Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 @ 02:46 PM
So, with just eight days to go, I entered. Circumstances prevented me from flying more than once per day during the preceding week, but I comforted myself with the thought that the others would not be able to fly much either. The competition? Frank Smit (ex Tiger Club) in his Yak 52, David Brown (from Aberdeen) in his Christen Eagle, regular competitor and Chipmunk owner Jerry flying the local Cap 10B in competition for the first time, and club captain Mick Harcourt (from Middlesborough) flying a Cessna 152 Aerobat. So, there was a chance I would not come last, at least!
There were six competitors in the Beginners category, and the routine was a simple 360-degree turn, a loop, a barrel roll and a stall turn flown into wind, and a slow roll flown downwind. At least I should be able to wobble my way through that.
The day dawned hot (30°C) with a howling easterly wind: 20 gusting 30 knots on the ground and perhaps 40-plus along the A-axis in the box, with a slight component towards the judges. At least that hot wind blew away most of the otherwise-prevalent swarms of flies.
I flew one practice early, and established that, if I started at the upwind corner of the box, and droned into wind at every possible opportunity, I should at least be able to stay within it. I also established that I could not possibly taxi, so I left the aeroplane on the downwind side of the first runway turn-off. As she lay there, listing on to her outrigger, everybody thought I’d broken this unfamiliar little aeroplane.
I also heard that poor Frank’s Vedeneyev engine had dumped all its oil overboard the previous night, and he showed great skill in gliding that big anvil of a Yak back to base, popping its wheels down at just fifty feet, to plonk her on the piano keys! So, he was out of contention.
Come the contest, I thought a little gamesmanship was in order. I took off with half power, only just clearing the fence, and exaggerated every gust with the controls, kicking and waggling to show what hard work it was, fighting my way through the bumps. Karen later told me this had the desired effect among both competitors and judges alike.
I first flew the Basic routine as the last competitor, and then climbed back up to fly the ‘Advanced’. I don’t remember much, just that the poor, overworked engine kept cutting at every opportunity, with great clouds of black smoke flashing past the cockpit. The prop stopped at least twice, in the stall turn and the spin (and I think also in the half reverse Cuban), so there was much activity as I swapped hands on the stick, attempting to hold a neat down line while heaving frantically on the starter handle.
To my surprise, I completed the routine without making any outrageous mistakes (although ending rather lower than usual). As I pulled the airbrakes and dived on to base leg, I thought I had at least not embarrassed myself.
I only saw the last part of Jerry’s routine in the Cap 10. He had been worrying out loud about making the stall turn the wrong way, being so used to his Chipmunk. He got that right, but then turned right instead of left in the ensuing downward vertical roll, disappearing off into the distance as he completed the final few figures downwind rather than into-wind. So, scoring zeros for the lot!
Then Mick flew his Cessna 152 Aerobat, and made a truly valiant effort in very trying circumstances, not helped by some dippy bird repeatedly calling him on the radio throughout his sequence.
Finally, David flew his Eagle. And what a lovely job he made of it, with perfect shapes, precise angles, immaculate symmetry and very good positioning. It was a demonstration of how things should be done. Then, suddenly, after his half reverse Cuban, he flew another one! That put him downwind, when he should have been into-wind, and again he disappeared off towards Madagascar as he completed the sequence. More zeros. Mick and I grinned. We had a chance.
That evening, as they read out the names of the top three places in the Beginners, I wasn’t mentioned. Not surprising really, I hadn’t made much of an effort for that.
But for the advanced, David came third, Mick in his Aerobat came second and, by default, my little RF4 actually won!
So, it would seem that a 37-year-old, 39 horsepower wooden motor glider with no inverted systems is now the Aerobatic Champion of Western Australia!
What a hoot!
I owe the greatest debt to René Fournier, for devising such a sweet and capable (and beautiful) little aeroplane.
And thank you to you all, for your physical help, tips hints and encouragement. I truly could not have done this without you.
Happy looping, rolling and Fournicating to you all.