Go ballistic: Bid on ususual attitude course

September 27, 2012

On the first flight, you’ll watch the world spin in your windscreen in a ballistic roll. By the second, that upside-down view will become familiar during simulated wake turbulence exercises. And by the end of Bedford, Mass.-based Executive Flyers' five-flight unusual attitude course, you may emerge with an appetite for aerobatics.

Pilots can bid on the course, offered by the Goulian family flight school—as in Michael Goulian, only the seventh airshow professional to be awarded all three of the airshow industry’s top honors—in the AOPA Foundation’s A Night For Flight online auction. Even if you never turn upside-down again, the course can increase your rudder coordination, enhance your skills, and increase your confidence—all while reminding you how much fun aviation can be.

Goulian, a co-chair of the AOPA Foundation’s Hat in the Ring Society, previously offered a crew-for-a-day experience at Rhode Island National Guard Open House and Air Show at Quonset State Airport in North Kingstown, R.I., for the auction, which helps support the foundation’s efforts to increase pilot safety, grow the pilot population, preserve and improve community airports, and improve general aviation’s image.

New Hampshire pilot Dave Babineau, the winning bidder from the 2011 auction, took his crew responsibilities seriously: When the smell of smoke oil lingered after Goulian shut down following a performance June 17, Babineau stood ready with a white towel to snuff what remained in the Extra 330SC’s muffler. He relished working alongside Goulian and his small team, whom he said are “superb ambassadors for general aviation.”

“There’s no pretense with these people,” he said at the Quonset State show. “They are genuine.”

Babineau had already seen Goulian compete at the Red Bull Air Races and won a similar crew-for-a-day experience for the performer from an ASB.TV promotion, he said, and even played golf with Goulian. He said he viewed bidding on the experience as “giving a little bit back to Mike and the team and AOPA for everything they do”—and has been so impressed by Goulian’s commitment to precision and excellence that he signed up for Executive Flyers’ unusual attitude course. He was intent on taking the course, designed by Goulian, at the family’s flight school in Bedford, a three-hour round trip for him, he said. When he traveled to Rhode Island for his crew experience, he had recently completed the first lesson.

While many students move on to aerobatic or tailwheel training after the unusual attitude course, cross-country pilots can improve their stick-and-rudder skills and become more confident from the training. Pilots learn inverted recovery, returning to normal flight after an unintentional spin, wake turbulence upset recovery, and more, preparing them to make proper, automatic corrections under surprise circumstances.

“I have no vision of being an aerobatic pilot,” said Babineau, a pilot of 24 years. “I do it to enhance my skill.”

The course includes five flights of dual instruction in a Super Decathlon and three hours of ground instruction, and can be completed in two to three days. It is based in Bedford, Mass., at the flight school Goulian’s late father, Myron Goulian, founded in 1964. The flight school continues to be a family operation; while Michael dedicates much of his time to the airshow circuit, he also serves as chief pilot of the flight school, giving instruction to the CFIs there.

“He’s a good egg,” Babineau said, watching Goulian walk through his routine on the ground before the performance Rhode Island National Guard Open House and Air Show. “If it’s gone to his head, it never shows.”

The AOPA Foundation’s A Night For Flight online auction features dozens of items ranging from exotic trips to books to training packages. Bidding opened Aug. 27 and will run through Oct. 13.  Check out the auction and place your bid today.

The foundation also is hosting  A Night For Flight gala during AOPA Aviation Summit at the vintage Riviera Palm Springs Resort in Palm Springs, Calif., on Oct. 11. Tickets cost $250, with half of the ticket price a tax-deductible contribution to the AOPA Foundation. The event runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.


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