Lines & Angles – The Pilots

Just a couple of weeks ago, one of the important deadlines for WAC came and went – the date for the submission of early, discounted entry fees for the Championships. While organizers do ask for and receive “preliminary” entry forms from FAI member organizations and teams, it is important to note that the “rubber meets the road” when actual fees are received. This indicates a firm commitment on the part of that country to participate in the WAC.

As reported in “Contest News” on this website, that deadline for early payment was March 30th. As of today, WAC 2013 has received entry fees from Germany, Brazil, Switzerland, Canada, Russia, France, Australia, USA, Great Britain, Austria, Japan, South Africa, Belgium, and three “Hors Concours” (H/C) pilots. This is great news. Preliminary entry forms received indicated over 60 pilots but I believe that will reduce somewhat as the entry fees are finalized. Nevertheless, this is an outstanding response from FAI member organizations.

Typically, organizers offer discounted fees if sent in early. The next deadline for “regular” entries is the 30th of June with “late” entries accepted up to the 31st of August. On each of the dates, the fee increases by several hundred dollars.

It’s important for the organizers to get firm commitments – as much money has to be spent to provide all the infrastructure, amenities, catering, and all of the other logistical requirements of a major championship well before the event begins. Entry fees are the principal source of income for most FAI Championships organizers. That said, the WAC organizers are always looking for individual donations as well as sponsors.

Looking over the paid pilot list that WAC Registrar Lynn Bowes has provided shows an outstanding group of pilots so far. The largest teams – France, Russia, and the USA – are sending the most pilots, as would be expected. Russia and the United States are planning teams of 10 pilots each. France will come with 8. The pilot rosters for France and Russia have not yet been provided as their final team selection has not yet occurred. We expect that Overall World Aerobatic Champion Mikhail Mamistov and Women’s World Aerobatic Champion Svetlana Kapanina (both of Russia) will be in Texas to defend their titles. Russia will also be defending the Nesterov Trophy, awarded to the top team (either men’s or mixed gender, depending on the number of women pilots).

Also, for the first time in twelve years, it appears that we will have enough women pilots to declare Women’s Team Champions and to award those FAI medals and present the FAI Challenge Trophy. The trophy has been dormant for far too long, as women’s participation in WAC declined from its high of 16 women pilots at WAC 2001 in Spain down to a low point of only 5 at WAC 2011 in Italy. This year we expect 9.

For the Women’s Team Champion medals and trophy to be presented in accordance with current rules, at least three teams of two women each must participate. It looks like that requirement will be met as we will likely have two female pilots each from France, Russia, Germany, and the USA. I am delighted we will be awarding that trophy again – which is now stored in Paris, France – and shown here.

Of the 13 countries that have paid registrations so far, three are sending pilots for the first time in many years. Brazil, Austria, and Belgium will send one pilot each. Australia and South Africa – both of which competed at WAC 2011 in Italy – were absent from Unlimited competition for many years but have now built Unlimited teams again thanks to the good work of their national associations and pilots.

I mentioned H/C pilots earlier. CIVA has a provision in its rules for “Hors Concours” pilots, which roughly translates to “outside the competition”. These are pilots who enter an FAI Aerobatic Championships as independent entries and separate from teams. They may be from countries which are fielding teams at that competition. Whether to allow H/C pilots or not is left to the organizers. They pay full entry fees and are treated the same as other competitors – but are not eligible for medals or final standings. Many pilots have used this rules provision over the years to gain exposure at FAI Championships and the experience they provide.

So far, three H/C pilots have paid their entry fees – Jeff Boerboon and Mike Ciliberti of the USA and Patrick Paris of France. Jeff and Patrick are no strangers to world competition. Patrick was World Aerobatic Champion in 1998 in Trencin, Slovakia. In recent years, he has turned his attention, talents, and skills to coaching competition pilots. He will fly David Martin’s CAP 232 this year in Texas. Jeff Boerboon could not make the team try-outs last year at the US Nationals and is not on the US Team this year but it will be good to have Jeff there as I have always found him to be a dedicated, sharply focused, and personable pilot who is very devoted to the sport as well as a past US National Aerobatic Champion.

When discussing pilots, I cannot conclude without mentioning Debby Rihn-Harvey of the USA. Debby takes the record this year of having flown more World Championships than any other pilot present in this year’s line-up. She first flew at the WAC in 1984 in Hungary and though it was her first WAC, managed a bronze medal in the women’s division. In recent years, she has been US National Aerobatic Champion and now flies a CAP 232 – she flew a Pitts S-1S in Hungary. Of all the pilots who flew that year, Debby is one of two who remain active in competition and will fly at WAC – the other being Patrick Paris. I have been amazed at how people in this sport often make a lifetime commitment and become involved for decades. By the way, that goes for our organizations’ staffs as well.

One more piece of news – as I write this, Poland has just come in with a preliminary entry. Artur Kielak, who flew at EAC last year in Slovakia, plans to fly an XA-41 in Texas. He will be accompanied by two other Polish pilots – Luke Czepiela and Lukasz Swiderski – if they can find the Extra 330SC they need. Tom Adams has been our point man on aircraft rentals so I hope this problem can be solved soon. Poland has been a faithful member of FAI for decades and has a long and storied tradition in air sports so it will be great to have a team there from that country.

As we find out more about who’s coming and the aircraft arrangements, I will report it here.

In future articles, I will also discuss the WAC organization and the CIVA contest officials who will be serving in Texas …

Mike Heuer