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Late Bid Creates Financial Headache for U.S. Aerobatic Team

Unlimited Team
The United States Aerobatic Team (l to r): Debbie Rihn Harvey, Robert Armstrong, Hector Ramirez, Goody Thomas, Jeff Boerboon, Michael Racy, Robert Holland, and Tim Just.

November 18, 2010 —Before last weekend’s FAI Aerobatics Commission’s (CIVA) annual meeting in Oberhausen, Germany, the Slovenian and German teams withdrew their bids to host the 2011 World Aerobatic Championships next summer. That seemingly left the United States Aerobatic Team in the driver’s seat with the sole remaining bid to hold the competition in Denison, Texas. That is, until a last-minute bid was submitted by Italy’s Aero Club of Rovigo to host the 2011 WAC in Ravenna, Italy, August 31-September 11.

That bid ultimately won, 14 votes to 10, and the Americans are now scrambling to raise funds that will defray the considerable expense team members will incur in order to vie for the 2011 title.

“A number of folks are disappointed,” said Norm DeWitt, president of Unlimited Aerobatics USA (UAUSA). “Each competing country gets a vote and most of the teams are in Europe.” The U.S. last hosted the WAC in 2003 at Lakeland, Florida.

Adding to the disappointment, the team is faced with a huge financial challenge of transporting airplanes, gear, and people to Italy to compete in the biennial competition. Add up all the entry fees, living expenses, air fare, and, most significant of all, cost of shipping an aircraft to Italy can easily run into the mid-five figures for each team member.

Each member will have to raise money to train to a level of peak performance, transport themselves and their aircraft to and from Italy, and also pay for the expenses of the team’s manager, coach, doctor, and mechanic.

DeWitt explained what it takes just to ship an aircraft overseas:

First you need to fly the aircraft to some point in the U.S. for disassembly and crating, which requires the building of custom fixtures. Once crated, the aircraft needs to be trucked to a port city for loading onto a ship, then transported to Europe, uncrated, reassembled, and flown to the competition. Then you do it all over again for the trip back home. The aircraft is also out of commission for up to a month each way.

Flying in a cargo transport requires less disassembly but the shipping costs are more expensive. Years ago, from about 1980 to 2001, this was not an issue as the U.S. Air Force provided space in a C-5A for transporting the airplanes overseas. “A lot of problems would go away if we had a C-5,” DeWitt noted.

Individual team members are responsible for getting to the competition, and Unlimited Aerobatics USA, a 503(c)(3) organization, is ramping up its fund-raising efforts.

“The U.S. team needs help, be it from corporate sources or individuals. All contributions are welcome,” DeWitt said. “It is in the U.S. team’s best interest to field the best team it can in a world competition, and these pilots are in the top 1,000th of a percent of the U.S. pilot population.”
To learn more about contributing to the U.S. team and its mission to win the 2011 WAC, visit the Unlimited Aerobatics USA website.


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