots was extremely high - something that echoed throughout every pilot there, in all levels. The sequenece they flew was full of negative G maneuvers, the kind that makes your eyes want to pop out of your head ... which is not something I want to be doing, just yet.

At around 13:45 it was time for Beginners, all 8 of us including me, one of the biggest turn outs in a Beginners competition for a long time. Thankfully (or not so depending on how you think) I was the last Beginner to fly, allowing me to watch how the others were doing. Amongst those flying was Antoine and Aidan, also members of the Shropshire Aero Club learning to fly competition aerobatics. Antoine was up first and flew a fantastic sequence giving him a score of 71.8%, Adian shortly followed and brought home an unbelievable score of 84.0% - a score that was sure to get him 1st place, normally.

Then it was my turn. Aidan landed the Slingsby and I swiftly jumped in to her and brought together all of my training for this one flight. After taking off from runway 36R I began to climb into the competition box and position myself, waiting for the judges to call me; "G-BUUK box is yours" was the words I heard over the radio and my que that I could start. I lined up with runway 05/23 at 3,000ft and began my sequence with 3 wing rocks. Before I knew it the sequence was over, 5 simple maneuvers completed and with it my first competition. 

After landing I was eager to find my results from the team of judges; a score of 78.6% which ultimately gave me 4th place! A very pleasing result for my first competition, with only 2 months of training. Normally such score would be good for a medal however with such a high standard of flying this was not the case. The winner, Chris Brook, scored an incredibly impressive 87% in a Pitts S-2A G-BTTR ... and who actually went on to win the Standard level as well!

A big thanks has to be made to my instructor, Bob Pooler, who has taken me from a straight and level C152 PPL pilot to someone who is now addicted to aerobatics. I look forward to my next challenge, which is training with Bob to fly the Standard competition at Fenland this June.

Well done to everyone involved!

One week to go, first BAeA competition

Ok, really it's 8 days but that's nearer enough. On the 12th May I'll be flying competition aerobatics for the very first time, something I never thought I'd be doing yet here I am practicing every weekend in the graceful Slingsby Firefly G-BUUK. The competition will be flown at Sleap airfield, thankfully my home field so I am already quite familiar with the competition box (shown below) that we need to fly within. On the day I shall be sharing G-BUUK with two other budding aerobatic pilots, one of which I believe will be attempting the Standard as well as Beginners level.

While I obtained my AOPA Basic Aerobatic certificate a few weeks ago, I have yet to fly the Beginners sequence solo. Yep, with 8 days to go. Maybe beginners luck will be with me that day to get within the top three? Judging by the weather we've been having recently, it looks like the first time I'll fly it solo will be on the day! Fingers crossed for this weekend that the fluffy stuff will be high enough (around 3,000ft AGL) for some green side up.

A new beginning for 3D Teapot

Around 2006 3D Teapot was created as a place for me to showcase my computer graphics portfolio, and since then it has been neglected as I drifted away from the CG industry to focus on other interests, such as developing the open source PHP content management system, TangoCMS.

Over the past few weeks I have been wanting to change that fact and so I set about redesigning and building the new 3D Teapot. From now on this little slice of the Internet will be a place for my general rambles relating mostly to web development, server administration and as of late - aviation and my dive into competition aerobatics with the BAeA.

As soon as the weather turns around and the sun starts to shine, I'll be updating this with pictures of the aircraft I'm currently learning aerobatics in, G-BUUK, all in preparation for my first BAeA competition at Sleap this May!