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Aerobatic Sequence Design printer friendly version
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Bob Grimstead
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Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010 @ 07:24 PM  

Hi Guys,

Here are some of my thoughts.

Aerobatics are the ultimate three-dimensional expression of flying artistry and skill, and a well-flown low-level aerobatic display can be a delight to watch. Unfortunately, much more often, it can be uninspiring, boring, or even frightening to the experienced observer.

Any sequence is made up of a number of figures. Each figure might be constructed from one or two manoeuvres (or three or more for intermediate or advanced sequences) – ie a half Cuban is 5/8 of a loop joined to a half roll, or a quarter-clover is half a barrel roll and half a loop. Each of these constitutes a figure – the building blocks of a sequence.

There are several basic guidelines to sequence design, plus a few important rules.

Guidelines include generally looping into wind, so that the wind helps to make your loops look more rounded, and rolling downwind, so that the rolls look straighter.

Similarly, a half-Cuban should be started into wind, and a half reverse Cuban started downwind if possible.

Stall turns are best flown into wind, so you can cheat a little and make the vertical component slightly short of the vertical.

After his first nasty accident, the great Neil Williams said, “Never fly any autorotatitional manoeuvre in a low wing-loading aeroplane below 1,000 feet”, and I think that is exceptionally sound advice.

All other 'spectacular' figures, or manoeuvres that are in any way unpredictable (and for me, that includes stall turns) should come early in a sequence, when you are nice and high and fairly distant from the crowd. That way, if you do make a cock of it, you have the height and space to recover safely and continue with a curtailed sequence

As well as running up and down the A axis, for variety, you should have some figures on the B axis. This of course means having some ninety-degree turning manoeuvres in your repertoire. Quarter-clovers are good for this, and so are quarter up or down vertical rolls with a humpty-bump at the top.

So, to devise an interesting and entertaining sequence, try making a list of all the manoeuvres you can fly really well – virtually perfectly every single time. If you ever have any trouble with a particular manoeuvre or figure, remove it from your sequence, and then get good, professional instruction or critique until you can fly that figure properly. Do not put it back into your proposed sequence until you are certain you can fly it perfectly 100 times out of 100.

Once you have a reasonably long list of feasible figures (probably at least ten) write each on a Post-It and spread them on a sheet of paper, starting at the top and working downwards. String them together into possible passes, with a simple, central manoeuvre (loop, roll, four-point roll, barrel roll etc) between each pair of turn-around manoeuvres (hammerhead/stall turn, half-Cuban, reverse half-Cuban, quarter-up quarter-down humpty-bump, wing-over etc).

Be sure that the exit speed from the preceding figure or manoeuvre is appropriate to entering the next, or allow space for a dive to increase your speed.

Don’t make the sequence too long. Make twenty figures your maximum. Remember that it is always better to stop after three minutes, or even after just two minutes, leaving them wanting more, than to bore them with five or six minutes of repetitive flying.

Bob Grimstead
Captain

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Location: Perth, Western Australia or West Sussex, England
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Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010 @ 07:26 PM  

Once you have what seems a pleasing sequence, with few (or preferably no) repetitions, then draw it out in Aresti notation to see whether it will stay approximately centred on your sequence card – and thus on the crowd.

Then walk it through a few times around your living room (or hangar if you prefer). This will help you to get a feel for how much space it will occupy, plus enabling you to see where you can lay off drift (or double or treble drift) to compensate for likely on/off -crowd wind effects. It will also help to fix the sequence in your mind.

Finally, climb to a great height (at least 3,000 feet) and fly part of the sequence – say, the first half or the first two passes – to see how it goes and to find any awkward parts. Then do the same with the remainder of your sequence, bit by bit until you are happy it is feasible.

Do not expect your first ideas to be perfect. I usually find I have to modify a planned sequence may times before I find it actually feasible to fly, let alone entertaining or visually interesting. Later, after I think I have a workable sequence, I will undoubtedly make changes and minor adjustments to make it more practical, safer or simpler.

Then, when you are satisfied it is all workable, you can string the whole lot together and practice it fifty times, experimenting with maximum and minimum airspeeds for the various figures and combinations, and noting your safe height gates for the top of each figure. Then you can try closing your throttle at various awkward places in the sequence and deciding how you are going to cope with an engine failure at that juncture.

Finally, you can start to bring your sequence lower, 500 feet at a time at first; then when your lowest height starts coming close to your legal minimum, by 100 feet at a time.

By the time you get close to your minimum height, you should be able to fly this sequence in your sleep, in any possible combination of wind directions, with pre thought-out get-outs for any cock-ups or unexpected problems (including, but not limited to, engine failure at the most awkward moments) and with your safety energy (height and speed) gates absolutely fixed in the forefront of your mind.

Then you can start thinking about actually bidding for an airshow slot.

Yours, Bob

jb92563
Second Lieutenant

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Location: Lake Elsinore, CA, USA
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Posted Thursday, January 14, 2010 @ 11:46 AM  

Bidding for an airshow?

Is that how Airshow organizers generally acquire their performers?

I guess with the RF4D's low operating expenses (compared to other aircraft) you probably get lots of consideration
all the time, or if they have a few thousand still left in their budget and want to use it up.

It certainly has the unique and different factor going for it as well.

Amazing what can be done on 45 HP in a 45+ year old wood aircraft.

Bob,

I just want to say it again that we sure do appreciate you taking the time to write your experiences, tips and ideas
here in this forum.

It truly gives us folks all kinds of insight, inspiration and things to consider based on all your years of wisdom and knowledge.

It is very much appreciated and helps make this Fournier community the success it has become, along with all the other helpfull
folks I have met here as well.

[Edit by jb92563 on Thursday, January 14, 2010 @ 11:54 AM]

--------------------
Ray
RF4D #4057 N-1771 Rectimo 1400cc
http://picasaweb.google.com/jb92563/FournierRF4D
http://www.touringmotorgliders.org

Bob Grimstead
Captain

Gender: Male
Location: Perth, Western Australia or West Sussex, England
Registered: Dec 2006
Status: Offline
Posts: 1669

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Posted Thursday, January 14, 2010 @ 09:09 PM  

Hi Ray,

Thank you very much. That is very kind of you.

I guess I'm just a compulsive writer.

I don't know how many of you are aware that I've been a professional aviation journalist for the past 25 years.
In the USA, I used to write for Private Pilot until it went under, and I still contribute the occasional air test for Kitplanes, but since I started concentrating on display flying I've had progressivly less time for the writing, so I've had to retire from that.

But I still have lots of topics I want to write about, and I occasionally get a flash of inspiration, so I guess you guys become the unwitting recipients of my outpourings.

As to 'bidding for an airshow', I don't know about America, but that is exactly how it goes in Britain, Europe and Australia. Before the beginning of each season (right now for Europe), I have to write or e-mail to all the organisers who might be prepared to use my act, sending photos or video clips of my flying, preparing a quote (the smokes and long cross-country transits are the expensive parts) and offering my services.

As a one-man operation, I am sequence designer, team administrator, coach, chief publicist, secretary, and head mechanic. Believe me, it takes up ALL of my time nowadays.

Gotta go, I'm off to finish my open-cockpit conversion.

Yours, Bob

SteveBeaver
General

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Location: Columbus, Ohio - USA
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Posted Thursday, January 14, 2010 @ 10:41 PM    YIM

A lot of people are surprised that at the big airshows in the USA the performer pays the organizer now, not the other way around!

Sponsors (Oracle, MoPar, Rayban etc) provide significant payment to the airshow organizer and also pay the performer. At the Dayton International Airshow, I know they were charging a minimum of $5,000 to allow a sponsored performer to fly.

An acquaintance called the organizers because he had heard a performer had canceled. He offered to help them out by basically flying for the fuel cost. He was told in no uncertain terms that the minimum fee was $5,000. He thought it was his luck day until they explained that he had to pay them!

Steve

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