Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Box Is Yours

Competition aerobatics can make you a more precise and confident pilot

I was circling at 4,500 feet in the designated contest holding area for the Borrego Springs Akrofest while another competitor finished his routine in the aerobatic box. As I waited for my turn my mind was racing, my heart rate was soaring and the heat index in the cockpit was hovering around 130 degrees F. The deafening growl of the Lycoming AEIO-540 motor turning 2,700 rpm on my newly acquired Pitts S-2C was interrupted by the calm, soothing voice of the Chief Judge over the radio:

“Pilot Sigari, this is the Chief Judge.”

“Chief Judge, this is pilot Sigari, go ahead.” I replied.

“Pilot Sigari, the aerobatic box is clear.” A slight pause. “The box is yours.”

And with those four simple words: “The box is yours,” began my career as a competition aerobatic pilot. After completing my preaerobatic SAFE checklist: Seat belts, Altitude, Fuel and Egress (review of the procedure in the unlikely event of a bailout), I began my dive into the box while simultaneously letting out a raucous howl: “Wahoooo!” My adrenaline glands began pumping harder than my engine-driven fuel pump.

In an effort to carry as much energy as possible into the box, I accelerated to the Pitts’ redline of 185 KIAS. I could hear my coach’s voice in my head saying “Cyrus, relax, have fun and fly the parts.” During the dive, I completed the requisite triple wing wag to advise the judges I was beginning my routine. As soon as I entered the east boundary of the box, I began my first of 10 compulsory maneuvers with a 6-G pull to a 45-degree up line.

Is It For You?

Competition aerobatics isn’t for everybody. It’s expensive, time consuming, psychologically and physically challenging, and at times very frustrating. However, for those who are attracted to the sport, the rewards can be endless. I’ve personally recognized a significant increase in confidence and precision in my flying skills. The flying benefits aside, the single, most rewarding facet of flying competition aerobatics has been the new friendships developed within the aerobatic community. From first-time competitors to seasoned professionals, the bond between competitors is something truly unique.


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