This time next week (assuming the weather plays ball) I’ll be off over at Fenland Airfield to compete for the McAully Trophy – the last competition before the British Nationals. Of course, it’s always in the back of my mind that I’d like to actually do well. Ok, so maybe, actually, deep down I’m harbouring a desire to win, but the reality of things is that I’m young, inexperienced and up against a good number of very capable pilots who have been doing this aerobatics lark a lot longer than I have. As such, I’m more than aware that for me to have any chance of winning is going to take some real doing and some real effort, which is in essence what this whole project is about – I’m willing and able to put in the effort necessary for as long as I can find ways of affording to do so.
Every flight I take these days is targeted, pre-structured and prepared. As often as possible I’ll fly with someone on the ground watching me, radio in hand, telling me where I’m going wrong – what shapes I need to change, whether my lines look steep or shallow, whether my rolls are in the right places and whether I’m sinking or climbing where I shouldn’t. These flights are all short but very, very intense, and I love coming back down, climbing out of the cockpit feeling tired mentally and worked physically. I also love coming back to hear people tell me what needs work and where I can improve – the people who help me all know more than I do, are all better than I am and have a great deal more experience than I do, and yet are willing and keen to help me.
There’s something truly fantastic about the aerobatic community – we’re all wildly competitive, we all want to do well for ourselves and we all chuckle inwardly when we see one of our competitors mess up in training. Yet, everyone also wants everyone else to succeed – so whilst the competitive edge is there, in my experience the real competition is with yourself. The people around you who can, will help you put forward the very best performance you can. I’ve met some absolutely fantastic people within the community, and am regularly given help, guidance and advice by pilots who are in some cases, of a world-standard themselves – guys who, despite their status and standing want nothing more than to help those of us new to it all but working hard and enthusiastic.
I’m just at the beginning of what I hope will be a long and rewarding journey. Every flight is a learning experience, every piece of advice carries something that can help me, and every trip to the airfield makes me feel at home. The real competition is mine and mine alone – the only competitors being my own feelings, emotions and motivations. Maybe I’m a little over-confident at times, a little under-confident at others, but somehow, I think I can put forward a good fight, just you watch!