How good is aerobatic champion Rob Holland? This good. Well, he just won the Unlimited championship at the United States Aerobatic Championships, and get this: It’s his 10th consecutive title, the best ever, by a lot. Holland is also the reigning world freestyle champion, a fact that will not surprise you when you take a look at the video, in which Holland demonstrates flying skills that seem superhuman to mere mortal pilots like most of us.
Holland retained the title in this week’s championships in Salina, Kansas, where more than 100 pilots faced off in several divisions. The top 10 finishers go on to represent the United States at the World Aerobatic Championships, to be held next year in Switzerland.
Holland flies a custom MXS-RH carbon-fiber monoplane powered by a 380 hp Lycoming engine. Weighing just 1,200 pounds, the high-powered rocket ship is as agile as it is powerful, capable of a roll rate of almost 500 degrees per second. That means, in the time it takes you to say, “One Mississippi,” the plane has rolled more than one-and-a-half times. In it, Holland does a number of tumbling maneuvers that, when you watch them in person, seem like things that no airplane should be able to do. But Holland does it.
Pilots of both powered aircraft and gliders at the National Championships compete in five different categories each—Primary, Sportsman, Intermediate, Advanced and Unlimited—with the Unlimited winner of the powered contest, which has been Holland each of the past 10 years, being named the National Champion.
Contestants fly three routines: Known, in which they fly a routine the organization shares in advance; the Unknown, which is just as it sounds; and the Freestyle, where flyers get to do their own thing. The latter is the equivalent of the freestyle portion of international figure skating competitions, but with much less Tchaikovsky and way more Lycoming. Holland, widely regarded as the best freestyle flyer in the United States (at least), has dominated that segment in recent years.
Congrats to Rob Holland and the rest of the competitors, as well as to the International Aerobatic Club, run by EAA. Great work all!