Glider Aerobatics, a new attitude

 

The International Aerobatic Club says on their website, “Aerobatics is about safety and recovery training. Aerobatics is about being able to confidently and safely fly in all corners of the aircraft envelope. Aerobatics is about the sheer joy that this kind of flying brings. Aerobatics is about how this kind of training brings a pilot’s confidence level up and their fear level down. All of these things enhance flight safety, as well as being a heck of a lot of fun.”

The purpose of aerobatic flight is to instill confidence in the student pilot’s ability to handle the aircraft and perform precision maneuvers in all flight regimes.

New glider pilots don’t want to bank steeply enough in a thermal. If you can fly inverted, what’s 45 degrees? Learning aerobatics I discovered a whole new world of flying. I even allowed myself to get talked into a contest! I had the pleasure of learning aerobatics with a lot of enthusiastic (crazy?) people at Lasham, Booker ,and Dunstable in England as well as the Wasserkuppe and with the Aerobatic Enthusiast Group of southwestern Germany.

My first aerobatic test was the British Gliding Association (BGA) Standard Badge. Although I passed the test and paid for the rating, I never received the actual badge. At least I got my license back! Interestingly to me as a budding aerobatic enthusiast, the British approach just uses positive G figures early in training. The German aerobatic rating (see further below) includes rolls right from the start. Both countries have vigorous aerobatic programs, so I don’t know which might be better.

BGA-standard

The figures in the drawing taped to the instrument panel are:

  1. 45-degree down line
  2. Loop
  3. Chandelle (Wingover in the US)
  4. Humpty bump (canopy down)
  5. Chandelle
  6. 45-degree up line
  7. 270-degree competition turn

The figures for the German aerobatic rating are:prfungsprogramm-01

  1. Loop
  2. Split-S
  3. Immelmann
  4. Hammerhead (a.k.a. Stall Turn in the UK)
  5. Aileron Roll
  6. Hammerhead
  7. Aileron Roll
  8. 360-degree competition turn

 

The German Bronze Badge are:Bronze-Program

  1. 45-degree down line
  2. Cuban Eight
  3. 45-degree humpty bump (canopy down)
  4. Half roll, inverted to upright
  5. Hammerhead Stall
  6. Two-point roll/hesitation roll
  7. Canopy up humpty bump
  8. Quarter clover (a loop, rolling in the first quadrant to change direction 90 degrees)
  9. 90-degree competition turn
  10. Aileron Roll
  11. 45-degree up line

In practice, I was able to fly all of these figures well. I had stressed over the 45-degree humpty to the half roll to inverted, but it turned out to be much easier than I expected. Unfortunately, when I flew for the test I pushed at the top of the hammerhead instead of rotating. It only took a millisecond to realize it was the wrong thing, but it was too late. I expect to pass this next time I get a chance to fly aerobatics in Germany.

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There are a number of PDF publications available related to aerobatics. The US Air Force has extensively tested the <a href=”AFFTC-TR-89-27 Spin Test.pdf” target=”_blank”> ASK-21’s spin characteristics</a>, and the US Air Force Academy published an <a href=”http://www.goldcoastwebdesigns.com/dl/aff-masters.zip” target=”_blank”>ASK-21-specific aerobatics guide</a>. The Federal Aviation administration has published <a href=”ac91-48 – Aerobatics.pdf” target=”_blank”>Advisory Circular 91-48, Aerobatics</a> to provide advice and guidance on safe aerobatics.
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<p>
In contrast to most countries in the world, the US does not require any formal training or rating for aerobatics. New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority has Advisory Circular 61-12 <a href=”AC61_12_Rev3.pdf” target=”_blank”>Aerobatic Flight Rating</a>, and Gliding New Zealand, Inc. published a companion guide, <a href=”AC%202-06%20Aerobatic%20Flight%20in%20Gliders.pdf” target=”_blank”>Aerobatic Flight in Gliders</a>. The Federal Aviation administration has published <a href=”ac91-48 – Aerobatics.pdf” target=”_blank”>Advisory Circular 91-48, Aerobatics</a> to provide advice and guidance on safe aerobatics.
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