Hazy days always present a bit of a dilemma – sure, the visibility may well be ok to fly, if a little unpleasant, but is it worth it when you really want a horizon for the manoeuvres you want to practice? Today I decided to give it a go anyway despite the haze, and had a remarkably productive flight.

In the early stages of learning how to do things, and how to do them better once you’ve broken through the initial head-scratching phase, the curve can be incredibly steep. It’s when the gradient starts to even off that you start to realise how important it is to structure your training and focus in order to make the greatest gains. Today, I flew what for me was a well-structured, properly focused training flight, and it was great – I came away with some very clear learning points.

My aims for today (and forever more) were very simple – now that I’ve got a handle on flying the S1 (or at least enough of a handle on it to no longer be IQ-shatteringly terrified of it the entire time I’m sat in the cockpit), my primary goals are to build a decent base of aerobatic skill, aimed of course, at competition flying:

Put simply I want to get my loops fully round, my vertical lines fully vertical, my 45 degree lines bang on 45 degrees, my entry and exits crisp and precise, all my manoeuvres on heading, my energy well managed, my positioning within ‘the box’ optimal for the judges and everything just looking the very best I can make it look.

Today I limited my flight to only a few figures, from which I hoped to make gains in my understanding of my biggest weaknesses and also to practice my positioning relative to my nominated ‘judging’ position. The figures I chose were these:

As you can probably tell (have a look here for more info on the drawings), I was doing lots of looping, and spending time on my 45 degree lines – the half cuban and the goldfish were the main manoeuvres of the session and the ones I repeated the most. All in all it was a good flight, I’m starting to make progress with my ‘be more aggressive’ policy for precision on the entry, exit and attitude changes of my manoeuvres, I’m becoming more and more instinctively aware of my ‘box’ positioning, and I’ve realised that the main weakness I really need to address, is with my rolling on 45 degree lines. An excellent and productive session for sure.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the aerobatic segment of the flight today wasn’t the only one to provide me with some very clear learning points – my ‘perfect’ approach to land, and what I at first thought was going to be a near perfect landing, very rapidly and suddenly transformed into a few seconds of brown trouser time when I began to veer to one side of the runway, only to overcompensate and veer toward the other, all at too low a speed to recover from with power but high enough a speed to very easily end up with the aeroplane on it’s back…

I’m not sure which part of my brain decided to deal with what could very easily have become yet another Pitts ground-looping incident (where the aeroplane loops back on itself on the ground horizontally – almost like a handbrake turn in a car, only often with wing-to-ground contact and in bad cases a rapid change in life-perspective), but somehow I held the yaw and managed to recover our composure to exit the runway right side up and undamaged. Lessons learned? Don’t lose perspective with the edge of the runway, don’t get cocky and never, ever think it’s over until the engine’s off and the aeroplane safely back in the hangar…