Meet a Member
By Gary DeBaun, IAC 4145
IAC No.: 27019
Chapter Affiliation: 58
Occupation: President of Shipley Enterprises
GD: Blair, give us a little background on your venture into competition aerobatics.
BM: Between 1999 and 2002 I started flying aerobatics, competed in Basic (named Primary today) one time at a local contest, then quit. Two years ago a serendipitous meeting at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania airport rekindled my interest.
GD: How long have you been the Chapter 58 president, and how active is your chapter?
BM: I became chapter president last November. The chapter had years of declining membership and was down to a half-dozen dues-paying members. Through utilization of a website, newsletter, and scheduling at least one event per month, we are up to 30 and growing.
GD: Tell us about your first contest.
BM: The Wildwoods AcroBlast at KWWD last year (ignoring the 2000 contest at N71). I flew in four contests last year, and this was the best from an operations perspective. There was less empty box time - those times when everybody is waiting for the next competitor to enter the box - and more thorough and thoughtful communication (e.g. with boundary judges). While nervous about the takeoff and landing as a new Pitts pilot, flying for judges felt so good!
GD: You showed up to fly at the Nationals last year. How was that experience?
BM: You can read about the journey to Nationals in a newsletter at our website. At Nationals, I was surprised at the level of preparedness even in Primary. While expecting the Unlimited pilots competing for a spot on the team for WAC to be polished and peaking, at all levels the airmanship was outstanding. I was also surprised by the friendliness and helpfulness of the Unlimited pilots. Overall, it was a great experience that I hope to repeat.
GD: Why do you wear a cycling cap when you fly aerobatics? Or do you want to keep that secret?
BM: In the interest of improving safety and aerobatic camaraderie, I will share a formerly secret discovery. The visor on a cycling cap flips down, providing shade plus an unrestricted view when performing aerobatics in the up position.
GD: Give us your thoughts on the current direction of the IAC; are we geared too much towards the higher categories? Have we lost our interest in grassroots aerobatics?
BM: I found beginning aerobatics difficult. The "grassroots" facilities were nonexistent as there were neither aircraft nor instructors available at local airports. We need to make it easy for interested pilots to try aerobatics.
To encourage "grassroots" at Chapter 58, we recently convinced the flight school (Aero-tech Services) at the Lancaster airport to purchase a Super Decathlon and begin offering aerobatic instruction and aircraft rental. Additionally we have scheduled one or two practice days per month in a waivered box and will hold our first Primary and Sportsman-only contest in October.
On a national basis, we maintain a list of aerobatic instructors. To address the aircraft, in addition to encouraging flight schools to expand their offerings to include spin/upset/aerobatic instruction, could IAC aid and encourage the formation of aerobatic aircraft ownership clubs? (Note: AOPA is currently promoting clubs.)
GD: Who is your favorite aerobatic performer (contest flying or air shows)?
BM: For an adrenalin-pumping combination of music, smoke, and flying, Rob Holland's 4-minute free performance at the 2012 Nationals was spectacular. For inspirational precision, Goody Thomas is jaw-dropping.
GD: Did you have a mentor coming into the sport, someone who showed you the ropes when you were starting out?
BM: Unfortunately, no. Had there been an enthusiastic and knowledgeable mentor, I would not have quit.
GD: What are some of your other interests in life besides aerobatics?
BM With sports I love to snow ski and enjoy road bicycling with a group of friends. I love to learn, find travel stimulating, and enjoy many styles of music.
GD: Do you have any goals you want to accomplish in this sport?
BM: As a chapter leader, I want to help create the best chapter in the world. As a competitor, I aim to attend the WAC Intermediate 2014, then the WAC Advanced 2016.