Aerobatic pilots vie for world title

World Aerobatic Championships return to U.S. soil

October 10, 2013

Breitling pilot David Martin is a member of the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic Team competing in the world championships. Photo courtesy of Breitling

With a second gold medal from the U.S. National Aerobatic Championships in hand, Rob Holland and nine fellow members of the U.S. national team are squaring off against elite pilots from around the world in the FAI World Aerobatic Championship. The world contest, organized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, has returned to the U.S. for the first time in 10 years, and is being held through Oct. 20 at North Texas Regional/Perrin Field, about 60 miles northeast of Fort Worth.

(Visitors flying home from AOPA Aviation Summit 2013, under way Oct. 10 through 12 in Fort Worth, might want to stop by, taking note of notams announcing aerobatic activity within 2 nautical miles of the airport. Admission to the world contest is free for spectators.)

Photo courtesy of Breitling

“After a decade of performing in this competition in locations around the world, I am excited the Championships will finally be in the United States; and in my home state of Texas, no less,” said David Martin, a U.S. national team member sponsored by Breitling, in a Breitling news release. “The World Aerobatic Championships bring together the best aerobatic champions from around the world, so the competition is fierce, but this time we have the home court advantage, which I am very happy about."

Familiarity may be an advantage: The same aerobatic contest area was used for the U.S. championships, so pilots who participated in that event have had many chances to memorize the landmarks and visual cues that help them stay within the strict airspace limits set by contest rules.

A field of 60 pilots qualified for the world contest. A rules change allowed two pilots to join the U.S. team, which had been limited to eight. Only two women qualified for the U.S. team, and contest rules had previously limited the number of pilots of a single gender to six.

The world championships have been held every two years since 1960, and were last held on U.S. soil in 2003, in Lakeland, Fla. The U.S. has won five world championships as a team, most recently in 1988, when team member Hendy Haigh also took the individual Unlimited title. Holland captured an Unlimited Freestyle gold medal in 2011, the second American pilot since Haigh to capture top honors in either category (Zach Heffley won the freestyle competition at the 2007 championships in Spain).