Lots of times the general public does not fully understand what we do and why we do it. If this is you, read on.
We are not "stunt pilots", "daredevils", or "barnstormers". We don't perform "loop-de-loops", "tail-spins", or even "death spirals" (don't laugh, I've seen ALL of the preceding in print). We don't have a death wish, and generally we are conservative and very cautious individuals. Aerobatic flying and flying in general is very safe, as long as the pilot exercises normal care and caution.
What we are is a group of pilots and enthusiasts who love the art of flying, and are passionate about becoming the best pilot possible. In competition aerobatics, the key is precision in every aspect - timing, execution, and presentation. It is a constant learning process, all the way up to the World Aerobatic Champion. Recreational aerobatic pilots are also interested in improving their skills, and while they aren't as concerned with total precision with regard to execution of maneuvers, they are primarily concerned with safety and are better equipped to handle more varied situations than your average "straight & level" pilot.
So next time you see or talk to a "crazy aerobatic pilot", stop and consider the fact that we are just about as "normal" as it gets!
AEROBATIC OVERVIEW from Outreach Day at Tracy Airport.
Periodically, you may see aircraft executing aerobatic maneuvers in an aerobatics practice area adjacent to the Tracy Airport.
An aerobatics practice area is a safe zone where pilots of suitably equipped and well-maintained small airplanes may practice high-performance maneuvers. These areas are a little over three thousand feet square.
The bottom of an aerobatics practice area is between five hundred and one-thousand five hundred feet above the ground. The top is nearly a mile above the ground. This keeps planes safely away from people, livestock, buildings, and property. You may witness small planes like the one pictured above looping, rolling, flying straight up, or flying straight down in the practice area. You may occasionally hear the planes flying overhead at a safe height.
The popular characterization for this kind of flying is “stunt flying.” Pilots who engage in this activity are sometimes thought to be crazy daredevils. This romantic and somewhat sensational view is common in the media because it is exciting. It sells papers and gets attention. The reality is very different.
The people who will use this practice area belong to the International Aerobatics Club (www.iac.org), an organization of pilots who work to improve their skills and perfect the accurate performance of aerobatics figures and routines to exacting standards. Many participate in contests where their flying is graded by judges, much like the figure-skating contests popular in the Winter Olympic Games. The pilots who will use the practice area are sober, careful individuals who take pride in the attention they give to the safe flying and maintenance of their airplanes. They aim to be the best that they can be; and, like learning to play an instrument, excellence requires practice, practice, practice.
The attached questions and answers address many common concerns. Please feel free to contact the airport if you have any specific concerns about the aerobatics practice area.
Noise. Some people call the sound of an airplane, “noise.” Whether you call it noise or music to your ears, it’s hardly louder than your neighbor’s lawn mower if you live on a suburban quarter-acre. If you lived in the city it would hardly register. If you live near an airport you expect to hear an airplane now and again. Some airplanes are louder, some quieter. The vast majority of competitors fly lower power, very quiet aircraft. A typical aerobatic practice session lasts about fifteen or twenty minutes. The pilots using the Tracy airport for their practice have all been trained on noise-minimizing techniques, and the Chapter to which these pilots belong has taken steps to reduce the amount of aerobatic flying at Tracy by nearly 70% versus activity levels from prior years.
Danger. To our knowledge, the only damage that has ever occurred from an airplane practicing in an aerobatics practice area has been to the plane and its occupants. The likelihood of an accident is small. The likelihood of damaging anything on the ground is smaller still. All of the pilots using the practice area carry substantial liability insurance.
Frequency. We expect to have approximately 5-8 pilots using the practice area on any given weekend and we expect to only be flying approximately 1-2 days a month for a portion of the year.
Regulation. All of the airspace in the United States belongs to the Federal Government. The Federal Aviation Administration regulates the use of this airspace. It also grants pilot certificates, regulates airports, and regulates the construction, operation and maintenance of aircraft.
Challenge. Aerobatics is a physically and mentally challenging sport that takes years to learn and a lifetime to master. World class pilots start with some natural talent then dedicate thousands of hours in the air and more on the ground to train to be the very best. As with the best baseball and football players, many desire the goal and few attain it. Unlike baseball and football players, the financial rewards are few. The primary reward is more like that of Olympic class athletes. It is the pleasure of having succeeded in creating a physical performance that is highly demanding, difficult, and sometimes beautiful to watch.
Aerobatic pilots are enthusiastic about their sport and invite you to stop by the airport to say hello, learn about their airplanes, talk to the pilots, and learn more about aerobatics and flying in general. Kids are always thrilled to see the planes up close on the ground so feel free to bring them by if you see aerobatics happening at the airport.
We hope this flyer provides a little more insight into what’s going on when you see airplanes performing aerobatics above the Tracy airport.
Back to IAC Chapter 38 Home Page
Last updated: Sat 4/7/2001 08:30 PDTCopyright © 1999-2003 Cris Flint