Pilots take flight in aerobatics contest

Mike Jones of Fort Collins, Colo., straps into his seat before competing in the 2007 advanced freestyle category of the International Aerobatics Club contest at Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton. <BR><I>File photo</I>

Spins, loops and barrel rolls are all part of the maneuvers pilots will fly as Experimental Aircraft Association No. 219 hosts an International Aerobatics Club competition today and Saturday at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport.

Ron Linn, EAA 219's club president, said pilots will take flight beginning at 8 a.m. and fly for approximately 10 minutes each into the afternoon.

Not to be confused with an air show, Linn said, the competition isn't designed as a spectator event; however, people interested in watching the contest can drive out A Street near the Barnhart extension project in Pendleton for a good view.

Linn said the bottom of the aerobatic box, where the pilots fly, is approximately 500 feet off the ground. All the maneuvers, he said, are performed in an area in the air about the size of three city blocks.

Pilots will compete in both compulsory and freestyle contests.

Linn likened the compulsory routine to those in gymnastics or figure skating - where a pilot has a predetermined sequence of maneuvers that must be flown. The freestyle, Linn said, allows a pilot to build his own sequence based on his flying skills and the strengths of his plane.

"They are the most focused people you will ever imagine ... when they come to Pendleton, they come to fly aerobatic airplanes," Linn said of pilots.

Linn said the pilots are serious about the competition and look to improve their skills, as well as their overall standings.

Some pilots have told Linn that some of the maneuvers result in intense G-force.

"They tell me they pull as much as 6 g's in some of these maneuvers," Linn said. "I know from being involved with aviation you need protection going past 3-4 g's, but this is so quick."

The International Aerobatics Club has worked with the local EAA club for a couple of decades, Linn said.

"It's a unique opportunity for Pendleton to contribute to that activity," he said. "Pendleton has availed themselves to really make a contribution to the sport. We've been recognized by the Aerobatics Club for our venue."

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