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Rob Holland Named 2017 U.S. National Aerobatic Champion

October 4, 2017 - The 2017 U.S. National Aerobatic Championships concluded September 29 and Rob Holland, EAA 555134 and IAC 27724, from Nashua, New Hampshire was once again named the U.S. National Aerobatic Champion. This year marks Rob’s seventh win, tying Leo Loudenslager for the most consecutive national champion titles. Rob also received the Mike Murphy Cup, which is awarded to the winner of the powered Unlimited category.

Nearly 100 pilots competed in this year’s competition, in both powered aircraft and gliders, vying for the title of U.S. National Aerobatic Champion. Seventeen of those pilots in the Advanced category flew for a chance to compete with the U.S. Advanced Aerobatic Team in Romania next year.

This year marks the first time the National Aerobatic Championships have been held in Oshkosh after spending decades in Sherman, Texas.

“The nationals are a fairly recent addition to the air sports you have here in the country,” said IAC President Mike Heuer. “After World War II it took a while for the nationals to be revived. And they came to life again in 1964 and they were actually at that time associated with the Reno National Championship Air Races. In 1969 they moved to Texas at first to Fort Worth and then later up to the Grayson County Airport up in Sherman-Denison, Texas. And from ’72 onward they were there with a couple exceptions until we moved to Oshkosh this year.”

Much like Oshkosh’s most famous aviation event, EAA AirVenture, the National Aerobatic Competition is reliant upon dedicated volunteers to make sure the event runs smoothly and each category is judged fairly. Jim Bourke has been flying competition aerobatics for 10 years and took second place in the Unlimited four-minute free sequence in Oshkosh this year. He also serves as a judge for the Primary, Sportsman, Intermediate, and Advanced categories.

“As a judge what I’m looking for is a really clean figure,” he said. “There will be maybe 10 figures in a sequence. Each of them is demanding the pilots will separate themselves according to how they will fly each one and my job is to watch them and give an accurate score for each one. … One thing I can say about the judges’ line is there’s a lot of opportunity for people who just want to volunteer. You don’t have to be an experienced pilot or even someone who’s been in the IAC for very long. You can come in and help judges like myself. You can record scores.”

Elise Wheelock is a student at the University of North Dakota where she is a member of the UND Aerobatics Team and took first place in the Primary category in Oshkosh and also volunteered recording scores for other categories.

“The contest wouldn’t be able to run without volunteers,” she said. “There’s tons of volunteers that do the scoring, they make food, and organize all the people, and figure out the rental space with hangars. Even contestants volunteer on a day-to-day basis.”

The U.S. National Aerobatic Competition consists of five categories: Primary, Sportsman, Intermediate, Advanced, and Unlimited and each group represents a different level of proficiency in competition aerobatics.

 “Primary is the lowest category and the competitors in that category are very restricted to 1,500 feet so they stay at a nice, safe altitude,” Jim said. “As you go up the ladder you get to go a little bit lower. … In Unlimited we fly down to almost 300 feet … and we’re expected to fly with a much higher level of precision, of course.”

The low altitudes of the Advanced and Unlimited categories were partly responsible for the competition’s move from Sherman, Texas, to Oshkosh this year as the flights created conflicts with a growing flight school at the airport.

“Traffic down there was increasing and it was becoming more difficult to run the competition there with the intensity that we have and with all the operations that are going on during the contest,” Mike said adding that he had advocated for the move to Oshkosh. “With EAA here and with us having been part of the EAA family for 47 years it was a natural fit and on top of that EAA of course has all of these great facilities here that they use during AirVenture.”

Jim said, “It’s a beautiful venue. The tower’s working with us really well and I just think it’s an amazing thing to have the IAC Pavilion with our headquarters there that people see every AirVenture right there at the front of everything. And now we’ve got everybody staged out of there and the judges are there. It’s been a wonderful event and I hope it continues to work out here at Oshkosh.”

For a full list of this year’s results, visit IAC’s results page.

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