AEROBATICS: What’s It All About?

by Donn Richardson Aerobatic Club of BC

What it is and how it started.

From the dawn of time whenever mankind has had to develop a skill, such as running, jumping, throwing a stone or a spear, etc. in order to survive, he has eventually turned that skill into a sport. It is not surprising then that in the early years of the first world war, as armies began to use the newly invented flying machines as tactical weapons the pilots had to learn to fly their machines very aggressively to avoid being shot down. This led them to develop a number of intricate “stunts” designed to confuse an enemy trying to shoot at them, or to enable them to get into position to shoot at their enemy. In peace time, some of these pilots went on to develop these “stunts” into complex figures which challenged the ability of the pilot to fly his aeroplane with precision through all of its dimensions of flight; and thus, aerobatics was born.

Aerobatics have been brought to public attention first, through the stunt flying activities of barnstorming daredevils in the 1920’s, and more recently through the brilliantly choreographed performances of skilled airshow performers and military demonstration teams. Less familiar to the Canadian public is the field of Sport Aerobatics.

Sport Aerobatics:

During the past half century, while aerobatic flying was becoming a popular form of entertainment through the medium of the airshow industry, it was also developing across Europe, South Africa, USA, and, to a somewhat lesser degree in Canada, as a highly structured competitive sport. Differing from its airshow sibling, sport aerobatics is designed not for entertainment, but as a pure contest of skill which follows a very disciplined format and very strict rules. Contests are held within the various participating countries under the supervision of their national sanctioning bodies; Aerobatics Canada and, in the USA, the International Aerobatics Club. Contests range from regional through national to international and world championship level. The national organizations adhere to the principles and standards set down by their governing body CIVA which is the Aerobatic Commission of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

What Has Aerobatics Contributed To Aviation?

Aerobatic training and practice gives a pilot a heightened awareness of the performance limitations of his aircraft and greatly improves his/her ability to maintain precise control through an unlimited range of flight attitudes. For this reason it is an essential part of the basic flight training for all military pilots, and is an asset to all other pilots. The on-going quest for higher degrees of perfection in the performance of increasingly difficult maneuvres has led to the development of many new aircraft design features, and to a great increase in knowledge about safe flying techniques. It is interesting to note that at the same time as the demands and performance standards of competition have risen, so too have the standards of safety. As a result of the high standards of safety and discipline within this sport there has rarely been a fatal accident in an aerobatic contest.

What Can Aerobatics Contribute To The Community?

The Aerobatic Club of BC, which is a chapter of Aerobatics Canada, is devoted to promoting both sport and recreational aerobatics and fostering the highest standards of safety and competence within this activity. The club has hosted annual contests in several communities in BC over the past 30 years. While very small in the beginning, these contests today run for three days and can draw 60 or more participants; contestants, judges, volunteers, and of course spouses and family. Since most of these participants come from outside of the host community they stay in hotels, rent cars, eat in local restaurants and shop like any other tourists. This, of course, is in addition to the contest budget which is also spent mostly in the host community and returns a significant benefit to the community for the brief use of it’s airport.

%d bloggers like this: