After all the hubbub of the Nationals was over and I’d spent some time away working, it came to mind that perhaps I should be pushing myself to learn more rather than just play the perfection game with the Standard level figures, hence my attention lately has turned to learning to fly Intermediate figures – so lots of inverted stuff, rolling turns and flick rolls.

The learning curve to get from Standard to Intermediate is steep, very steep. Thus far my success rate on stringing together sequences successfully whilst staying within the bounds of at least the relevant county is far less than ideal. I’m not really thinking of throwing myself at an Intermediate level competition quite yet, although the entertainment factor and learning experience could well be worth the relative humiliation. We shall see.

As it stands the current main challenges for me are:

1) Flying inverted turns in the correct direction. For such a low difficulty figure, my abysmal success rate here is shocking – I mean, just how hard can it be? It’s not that I can’t actually fly an inverted aerobatic turn, but simply that I’ve yet to quite develop the mental capacity to cope with coordinating myself correctly whilst mid sequence. As it stands it’s pretty much a 50:50 chance! Hopefully a bit of careful preparation and some more visualisation will help with all this.

2) Inverted spinning. Now, in theory this shouldn’t really be much harder than flying erect spin manoeuvres, but for some reason I’m having issues sorting out a good clean, consistent spin entry. More practice will hopefully be the remedy for this once I’ve settled on a precise attitude and speed for entry.

3) Pushing. Negative manoeuvres are tough – not only do you have to do everything inverted (see issues with inverted turning), but it also gives you a headache if you push as hard as you actually need to. Oddly (or not) though, the more I do, the more I enjoy it. Perhaps I really am into pain after all?

4) Flick rolls. For a long time the mere thought of trying to snap/flick roll an aeroplane terrified me (avalanches not included). Whether it’s the sheer violence of the manoeuvre that scares me I’m not entirely sure, but right now I’m on the threshold of actually starting to enjoy them. Admittedly I’m not yet at the stage where I’m even vaguely consistent with my flicks, let alone able to actually stop them wings level where they need to be, but they are getting more consistent and slightly quicker the more I practice. No more than 5 or 6 flicks per sortie though or I end up feeling extremely jaded…

5) Rolling turns/rolling circles. These are just hard. My main focus has been on either doing 1 roll during a 90 degree turn or on 2 rolls during a 180 degree turn. Keeping everything coordinated (roll rate, rate of turn, speed, radius and altitude) is just technically very difficult (and of course I’m practicing them equally in both directions). Simply remaining aware of roughly where you are during one of these is tough. Rather good fun once you get past the ‘washing machine’ feeling though!

6) Stringing everything together in a sequence and staying in the box. Need I say more?

Anyway, as tough as I’m finding it all, I did manage to fly this year’s Known BAeA sequence well enough and safely enough to get myself signed off as an Intermediate level competition pilot this weekend. Brilliant fun and now the decision simply is when to start the competition!