I'm flying my first aerobatic competition in a few weeks (in a Pitts S2A) and was wondering what I don't know about aerobatics? I have an infinite amount of learning to do - I have a basic knowledge of flying the figures, the "box", and a loose handle on reading Aresti. If anyone could give me an outline of the essential items to know before performing in my first (Club Known) competition I'd really appreciate it.

Equally, what is the step up like from Club to Sports sequences? The figures are a bit more complex, but is there more to think about than just this?

Many thanks from a newbie aerobatic pilot

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    $\begingroup$ Surely you have an instructor who recommended that you are ready to enter such a competition. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Feb 23, 2022 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ Stay alive and don’t do stupid thing without practice first. Good luck. $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Feb 23, 2022 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim - yep just thought there'd be no harm in getting the internet's thoughts on it too $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2022 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Harry-Karmel, "no one ever got bad advice from the internetz", said no one, ever! $\endgroup$
    – Ian W
    Feb 25, 2022 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ I strongly suggest that you read the accident report involving a Hunter aircraft that happened in the UK a few years ago (Shoreham). It only took a few seconds for a relatively basic aerobatic maneuver to end in tears. Plenty of lessons learned in that one for a new display pilot. Also consider this musing from an old display pilot $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


This may be not at all useful.
If so, just ignore it.

No pilot should ever want to stop learning. It's not healthy. But since most every pilot is continuously learning anyway, don't be overly impressed by it, or by its volume. You may find yourself doing this for decades and still run into situations and people that'll blow your mind. That's okay. It's how it should be.

You will find that getting all the non-aerobatic stuff about it down real tight, boosts your confidence.
Use idiot proof routines in preparation wherever you can. Routines that may take a little bit more time and may not look cool, but allow you to go through them without having to think about it a whole lot. The more you will be able to lock your mind on what is really challenging, the better you will perform. It's not like a skate board run where you can afford to miss a jump. There is nothing wrong with being excessively sure about things you need to be 100% sure about anyway. (I hope this makes sense).

Never try to beat the competition. The one to excel over is yourself. Don't fly any routines in competition that you haven't got down like you own them. In competition you can make them beautiful. Remember how Bruce Lee moved between punches? That's how you want to be. Its not just the figures that scores points. The whole thing is a mix between a roller coaster ride and a song, starting the moment you call "clear" and ending as you hear the pumps spin down. There is things like 'flying silence' and 'signature moves'. It's a show and a performance.

Trust your gut. If you ever have a feeling that something is wrong, but you can't put your finger on it, make sure you can put your finger on it, before it puts its finger on you. Non-cognitive alarm signals are often very valid. Make sure to have a good feeling about things and don't worry. The adrenaline will still be there.

On occasion, your ability to survive, may depend on your ability to decide in a split second, that it's time to wreck the plane... and how to wreck it. Race car drivers can learn how to crash. You can't.

Do this for you. Don't ever run the risk of having the feeling you might be disappointing someone. It is a very dangerous motivator. Be selfish in this.

Be safe.


If this is an IAC contest, there will be a pilot's briefing before the contest begins. One of the standard questions is "are there any first time competitors here?". Raise your hand and you'll be assigned a "buddy" to walk you through the process.

It also doesn't hurt to contact the Contest Director a week or two ahead of the contest & have a conversation.

Remember that your priorities should be

  1. Remain safe
  2. Stay legal
  3. Have fun
  4. Fly well

in that order. Remember that everyone's new at the beginning and minor mistakes are expected.


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