Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where to Begin Part II - Categories

Once you have a spinning and aerobatic endorsements, you are able to come along to club events and fly. But which grade?

‘Entry’ Category

This category is designed for beginners with a new aerobatic endorsement. The aerobatic sequence is comprised of basic aerobatic figures you should have just been instructed in ( and click 'sequences'). Any aerobatic aircraft will be able to fly the sequence, so you should practice until you are comfortable flying the sequence right through while maintaining your position over a ground feature. Coming along to Club training days are invaluable at this stage, or at any stage, to get useful feedback and tips on how to refine your flying.

After your first competition, or a few of training days, and once getting confident in handling the aircraft down to 3000ft AGL, you may want to organise getting a 1500ft AGL Low Level Permission. See the 'Links' page (on for people who can do this for you, and have a read of CAAP-155 ('Documents' page!) so you know what is required.

Graduate Category

If you have more aerobatic experience and are comfortable with aerobatics, you can kick-off in Graduate if you wish – or any level if you want to! The difficulty of the individual figures isn’t much different to Entry, just more figures in the sequence to get through.


Again, at first glance not much of a step from Graduate, just more figures in the sequence to practice. The big change-up is the option to fly a Free of your own design rather than the Known sequence twice in competition. The Free must be of similar standard as the Known, and have the same total ‘K’ or difficulty. This adds another facet to the sport, as now you must practice and be proficient at two sequences. And, you must design your own sequence! This is a whole new learning experience, and is a vital skill for higher grades. I'll post some thoughts on Free design later on.

Aerobatics is peculiar in that the grade you fly is not determined by the type or capability of the aircraft you have, but by the pilot. You can fly your megabuck wondership with the flame paintjob in Entry if you want to! The key thing is to fly the grade you are comfortable with and have practised, while grinning the whole time (most important). It won’t be long, with critique and competition exposure, that you will be moving up the grades and making much better use of the machine belted to your butt.

Check back for Intermediate, Advanced and Unlimited Categories next week .

1 comment:

David J Pilkington said...

My view is that Entry category is useless - I've never seen anyone compete in it and as for being designed for beginners thats not true as it has one manoeuvre that is not part of CASA's basic aerobatic endorsement. Anyone who has done an aerobatic endorsement should be able to manage Graduate after a small amount of practice - again just the one manoeuvre that is not in CASA's aerobatic syllabus.
There may be some aircraft types which will limit pilots to Graduate. The Sportsman sequence varies year to year and sometimes it is hard work for a standard Decathlon so would be even more difficult for something like a 115 hp Citabria or Cessna. Last year, Sportsman had one manoeuvre which was specifically prohibited in the Airtourer Model T-6.
Intermediate is getting to be serious competition flying, a lot of fun without being too painful or expensive but you do need an aircraft which can get through it - unfortunately, the Decathlon is not it as they have a history of secondary structurtal failures when worked that hard.