U.S. aerobatic pilots prepare for their dance in the sky

By: Allison Harris Email
By: Allison Harris Email

DENISON, TEXAS -- U.S. aerobatic pilots tore through the season's first fall sky Sunday, hoping every trick and flip lands them the national championship.

On the ground, contenders squint at the sun, eyeing the competition. Those next in line prepare for takeoff with a dance like none other.

"Go through each figure and go through that figure like it's to be flown so when you get up there, it just flows naturally and you don't have to think about what's coming up next," Aerobatic pilot John Howell said.

Howell of southern California steps through his dance, composed of Aresti symbols, the international language of aerobatic maneuvers.

Is there any feeling like making those twists and turns?

"Oh, it's addicting. It took one competition, and that's where the addiction came," Howell said.

The first routine is a qualifier performed by each pilot. The second is designed by the dancer.

"And so you design a sequence that hopefully will score better than everyone else's," Howell said.

Pilots in the advanced division competed Sunday. Intermediate competitor Paul Jennings watched, anxiously waiting for his day to dance.

What are you feeling today?

"Well, there's a lot of camaraderie here. There's some of the best pilots in the world here," Jennings said.

Jennings won third last year flying a glider. This year, he's flying a power plane.

"You're pushing hard and pulling hard, but it's like any sport, you have prepare for it, you have to train for it," Jennings said.

Step by step training for a dance in the sky.

The championship continues through Thursday, with a freestyle competition on Friday.


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