May 31, 2016

Oshkosh 2013 – Airventure Recap

Another Oshkosh is complete and what a fantastic Airventure week it was! For those of you who have been able to experience Oshkosh in the past, chances are you have memories of hot muggy weather or storms of enormous proportions (….or maybe both!).  This year was an unexpected break from both – we were lucky if we saw mid-80’s and only had a dusting of rain here or there throughout the week.  Needless to say it was an outstanding event!

I was lucky enough to be spending my 2nd Oshkosh with the amazing ICON Aircraft Team (my 6th Oshkosh overall) and it was, as always, great!  Although I wasn’t away from the booth much for a majority of the week, I did get the opportunity to sneak out for a bit and grabbed pics to share with Go Inverted.

A great friend and fellow aerobatic pilot, Michelle Kole (5g Aviation) and I were lucky enough to sneak a flight into Osh with a friend who was bringing in a Citation Mustang (jetAVIVA).  Within 5 minutes of being on the ramp in front of the Weeks Hangar we spied our first movie star!  Dusty was a hit with all ages, even flying during the show on a few of the days and then sharing his movie (Disney’s Planes) with everyone before it hit theaters on Friday night!

We spent the week meeting lots of amazing people at the ICON booth as well as seeing old friends – Oshkosh is the best place on earth to make new friends as well as catch up with old ones!

Kadie stopped by to say hello – she’s sure to be one of the next great aerobatic pilots so make sure to watch for her in the future!!

Chelsea, Jamie & Jessy

Chelsea & EAA Volunteer, John

Making new friends at Oshkosh is easy – everyone there is your friend whether you know it or not! It is such an amazing place where people with a passion for flying, fun and innovation gather once a year to share their passion for these things with others.  One of the most amazing things about this are the droves of volunteers that come every single year to help EAA make this show possible.  I had to take my picture with John, one of the volunteers at the exhibitor’s food tent (he made sure to keep us in line when we arrived each day) – how can you pass up a picture with such a fine young man, Oshkosh B’gosh overalls and all!?!

And of course I cannot go without mentioning all of the eye-candy that surrounded us this year!

Circling the Jumpers

The power house!

Father and son prepping the plane – what Oshkosh is all about!

Beautiful P-51 Mustang

Mustang Noses

As always Oshkosh provided the perfect setting for an amazing group of people to get together and share in the joy of aviation.  From the Weeks Hangar to the Sea Plane Base there were amazing sights to be seen and fantastic people everywhere! I can’t wait until next year when we get to see what people have been working on over the next 12 months and to see what the the latest and greatest additions to the show will be.  Maybe, just maybe, it will be this:

A Hellcat recently recovered from Lake Michigan – on it’s way to being restored!




Priming the System – G’ing-up for the 2013 Season


It’s that time of year again and people are beginning to gear up for the upcoming 2013 competition season.  With that said, there are many things to consider as you ramp back up.  How is your airplane? Any squawks during the annual? Has it been looked at closely since it was buttoned up for winter? Be sure to take the time to look it over closely, extra close if it has been sitting for a few months (even if it has been in a hangar).  And how about your parachute – has it been stored properly? Is it still within its packing dates or does it need to be repacked before you start flying again?


And how about you? Are you healthy? Have you been eating well and staying hydrated? Are you in shape? All things to consider before you start beating up your body and plane in the aerobatic box.



This blog is simply to mention G-tolerance.  Remember that you build a tolerance up and then if not maintained it will diminish.  Thus, if you’re just getting back into flying aerobatics, your body may need a week or two of flying (maybe even more) to get the systems primed again.  So take it easy initially, begin to add the G’s incrementally and remember that you don’t need to go for aerobatic endurance flights – 10-15 minutes of practice the first handful of flights is plenty! To be honest, I rarely practice more than 15-20 minutes at a time even when I’m at the peak of my training season.  And as for those negative G’s that so many of us know and love (or hate), it seems to require less training to regain a “tolerance” level.  I would argue that the negative G training should be light and minimal on each flight as it is less about priming your system and more about being able to maintain a relaxed state while under negative G in order to reduce your chances of bodily harm (remember if you strain you actually increase the pressure in your head during negative G maneuvers).  Many people have argued that large quantities of negative G are unhealthy (and anyone who has pushed a lot on a flight and had the negative G hangover for the rest of the day would probably agree) thus remember, one or two pushes a flight is more than enough in practice. Just remember to stay relaxed, don’t tense up and enjoy the ride.


A healthy diet, exercise and regular flights to keep your G tolerance up will not only help you feel better but also increase your levels of safety and success for each and every competition flight.  We are all vigilant about caring for our aircraft and parachutes but we must remember that our bodies also play an incredibly significant role and should be maintained just the same.


Have fun safe flights and I’ll look forward to seeing everyone around the competition circuit!

Get Involved – Become an IAC Judge!


Aerobatic judging is not only a fun and great way to get involved with the IAC, but also helps keep our sport alive.  There are lots of misconceptions when it comes to judging including thinking that you have to be aerobatic pilot.  News flash – you don’t have to be a pilot at all! Plenty of spouses and significant others attend judging school to learn how to be assistant judges or regional (and even sometimes National) judges as a way to get involved in the sport and we are very happy that they do!  Additionally for you current and future aerobatic flyers, becoming a judge is not only helpful to your sport but also a great way to become a better competitor!

So how can you get involved? Check out the IAC’s latest list of judges school’s scheduled for 2013

Our local IAC Chapter – IAC Chapter 26 – is holding an Introduction to Aerobatic Judging School March 9-10, 2013 at the Apple Valley Airport which meets the requirements for new judges (attend both days) as well as current judges that need to stay current or want to move up to National Judge status (need only to attend Sunday).  The school will include lunches, a BBQ/Movie Night on Saturday night and time permitting a mini camp Sunday afternoon with some real flying for you to try out your new judging skills!  It’s sure to be a great time and a wonderful way for new and long-time IAC participants, family and friends to get involved in one of the most exciting motorsports on the planet! For more information click the above links – we’d love to have you join us!

2013 IAC Chapter Contests


MARCH 2013

2013 Phil Schacht Aerobatic Kickoff

Friday March 22 – Sunday March 24, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday March 21, 2013
Glider Categories – Sportsman through Unlimited
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Keystone Heights (42J), Florida
Region – Southeast
Contact Information – 386.295.0382
Email –

APRIL 2013


2013 Borrego Hammerhead Roundup

Thursday April 11 – Sunday April 14, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday April 11, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Borrego Valley Airport (L08), Borrego Springs, CA
Region – Southwest
Contact Information – 970.948.0816
Contest Director – Gray Brandt
Email –


2013 Ben Lowell Competition

Thursday April 19 – Sunday April 21, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday April 19, 2013
Rain/Weather – Friday May 3 – Sunday May 5, 2013
Glider Categories – Sportsman through Unlimited
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – USAF Academy Airfield (KAFF), USAF Academy, CO
Region – Northwest
Contact Information – 719.499.4501 / 719.282.9550
Contest Director – Jeffery W. Riddlebarger
Email –


2013 The Early Bird

Thursday April 26 – Sunday April 27, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday April 25, 2013
Rain/Weather – Sunday April 28, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Brenham Airport (11R), Brenham, TX
Region – South Central
Contact Information – 832.656.8314
Contest Director – Gary Walker
Email –



MAY 2013


2013 Sebring Aerobatic Championships

Thursday May 2 – Sunday May 4, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday April 27– Friday May 3, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Sebring (SEF), Sebring, FL
Region – Southeast
Contact Information – 561.313.8503 / 561.734.1955
Contest Director – Mike Mays
Email –


2013 Los Angeles Gold Cup – Duel in the Desert

Thursday May 3 – Saturday May 4, 2013
Practice/Registration – Friday May 2, 2013
Rain/Weather – Sunday May 5, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Apple Valley (KAPV), Apple Valley, CA
Region – Southwest
Contact Information – 831.334.7232
Contest Director – Chris Olmsted
Email –


2013 Armed Forces Memorial Aerobatic Contest (AFMAC)

Thursday May 31 – Saturday June 1, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday May 30 – Friday May 31, 2013
Rain/Weather – Sunday June 2, 2013
Glider Categories – Sportsman through Unlimited
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Grenada Municipal Airport (KGNF), Grenada, MS
Region – Southeast
Contact Information – 850.766.3756
Contest Director – Chris Rudd
Email –
Comments – Good fun, good food, good flying.  Free hangar space for volunteering IAC judges.  Registration and hangar fee waived for all current US Unlimited Team Members and alternates.  For other contest particulars see our website.


JUNE 2013


2013 Wildwoods AcroBlast

Thursday June 13 – Sunday June 16, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday June 13 – Friday June 14, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Cape May County Airport (WWD), Cape May, NJ
Region – Northeast
Contact Information – 717.756.6781
Contest Director – Craig B. Wisman
Email –


2013 Ohio Open

Friday June 14 – Saturday June 15, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday June 13, 2013
Rain/Weather – Sunday June 16, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Union County Airport (KMRT), Marysville, OH
Region – Mid-America
Contact Information – 614.448.7392 / 614.890.9711
Contest Director – Sheri Davis
Email –


2013 Apple Cup

Friday June 21 – Saturday June 22, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday June 20, 2013
Glider Categories – Sportsman through Unlimited
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Ephrata Municipal Airport (KEPH), Ephrata, WA
Region – Northwest
Contact Information – 425.985.9469 / 425.653.1307
Contest Director – Will Allen & Jerry Riedinger
Email –


2013 Lone Star Regional Aerobatic Contest

Friday June 21 – Sunday June 23, 2013
Practice/Registration – Saturday June 15 – Friday June 21, 2013
Rain/Weather – Sunday June 23, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – North Texas Regional (KGYI), Sherman, TX
Region – South Central
Contact Information – 214.673.9935
Contest Director – Mike Gallaway
Email –
Comments – Fly in the WAC box, CIVA panels, CIVA judges stations, Unlimited flown to CIVA rules, Box will be open all week, Winners take home the famous LoneStar Belt Buckle


2013 Bear Creek Bash

Friday June 28 – Saturday June 29, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday June 27, 2013
Rain/Weather – Sunday June 30, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Clayton County Airport – Tara Field (4A7), Hampton, Georgia
Region – Southeast
Contact Information – 850.766.3756
Contest Director – Chris Rudd
Email –


2013 Midwest Aerobatic Championships

Friday June 28 – Sunday June 30, 2013
Practice/Registration – Friday June 28, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Seward (KSWT), Seward, Nebraska
Region – Mid-America
Contact Information – 402.613.5422
Contest Director – David Moll
Email –


JULY 2013


2013 Green Mountain Aerobatic Contest

Friday July 12 – Sunday July 14, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday July 11 – Friday July 12, 2013
Glider Categories – Sportsman through Unlimited
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Hartness State Airport (KVSF), Springfield, VT
Region – Northeast
Contact Information – 803.585.0366
Contest Director – Bill Gordon
Email –


2013 Salem Regional Aerobatic Contest

Saturday July 13 – Sunday July 14, 2013
Practice/Registration – Friday July 12, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Salem-Leckrone Airport (KSLO), Salem, IL
Region – Mid-America
Contact Information – 636.778.0020
Contest Director – Bruce Ballew
Email –




2013 Beaver State Aerobatic Contest

Friday August 23 – Saturday August 24, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday August 22, 2013
Rain/Weather – Sunday August 25, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Eastern Oregon Regional Airport (KPDT), Pendleton, OR
Region – Northeast
Contact Information – 206.399.7097
Contest Director – John Smutny
Email –


2013 Upper Canada Open

Saturday August 24 – Sunday August 25, 2013
Practice/Registration – Friday August 23, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Chatham Kent Municipal Airport (CNZ3), Chatham ON, Canada
Region – Mid-America


2013 Oshkosh

Saturday August 24 – Sunday August 25, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH), Oshkosh, WI
Region – Mid-America
Contact Information – 920.203.9000
Contest Director – Audra Hoy
Email –




2013 Ace’s High Aerobatic Contest

Saturday September 7 – Sunday September 8, 2013
Practice/Registration – Friday September 6, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Newton City Airport (KEWK), Newton, Kansas
Region – South Central
Contact Information – 316.648.5057
Contest Director – Ross Schoneboom
Email –


2013 East Coast Aerobatic Contest

Saturday September 7 – Sunday September 8, 2013
Practice/Registration – Friday September 6, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Warrenton-Fauquier Airport (KHWY), Midland, VA
Region – Northeast
Contact Information – 703.618.4132 / 703.327.3135
Contest Director – Scott Francis
Email –


2013 Rocky Mountain “Oyster” Invitational

Saturday September 14 – Sunday September 5, 2013
Practice/Registration – Friday September 13, 2013
Glider Categories – Sportsman & Intermediate
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Lamar Municipal Airport (KLAA), Lamar, CO
Region – South Central
Contact Information – 303.304.7937 / 303.648.0130
Contest Director – Jamie S. Treat
Email –
Comments – Aerobatic box available 365 days per year. Early practice can be arranged. Reg Fee $125 for all categories.






2013 Sebring Aerobatic Championships

Friday November 1 – Saturday November 2, 2013
Practice/Registration – Saturday October 26 – October 31, 2013
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Sebring Regional (KSEF), Sebring, FL
Region – Southeast
Contact Information – 561.313.8503 / 561.734.1955
Contest Director – Mike Mays
Email –


2013 Tequilla Cup

Friday November 8 – Saturday November 9, 2013
Practice/Registration – Thursday, November 7, 2013
Glider Categories – Sportsman through Unlimited
Power Categories – Primary through Unlimited
Location – Marana Northwest Regional Airport (KAVQ), Marana, AZ
Region – Southwest
Contact Information – 603.860.4456
Contest Director – Jim Ward
Email –

2013 IAC Judges Schools

Introduction to Aerobatic Judging

March 2 – March 3, 2013

Nashua, NH

Chapter: 35

Chapter Contact: Farrell Woods

Instructor: Greg Dungan


Introduction to Aerobatic Judging

March 2 – March 3, 2013

Santa Ana, CA

Chapter: 120

Chapter Contact: Michael Church

Instructor: Brian Howard


Introduction to Aerobatic Judging

March 9 – March 10, 2013

Apple Valley, CA

Chapter: 26

Chapter Contact: Chelsea Stein Engberg

Instructor: Michael Steveson


Introduction to Aerobatic Judging

March 16 – March 17, 2013

Aurora, OR

Chapter: IAC

Chapter Contact: Robert Toppel

Instructor: D.J. Molny


Introduction to Aerobatic Judging

March 23 – March 24, 2013

Lilitz, PA

Chapter: 58

Chapter Contact: Blair Mohn

Instructor: William Finagin


Introduction to Aerobatic Judging

March 23 – March 24, 2013

Dallas, TX

Chapter: 24

Chapter Contact: Mike Gallaway

Instructor: Tony Wood




Pondering the Importance of Pre-Flighting

“This was from a Cessna 402 – the bottom is of course water with 100LL on top. Could have made a quiet flight if the fuel lines got cold!” – Donivan G.

The importance of pre-flighting is one of the very first things we learn as student pilots.  Follow your checklist.  Carefully walk around the airplane.  Check all the moving parts to make sure they move correctly and freely.  Inspect to make sure rivets, safety wire, cotter pins and screws are all in place.  How is the fuel quantity?  Did you check for water and sediment from the tanks as well as the lowest points in the system? Propeller, brakes, tires, flaps…the list goes on and on.

“During the run up, 2 EGTs’ were abnormally high on the right mag. Pulled back to the hanger because “it’s not right.” We pulled the mag harness (after looking at a bunch of other stuff) and found it was arching causing two plugs to not fire.” – Robert L.

Still it is amazing how quickly the importance of pre-flighting can disappear when people begin to rush or get complacent with experience.  And as important as pre-flighting is in general aviation, arguably it is even more important when aerobatic flight is added into the equation.  I would also argue that what aerobatic pilots know – or at least should know – is useful for all aviators whether they are flying a Piper Cub, Cirrus or Citation.


Aerobatic Pre-Flight = Risk Mitigation:


1. Sterile Cockpit

Aerobatic pilots know all about this – we toss our aircraft all over the sky and often it is open from the cockpit down the tail making it very easy for loose objects to find their way down to jam controls whether it be the stick, cables, tubes, etc.  But this is still something that is often disregarded by many as they become more and more complacent over time.  Pouches that Velcro closed do NOT guarantee safety – if you’re going to have a pouch in your plane make sure it is SUPER secured and consider one that has a zipper instead of Velcro. My personal opinion is don’t have anything in the plane but that’s not always a viable option.  But, for instance, flying with a cell phone in your pant pocket or Velcro pouch in the plane (which are easily opened or missed during pre-flight) is a commonly disregarded danger.  Is it worth the risk of jamming your controls just so you can sneak a picture of yourself for Facebook during a practice flight? Probably not.

I personally abide by the “EVERYTHING out that is not 100% necessary for that specific flight” rule.  If you’re flying cross country you’ll need different things than when you’re flying aerobatics – but either way maintaining a sterile cockpit and awareness of where everything is in the plane at all times may save you and/or your passengers life.


2. Parachutes

Believe it or not parachutes are not required in all countries – and for those of you who know your regs you know that if you’re flying solo (as long as the plane isn’t placarded that parachutes are required) you don’t have to wear a chute even here in the States.  But, is that wise? Most reasonable people would probably argue no – why take away your ace-in-the-hole?  Again, it is all about risk mitigation and having a parachute is often the only way out in the case of a catastrophic emergency.

Be sure that your parachute is in current pack and if you are borrowing one find out who packs the chute.  Additionally know how the parachutes are cared for and stored.  If the chute is regularly tossed on the hangar floor, left in the sun all day in the cockpit and the containers look uncared for those are all signs to beware.  You don’t want to be wearing a parachute that has been left resting in a puddle of oil, for example.  Remember that it is your one out if bailing becomes the proper response so take the time to look it over.


3. Know How & What to Pre-flight

Do you know the specifics of pre-flighting the exact type of airplane you are flying? Do you know the weak points, the places that may have caused problems or accidents in the past? Some airplanes have weak points in the tails, some have had rudder cable issues, etc.  If you know these things you can double check these areas and you should!  By knowing the history of the overall type of aircraft you are flying you will be much better prepared to pre-flight.


4. Maintenance

Of course it is important to know the maintenance history of an airplane your flying.  If you are borrowing an airplane make sure to talk to the owner and maybe even ask around to see if there is anything you should know prior to getting in an airplane.  Again, some people may be willing to take more risk with their aircraft and their life than you are – you make the final decision as to whether you will fly a specific airplane or not and you do not need to explain your decision if you choose not to.

If you are renting an aircraft absolutely do the research necessary to find out about the maintenance on the plane.  Often flight schools only have one or two aerobatic aircraft (if any!) amidst a fleet of GA airplanes and have no idea how important and specific maintenance for aerobatic planes is.  The best thing is if they have a mechanic who knows, understands and has experience with aerobatic aircraft.  Remember, going back to the sterile cockpit discussion, it is less of a concern to leave a tool under the seat in a Cessna – this same small error in a Decathlon, Pitts or Extra can be deadly.


5. The Pilot

Hopefully everyone knows of the IMSAFE checklist – we know that as pilots we need to pre-flight ourselves as well.  How are we feeling? Are we fighting a cold? Are we fatigued? How are our stress levels (and keep in mind that stressors are all negative things in our life – weddings, the birth of a child, etc. are also stressors)?  Every pilot, not matter what they are flying needs to make sure that they are physically and mentally ready to fly and that means that they are ready to fly in less-than-perfect conditions in case things change unexpectedly in flight.  In aerobatics this is also incredibly important as the stress placed on the brain and body are even more significant than that experienced in most GA airplanes.  If you’re not feeling 100% remember it’s okay to take the day off.


What this blog boils down to is safety.  Every time we set foot in an airplane we are taking a certain amount of risk and the way we make flying as safe as possible is all about risk mitigation and preparation.  What makes things even riskier at times is when we are renting or borrowing aerobatic aircraft as opposed to flying our own.  If you fly your own aircraft you know where it has been, how it has been cared for and flown, you can set it up exactly how you like, and so forth.  Still, often those who own their own planes become complacent in pre-flighting because they know what happened on the last flight and often forget that things may change even when sitting on the ground untouched between flights.  A friend on Facebook relayed the following story to me:


At a fly-in a guy went around with a large collection of clothespins. He put them in various places on the aircraft: non-pilot side flap, elevator, pitot tube, etc then sat at the end of the runway and took pictures of aircraft and their clothes pins! The harmless pins would not affect flight but teach a great lesson! – Thanks Spencer A. for the story!


On the other hand, when renting or borrowing an aircraft there are numerous unknowns including if the person/people before you have taken the sterile cockpit approach, maintenance history, procedures (are other renters caring for the engine appropriately?), etc.


“This might lead to further investigation!” – Chad S.


What is the moral of the story? Pre-flighting is important! Don’t become complacent – even if it just between same-day flights (remember every aerobatic flight stresses the airplane significantly!).  Stay vigilant and always try to learn as much as you can about the type of plane you’re flying as well as the specific airplane you are flying.  And always remember – you are pilot in command – if something is not right, don’t push it (even if it is the hair on the back of your neck standing up for what is seemingly no reason…sometimes attention should be paid to gut feelings) – the safety of your and your passenger(s) is the most important thing!


“This is a picture of the back side of the pilot’s left rudder pedal of the Kitfox IV I used to own. The crack is between the main pedal post and the arm that attaches the rudder cable, and completely out of sight. I noticed that left rudder was getting mushy so I did a full stop and felt around and found the crack. The welds on early Kitfox kits were not normalized so a few higher stress weld seams developed cracks. The Kitfox company issued service bulletins on this, but the mechanic I had performing the conditional inspection (annual) was not familiar with it. Don’t know how long the crack had been developing but it was about to fail.” – David I.


Thank You GoPro!

A HUGE thank you to GoPro!

GoPro has donated two HD HERO2 camera’s to help Chelsea video document her training and overall journey as she works towards try-outs for the U.S. Advanced Aerobatic Team in 2013!  Check out her latest video (taken with an HD HERO2 earlier in the summer) and stay tuned for more videos and photos to come!  If you’re interested in helping support the journey please visit Chelsea’s fundraising page!


Chelsea sees the world from a different perspective!


Don’t Let Fear Stall Your Flying!

Why are pilots scared of stalls? This is something I have asked myself time and time again. And more importantly, it is a question that I, as well as the majority of certificated pilots, have had to personally face. I was never terrified of stalls but at the same time I was also never comfortable with them.  The majority of my training occurred in a Cessna and my first stalls happened during the first few flights with no ground preparation.  Depending on who you ask about this to you will that probably receive one of two reactions to teaching stalls in this manner – either it will create less nervous anxiety or induce unnecessary fear.  For me I just was never really sure of what was going on with stalls and because of this I was never comfortable with them.  A wing-drop, which at the time I considered severe, is actually what led to my first flight with Sean D. Tucker.  My first taste of aerobatic flight is what started me on the road to becoming an aerobatic competitor, instructor and student of aviation safety….but I digress….

Back to the story… I made it through my private pilot checkride and then came my instrument, commercial, multi-engine and instructor training.  Stalls had become more comfortable for me, although that was because my control of them increased. My spin training, consisting of nothing more than a short ground session followed by a flight of a few spins in each direction in a Cessna 152 didn’t make me nervous…I thought I had it in the bag.  But, when the time came for me to give my first instructional flight that required me to go out with a student and have them do stalls I realized that I wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea of stalls let alone spins.  But why?  I had almost every rating I could have with the hours that I had, I studied and trained diligently.   Yet the questions remain.  Why are most pilots so uncomfortable with stalls and spins? And how does one overcome it?

I have been considering the question of why it seems almost natural for stalls and spins to go hand-in-hand with anxiety and fear. I think that the answer is far from simple but here are a few thoughts:

  1. Stalls are misunderstood.

Stalls (and spins) are misunderstood by many (and I’d hazard to say most) pilots, including flight instructors, and thus are often glossed over both on the ground and in the air with just enough to get students through the written and practical exams. Unfortunately stalls and spins are also often completely misunderstood and misconstrued in books, websites, and in other training materials.

2.   Stall experience is limited, at best, for most pilots.

Most pilots do whatever stall training is required for their certificate(s) and then rarely practice them again other than when a BFR or other recurrency flights require. With this, full stalls are rarely practiced more than a few times outside of primary training and stall recovery occurs at the first indication of a stall whether that be the stall warning horn/light, stick shaker or buffet. Training in flying an aircraft at the edges, including learning how to fly aircraft safe to do so in a stall, let alone practicing these slow flight and stalls regularly on our own are often the last thing on a pilot’s mind.

3.   Flying isn’t natural.

Flying is not a natural thing for, at least most, humans. We find what is both physically and psychologically the most comfortable, which is straight-and-level flight, and then do the minimal about outside of that attitude. Because of this we condition ourselves to become comfortable in that state but if the attitude of the aircraft is altered our comfort level quickly dissipates


Overall it seems that the fear and anxiety that accompanies stalls for most pilots comes from incomplete and/or incorrect information and understanding, lack of comfort (increased sensitivity) and lack of experience. So what are the ways to fix these issues? I will save my rant about increasing standards for flight instructors for another blog – as I believe that providing proper instruction is the root of a lot of this issue – but outside of that there are some things that you, as the pilot, can do to make yourself a safer and more confident pilot.

  1. Increase your knowledge.

Learn all you can about stalls – the aerodynamics, what they really are and what really affects them. Do you truly understand that a stall is not directly controlled by airspeed and what “stall speed” is? Or if you really want a challenge – try finding a complete lift/drag curve diagram to see what happens after a stall (since most books provide a diagram that ends after a sharp drop-off after the stall which isn’t 100% true). Find a flight instructor that has a lot of stall and unusual attitude experience and knowledge and pick their brain about that subject.

2.   Gain experience.

Like everything in life – experience, although not the only thing to rely on in sticky situations, can greatly assist you in making the right choices when faced with unexpected situations. The more experience you have, the easier it will be for you to react in high stress circumstances. For this, again, I recommend finding a flight instructor with an aerobatic airplane and lots of experience and knowledge so that you can be comfortable that you are in a safe and controlled situation to allow you to experience all edges of the flight envelop.

3.  Get comfortable – desensitize yourself.

This idea goes hand-in-hand with gaining experience, but I believe requires a little more discussion.  When gaining experience it is not specified whether the experience will be pleasant or unpleasant. The idea here is to become comfortable with stalls so that any stall situation, although potentially unpleasant if unexpected in certain situations, will be something that does not induce a panic or fear-based reaction in you. By experiencing stalls over and over in all difference situations and ingraining the recovery techniques, your brain and senses will become more desensitized to the situation and thus will allow you to react with a cooler and more collected manner.

A good flight school with well-trained instructors and well-maintained equipment is a must!

Stalls are simply a decrease in lift associated with exceeding the wing’s critical angle of attack. By reducing the angle of attack on the wing the stall is broken. This can occur at any power setting and at any airspeed. Of course if this happens close to the ground the outcome is often not a good one but when done a safe altitude (in many airplane types), it is not only quite safe but also a non-event.  By learning more about what a stall is, how they are manipulated, and all of the signs that accompany one you can increase your piloting skills will decreasing your chances of ever finding yourself in an unintentional stalling situation.   So find a good flight school with aircraft and instructors that are designed for this type of training, head up to altitude, and find out what stalls are all about!

Husky Pick Up Day 1 12-16-2011

Poor little frozen Husky (not the one we are picking up)!

Every time I get the opportunity to do some true cross-country flying my heart skips a beat. As a student pilot and even a new flight instructor I considered a flight from Sacramento to Santa Barbara a big trip; it wasn’t until I started working with Team Oracle and the Tutima Academy that I got a true taste of cross-country flight! Texas to King City, CA was my first big cross-country in the Extra. Yakima, WA to Auburn, CA in a SportCub was another fun trip (how could you not like flying low while seeing amazing views, wild horses and even a mountain lion from the air?!).  Since then I have flown back and forth, coast to coast, in Extra’s and have developed a very real respect for that kind of flying.

The Pilatus on the ramp at Afton.

Riding in style!

So, when I got the call that a client needed to go pick up his Husky after some maintenance at the factory in Afton, WY I was excited!  I was excited but also well aware that this was going to be a bit different than my normal summer trips….it’s December….and it’s COLD!  The client also has a Pilatus PC-12 so I met his pilot and another CFI in the Bay Area where we flew to Truckee to pick up the client.  He then flew us all out to Afton and the whole way I was saying to myself, ”Self…don’t get comfy….it’s going to be a lot colder coming back in the Husky!”  But, I have to admit – boy was the flight out in the Pilatus nice!

Approach to Truckee.

Clouds are starting to appear...

Even more clouds...

And....we're overcast!

As we started getting closer to Wyoming clouds began to fill in underneath us; from scattered to broken to overcast.  This wasn’t looking good.  They had to shoot the approach into the airport and when we landed we all groaned a bit as we looked at the weather from the ground – low clouds, poor visibility and mountains EVERYWHERE (never a good combination). We all headed down to Aviat so that he could settle up and move the plane to the FBO.  Now, I have tailwheel experience but no ice and snow experience.  The Husky is sitting on 31” Tundra Tires and the parting words they said to us regarding taxiing on ice were, “Just get her going in the general direction you want to go, go slow, and DON’T USE THE BREAKS. Oh yeah, and once you’re heading down the hill make sure to key the mic 3 times so that the gate is open by the time you get to it.” That’s comforting….an icy snow-covered taxiway going DOWNHILL with a gate at the bottom of it?! Hm. Thankfully it worked out well, but it is pretty amazing how useless the tail wheel becomes once it’s on ice!

Gotta love the sign hanging in the Aviat Factory!

The FBO at Afton is fantastic and the people there are the friendliest, nicest, most helpful people you could ever know.  After about an hour of talking through all of the route options, weather (including about 30 different weather web-cams they have bookmarked on the FBO’s computer) and what discussing what they recommend we decided to grab a bite before making the decision of whether to stay overnight or to fly home in the Pilatus.

The Afton Crew Car!

Welcome to Afton!

Fireworks and Tackle - what more could you need?

Afton's Olympic Gold Medalist lives here...I'm assuming...

Walking into the diner the four of us stuck out like sore thumbs – our iPhones and iPads in hand and all of us bundled up like we just arrived from Hawaii!  We chatted and checked weather (Foreflight is a god-send) over lunch and decided the two of us would stay the night and give it a go in the morning.

Afton's Mountain Inn Condos

A WARM and cozy condo in Afton.

So, the owner of the airplane and I grabbed rooms (or should I say condos) in Afton for the night and sent the other two pilots home….with all of our fingers and toes crossed that the skies will be clear in the morning so we can sneak out at the first light of day.  All the survival gear is packed, the SPOT has fresh batteries, and I will be bundled up like the little kid from A Christmas Story in the morning! It’s supposed to get into the negative numbers overnight…thank goodness they put a heater on the airplane in the hangar.  I have to admit this is making me rethink my desire to go fly in Alaska for a few years….brrrrrrrr!  With that said – it is gorgeous out here!  Stay tuned to see how it goes tomorrow….and check out my SPOT page if you want to track our progress!

Afton, WY

Tequila Cup – Aerobatic Contest

Friday, November 4 – Saturday, November 5, 2011

Practice/Registration: Thursday, November 3

Gliders Categories: Sportsman Intermediate

Power Categories: Sportsman Intermediate Advanced Unlimited

Region: Southwest

Contest Director: Jim Ward

Contact Information: Primary Phone: 603-860-4456 E-Mail:

Website: (available in the summer of 2011)