An expected 100 plus pilots from across the nation are gathering in Salina this week, Sunday through Friday, at the Salina Regional Airport to compete in the U.S.National Aerobatic Championships.
Salina bested a nationwide search of 44 airports throughout the Midwest in 2018, to host the event, beginning in September 2019. Thanks to the pandemic, the 2020 championships were canceled, but they’re making a return.
“We hope this is the second of many visits to Salina,” said Doug Bartlett, contest director, of Naples, Florida.
The event is organized by a volunteer team made up of members from the International Aerobatic Club (IAC). The IAC’s headquarters are in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Competitors and their aerobatic aircraft will be in Salina to show off their precision flying skills.
The competition is composed of both compulsory and freestyle aerobatic sequences. Some 85 different airplanes will land at Salina Airport this weekend for the contest to be decided in a number of categories. Pilots compete in five categories — Primary, Sportsman, Intermediate, Advanced, and Unlimited in both power and glider.
Included are collegiate competitors from three universities – University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, United States Air Force Academy from Colorado Springs, and Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Pilots in each category fly at least three routines:
Known: where all competitors fly a pre-published set of maneuvers
Unknown: maneuvers are presented to the pilot 12 hours before
Freestyle: pilots create their own routine based on maneuvers allowed in their category
All routines are scored by judges, and those posting the highest scores in each category are named national champions.
Top 10 finishers in the Unlimited category will earn berths on the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic Team which will compete in the 2022 World Aerobatic Championships.
The location will be determined by the international organization known as Commission Internationale de Voltige Aerienne (CIVA), based in Lausanne
Switzerland, according to Bartlett.
At the completion of the competition the winner of the Unlimited power division will be named the National Aerobatic Champion.
Rob Holland, a pilot from New Hampshire, is seeking his 10th straight title. He is also the current World Aerobatic Four-minute Freestyle Champion, a stand-alone championship included in the Nationals, starting at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24.
“That’s where the most advanced pilots in the country will compete,” Bartlett said. “It’s the best demonstration of aircraft and pilot skills.”
Daily schedules are subject to weather and generally run from sunup to sundown. The tentative schedule can be viewed on the competition’s website at iac.org/nationals
The contest is not an air show, Bartlett said, but the public can view the event for free from Fossett Plaza, 2035 Beechcraft Road.
“The airport will be moving in bleachers,” he said.