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Dec 21 at 4:02 PM
With apologies to the membership, I would like to reexamine an old issue that has been beat to death through the years, Some have even called it the "Eternal debate" But, I believe still deserves some attention to keep the competitions as fair as possible for all who decide to involve themselves in this fantastic sport that has brought so much joy & challenge to many of us.
Hello, I'm Tony Zorn & I have been an IAC member since 1996...I started competition in 1997 and worked my way up thru the categories as well as mounts [all 4 cyls..Pitts..Eagle..Ultimate..Lazer 230]. And as I started winning at each level I moved up to the next category finally topping out in advanced flying a Giles 202. I competed at the 2002 nationals & was pleased with my results for my first year in the category...6th out of 29.
I realized that I was and am "Advanced Limited" with an understanding that flying any of the 4 cyl mounts regardless of it being a Bi-wing or a Mono-wing dictates that no matter what my skills are...advanced is where I'm gonna top out. Unless I hit the lottery & can afford to throw money at an unlimited machine . But I was & am comfortable with that reality, Understanding that the performance gap of the "Legacy Machines" is so comparatively close that the disparity is of no significant consequence.
After returning from the nationals in 02 other priorities in life took center stage on my time as well as my finances, I sold my mount & dropped out of competition till spring of 2012. When I left the sport in 02 there was a recognition of a disparity in the ranks by not allowing unlimited mounts in advanced at the CIVA contests based off there being rules as to what was AWAC legal & what was not..
None of the unlimited mounts that many are flying today would have been legal in the AWAC contests at that time. I won't try & recall them all here but at least there were attempts at making it more fair with an understanding that competition should be about "Skills not Frills" at the advanced level. CIVA had at the time an "Approved list" of what planes were legal and what were not!..
Most understood at that time that if you had the "where with all" and were of a mind to buy more performance to make yourself more competitive ...Unlimited was where you should be... Its called unlimited for a reason!....I returned to the sport the beginning of 2012 & found all rules were gone.
I was lucky enough when I jumped back in at my first 3 contests to now be flying more difficult figures than were allowed when I left due to the category creep that has been so prevalent trying to accommodate the unlimiteds ...As well as competing against a Past "World Aerobatic Champion" flying the same plane he won the WAC in!
No sour grapes here. I know the reason the past champ was back in advanced. I bring it up only because it illustrates the point well. I appreciate his attempts to help the team. I enjoyed the challenge & it made me a better pilot as well as it was all about helping our AWAC team to get ready to go to the championships across the seas & get schooled on CIVA Rules & judging .
The disparity in performance was and is so obvious that back in the early to mid 2000's our English brethren namely the British Aerobatic Association [Lead by Alan Cassidy] came up with a system of designating what each planes performance capability was ...called an API or "aerobatic performance index". A system that was specifically designed to decide what should be AWAC legal or not....
Listed here is their proposal.& where it would have fit into the rules as well as how they came up with their "Method of evaluation" to arrive at the API numbers.
TO CIVA REGULATIONS (PART THREE) GENERAL PRINCIPLES The eligibility of aircraft types for Advanced World and Continental contests sanctioned by CIVA is determined by evaluation of their aerobatic performance. PARAMETERS TO BE EVALUATED The following aircraft performance parameters are to be taken into account in this evaluation process: Maximum rated engine power; H (horsepower) Aircraft Mass in the aerobatic configuration, excluding pilot mass and with sufficient fuel for a flight of 20 minutes at maximum power; M (kg) Maximum level speed at maximum power; Vx (knots) Roll rate at manoeuvre speed (Va); r (degrees sec-1) METHOD OF EVALUATION The parameters listed above are first reduced to non-dimensional, standardized indices in accordance with the following methods: Power/Mass Index (P)................. The overall Performance Index (API) is then derived: Aerobatic Performance Index.................................. API = PxVxRx50 PERFORMANCE LIMITATION An aircraft type shall be excluded from Advanced World and Continental championships if its Aerobatic Performance Index (API) exceeds 65 units. A list of types already approved is given below. EXAMPLES Examples of aircraft types that have been shown to be within the performance limit include: CAP-10B (24.9) Pitts S2A (36.3) Eagle II (36.3) CAP-20L (39.7) CAP-21 (41.5) Extra 200 (47.0) Pitts S1S (48.8) Pitts S2B (50.5) Pitts S1T (51.3) Zlin 50LA (53.5) Yak-55 (58.5) CAP-231 (59.8) Laser 230 (60.0) One Design (62.2) Giles 202 (62.9) CAP-222 (62.9) Yak 54 (63.7) Zlin 50LS/LX (63.8) Examples of aircraft types that have been shown to exceed the performance limit include: Interavia I3, SP95 (67.4) Pitts Model 12 (70.4) Su-29 (72.4) Extra 300S (74.1) Su-26 (77.4) CAP-232 (81.0) Pitts S-1-11B (81.9) Su-31 (85.6) Edge 540 (91.7) British Aerobatic Association Proposals for CIVA Rules and Catalogue Changes 2000/2001 BAeA Page 2 of 2 METHOD OF DETERMINING PERFORMANCE The Aerobatic Performance Index shall be calculated using data supplied by the aircraft manufacturer for aircraft with national or international certification. For uncertified types, performance data must be measured and recorded for each individual aircraft by an independent aviation consulting organization acceptable to CIVA. Aircraft may be subject to technical checks at contests to ensure that their configuration complies with the Type Certificate or approved data sheet. ADDITIONAL TYPES Initial approval for inclusion of a type not in the approved list detailed herein may be sought by the manufacturer, in the case of certified aircraft, or by the CIVA Delegate of the country concerned for uncertified aircraft. The new type*s acceptability will be determined by CIVA at its plenary meeting.
I understand that it was not adopted by CIVA for different reasons...One being because the USA did not support it due to the fact of a disagreement over the S1-11's API number being to high & bringing the whole API modeling into question..
But the English did a masterful job at qualifying each planes performance capability so that any reasonable person could use their model to determine how to even out the obvious disparities at the CIVA AWAC competitions. Understanding that the higher APIed mounts had a distinct advantage in H..P. & airframe in the category over the lower APIed mounts .
I also understand that were talking what was & is CIVA rules & proposals.. Not what the IAC was & is doing then and now here in the states, Which is truly all that most of us competitors care about..
Now that we have established what use to be the rules by IAC as well as CIVA, Lets talk about where we are now as a club. Is there an issue to be dealt with. Or is this a misnomer that no one cares about in the competition ranks....I now am going to speak from personal experience based on conversations that I have had at several contests over the last 2 years. No one...and I mean no one... that after some discussion will argue that their is a big disparity...Not even the guys flying the unlimited mounts.
There are all manner of reasons given why nothing should be done, Some very valid.. such as if rules are made taking away the advantages of the superships...Those guys will collect their toys from the sandbox and go find something else to play at… rather than either moving up in category or saving some money and changing mounts ...
As well as arguments that border on comical...such as "To much performance is a disadvantage in itself" in the category...Or...What would you have done "Dumb down" the category to take away my advantage.    Many think that the best place to address this is thru sequence design...That was the jest of Giles Henderson’s article a few magazines back...Just extrapolate his point from the entry level to advanced.
Let me explain the disparity as I see it. I fly the advanced category in a small winged stock 180 HP "One Design". The little bird probably has a slight airframe advantage over a pitts but is considerably heavier at 950 lbs.
Now us guys flying the legacy mounts, we don't like to complain but when you get to a contest on a "HOT DAY" after having practiced the CIVA influenced known & figuring how to minimize the advantages that are obviously going to be slanted to the big 6 cyl.s, with the larger wing areas & watching the unlimited machines start at the bottom of the box and work up keeping the sequence in the performance zone for the judges for the best presentation score.
We, meaning the lower API mounts have to start at the top of the box and are constantly losing altitude thru the same sequence...Hoping that the judges have the ability to overcome the "Human Condition" that we are all hardwired with… by not biasing the scores to the guy that put the flight right in front them even though the figures may have been flown "Techniquely Equal" by each pilot!
We do well in the known & free only to get thrown an unknown that no reasonable person would argue is a fair fight between pilots. Due to the advantages of airframe & HP flying a sequence that is an energy eater especially in the last few figures of that sequence! Some will say ...Oh you can get thru it in a stock pitts or 1D... and that's true...but what is also true is that you can get thru it much easier in a higher HP monowing than in the little 4 bangers flying on a fraction of the same wing area and H.P.!
Some would argue that you should be willing to spend the money to be competitive [I.E.buy your own unlimited mount] if you don't like the disadvantage that the lack of rules has brought about...Or move back in categories because technology has rendered your mount uncompetitive against the superships…
Even though your mount is still capable of flying the figures and sequences in advanced. Its just not going to have the ability to score the same technical points that the supership can primarily because of the way the sequences are designed.
So really what those who make that argument are saying is our sport is more about the money your willing to spend than skills you may have if you want to be competitive in the category, I have even been told by one director that… and I quote...It's the American way...My response to him is.....That’s what UNLIMITED is suppose to be for!
  And by the way, I truly don't see a problem with the 6 cyl Bipes in advanced [2Bs..2Cs..even Yak 55's]Their API is so close to the other legacy mounts that as I said the difference in performance is of no consequence.
Competition in the lower categories should about your skills in the cockpit not about the size of your pocketbook or an advantage in performance you have bought over your fellow competitors and then parking that advantage that was designed for unlimited in a lower category year after year. I call them “Advanced Lifers”…Not trying to imply any personal insult at all, But if that’s what your doing…it’s a true designation to describe the practice!
Think about the last time at any regional contest you saw any real participation in the unlimited category…If they had one at all. And its not that there aren’t the machines there to fly it …And just because the guys flying the legacy mounts aren’t speaking up…Doesn’t mean the sentiment that “Something ain’t right with this picture” isn’t there.
I will also say that because of sequence design, You can't use the advantage of the superships nearly as much in intermediate and down as you can in advanced.
As a matter of fact …the only figures that advanced doesn’t have that’s in unlimited are neg. snaps & tailslides & both of these are performance neutral.
It’s that there are more characters per figure increasing each ones “K”, as well as the way the figures are sequenced that separates the categories and as I said earlier, Because of the category creep over the last few years [not just in figures, but also sequencing of figures] that has done nothing but give the Advanced lifers even more of an advantage in the category.
Lets also think about how we come up with our unknowns…If you were flying an Unlimited mount wouldn’t you try and sequence your figures to favor your planes performance advantage in the proposals that you submit. I understand that Brain Howard kicks many submissions because of the way their sequenced…But believe me any guy flying a legacy mount knows that the unknowns always favor the unlimited mounts.
   To give a practical examples of this at one of the contests last year I had a good friend flying a supership apologize to me for the disadvantage that he knew I would be flying at after the unknowns were handed out. I also lost the overall at 2 other contests that I had won after 2 flight’s because of penalty points of low calls in the unknowns.
Lets also not over look how the lack of rules to keep the Legacy mounts competitive thru advanced has had and does have on the companies that use to have production lines that catered primarily to the competition pilots...Specifically companies like Aviat and American Champion whose production lines of designated aerobatic mounts has been non-existent for many years.
Since the advent of the "Superships" designed for the unlimited category that are now so prevalent in all the lower categories...Companies like Aviat has lost the "Market Share" of new plane sales that they for years had… not to mention being a great supporter of the IAC by advertising consistently thru the years with the magazine!
We are our own worse enemy as a club on many levels by not addressing this in the rules to keep the little guy competitive thru advanced....The legacy mounts are only going to be competitive thru that category, So what could we possibly be thinking by not having rules to address the obvious disparity so that companies that I have mentioned will continue to have a market share in the sport that they have patronized so faithfully throughout our history!
One more point I would make is every other motor sport you could compete in has rules to even the disparities in equipment......What say we get into car racing, Are we gonna allow the super modifieds to run in the sportsman class, Boat racing the same....motorcycles the same...Name one motor sport that allows the firebreathers to compete in any class without some sort of "handicaps".
Oh well we ain't gettin no smarter...I've made my point...I would ask that anyone who has an opinion, for or against to log on to the OFFICAL IAC WEB SITE listed at the link below and join this debate in the unusual attitudes section...The thread is titled "UNFAIR". Or if you prefer contact me directly @ 912-526-4079.
I as well as others have posted what I think would be fair & simple solutions on that thread that would be easily applied regarding limits and or handicaps for anyone that wanted to continue to fly their unlimited mounts in the category year after year.
Please join in let your voice be heard. I will be sending some recommendations to Brian Howard for consideration and I would appreciate any suggestions that my fellow aerobatic brethren may have in formulating rules to address this obvious disparity.
Sincerely Tony Zorn
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Hello Tony,

When the international Advanced category was introduced by CIVA and the first AWAC run at Cape Town in 1995 it was not at all clear that it would enjoy much popularity, and the Aerobatic Performance Index that Alan authored was seen as an appropriate way not only to enable the many lower performance aeroplanes used then at Advanced to compete with some fairness but also to create a clear separation from the Unlimited category that had been CIVA's sole interest until then.

By the time the 5th such event was run under the API system in 2004 however it had become clear not only that this category could easily surpass Unlimited power in terms of support and hence popularity, but also the AWAC's (or WAAC's by then) were becoming viewed as "second class" by comparison with Unlimited because the API restrictions prevented more modern aerobatic designs from being used. After much discussion CIVA removed these restrictions, and since 2006 this category has developed to provide by far the largest and most popular international aerobatic events we have ever seen. Clearly a great many people are able to source carbon-wing machines with 300+ hp engines, against which the older and less capable 4-cylinder mounts are not so competitive. Life moves forward, and so have we.

As you have identified, the key question is - should CIVA's aim be directed toward staging the highest standard of events, or artificially restricting those below Unlimited to increase the usability of older and more affordable machinery? You may also have seen that CIVA has now introduced an international Intermediate category along the same unrestricted lines, and it does look as though this too will quickly achieve a similar popularity to Advanced.

One critical difference between US / IAC based and international events is that ownership sharing of aerobatic planes to spread the cost among small groups of like-minded pilots is far more common here, whereas for various reasons this appears to be less usual in the USA. The financial impact of a new'ish plastic wonderplane is often thus much reduced, and one clear result of this is that standards among the top pilots in this environment has not suffered at all - quite the opposite.

With the experience of all the above it is unthinkable now that we would wish to revert to the previous days of encouraging uncompetitive aeroplanes to enter our major championships by disallowing more modern types from competing. The primary intent at World and European championships is to stage events at the highest possible standard, whereas you might reasonably expect a more liberal and all-encompassing view to support 'grass roots' activities and standards at national events. The world and everything in it just keeps on developing, and to artificially restrict a technical sport in order to maintain outdated standards is, at least in our experience with aerobatics, unlikely to find much support.

Enjoy your One Design, they quite often win at Advanced here!

Nick Buckenham

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