17:55 Friday 19th July 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[C]HRIS MANN: It’s perfect weather for flying. Sue Marchant, intrepid as ever, has been to the North of the County at an event that started today at Conington Airfield. So let’s hear what she has to say. (TAPE)
SUE MARCHANT: (MUSIC: ONE DAY I’LL FLY AWAY) Here at Conington Airfield it’s a very exciting time, because it is the National Standard and Intermediate Aerobatic Championships. I’m here with Sarah Hardy. We’re just watching somebody taking off and it’s a lady pilot. How many lady pilots are competing this weekend?
SARAH HARDY: This weekend we just have two. We have Emily Todd and Lauren Richardson. Yes, she’s just taking off and she’s just started to compete. The judges will be sitting over on the far side, literally where the imaginary box is, watching her and assessing her and marking her on her sequence.
SUE MARCHANT: And how long will she be in the sky for?
SARAH HARDY: A little bit less than ten minutes.
SUE MARCHANT: And when do we get the results of all this?
SARAH HARDY: Usually by the end of the day. They’re all accumulated over the three day event, and the pilots can go in, pick their sheets up, have a look how they’ve done. It’s very nerve-racking for them. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s very skilled.
SUE MARCHANT: (ENGINE ROAR) She’s really going for it now.
SARAH HARDY: Yes, she is.
SUE MARCHANT: That was some kind of shuffle. She turned the aircraft round and now she’s going into ..
SARAH HARDY: She’s inverted at the moment.
SUE MARCHANT: Yes she is. It’s quite scary. .. Alan Cassidy is Chairman of the British Aerobatic Association. How many members are there throughout the country?
ALAN CASSIDY: Only two hundred and fifty. Something like that. We’re an amateur sporting organisation. We’re the governing body for the sport in the Uk. Flying itself is obviously a minority activity in the country. Aerobatic pilots are a small percentage of the general flight population.
SUE MARCHANT: What kind of plane do you have to have to do aerobatics?
ALAN CASSIDY: Generally smaller than average, one or two seats, slightly bigger engine in a small airframe, and very manoeuverable, like a sports car really, as opposed to a regular saloon car.
SUE MARCHANT: I’ve seen you give some advice to some of the competitors here today. Many of them seem to be doing some kind of dance in the car park. What’s that all about?
ALAN CASSIDY: Once you’re flying, you have to be perfect at the very first chance. You don’t .. there’s no second chances to do anything. The scoring system, the judging system, is all about accuracy in a pre-planned series of manoeuvres. Basically it’s a performance sport, like being on stage. And you have to get things right in order to do well.
SUE MARCHANT: How about skills? What makes a good pilot who’s going to be able to do aerobatics? What do they need to be able to do?
ALAN CASSIDY: They have to become through lots of training what I call three dimensional people. There are a few other sports, ie diving, high board diving, Tom Daley, that stuff. You know, a double somersault, a twist and all that kind of thing. And then land head first in the water. He’s operating in three dimensions in his head, and knows where he is all the time. And aerobatic pilots do that to become three dimensional. So they have spatial awareness of exactly where they are in three dimensions up down round and round all at the same time.
SUE MARCHANT: Are women good at this?
ALAN CASSIDY: Women and men can be. Completely level playing field in the sport. There’s not even a disability and we actually have a pilot who flies in our limited category who is paraplegic through a horse riding accident, sadly to say, and he’s flown for Britain in an international competition in exactly the same way as able pilots. Now this is the National Championships. It’s the peak of the season really as far as getting gongs and medals is concerned and getting your ranking if you like. And then hopefully being encouraged to move up to a more complicated thing next year. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Sue Marchant reporting there. And they’re still flying ’till Saturday teatime at Conington Airfield near Sawtry. Anyone is welcome apparently to go and watch.