After reading the letter “Training better, happier pilots,” (July issue), I thought that I would drop you a quick e-mail to tell you about a most enjoyable experience I had. I took my first aerobatic training this weekend with Greg Koontz. His knowledge and experience of aerobatics make a great combination for the perfect learning experience in the beautiful rolling hills of Ashville, Ala. Greg’s training allows you to explore the many different aspects of flying. When you finish the training, you will have a new level of awareness and confidence in your abilities and those of your airplane.
How many of us take at least a few hours of instrument flying instruction training for the private pilot certificate? We do that as insurance against some day stumbling around and finding ourselves in the clouds. We should also make a planned foray into emergency maneuver training. We may someday find ourselves in a spin, or inverted, or with a jammed control. That’s no time to be wondering what to do. We know how to fly when everything’s working well, but what about when things start going wrong?
Although I have been flying for many years, trying to teach myself aerobatics by watching videos and reading books, along with talking to pilots, it has been difficult to find any person or resource that could explain, in detail, the dynamics of flight in such an understandable way as Greg’s basic aerobatic course.
Every pilot should get this kind of training. Emergency maneuver training falls between basic flying and full-bore aerobatics. The idea is simple: if something goes wrong, you will know enough to get out of it. Greg does a great job of teaching how an airplane flies. He starts out with a detailed introduction to how an airplane works, then he shows you how to fly the airplane — and how not to. He tells you why and how to perform the maneuvers, as well as why you shouldn’t perform obvious, but incorrect, actions.
I found that the hardest part was blasting out the wrong ideas, substituting correct notions (push-roll) for faulty ones (stick and rudder together). All those years I thought I was saving money by teaching myself aerobatics. Wonder how much money I wasted on books, videos and gas learning things the wrong way?
No matter how hard we in the aviation community try to sugarcoat the risks involved in GA, we cannot escape the fact that flying, like many other sports, is inherently a higher risk activity. This risk is addressed through the exercise of good judgment and through the commitment to continued training. How many pilots do the bare minimum to stay current? Are minimally trained? Or sliding backwards? We as pilots should challenge ourselves to higher goals. Avoidance is not an option.
Greg will show you that most unusual attitudes in the aerobatic environment are pilot-induced, compounding matters by transitioning into an unusual attitude instead of aborting errant maneuvers early. Trying to force the airplane to fly without enough energy or with misapplied controls can quickly lead to an exciting attitude.
Greg will show you that the airplane will usually return to a more normal flight mode by simply relaxing your grip on the controls — even letting go — when a maneuver first goes sour showing you how to regain control faster and have more options available afterwards. He calls this the lawn dart maneuver.
New pilots who plan on surviving to be old pilots should take the four-hour basic training. It wouldn’t hurt some of those old pilots to have it too. It is a great learning experience and will make you a safer pilot.