New Wine, Old Wineskin
I just attended my first pattern contest in 23 years. Green Sea SC hosted the D2 Closing event. What a blast! Marvin and George did a great job keeping it running smoothly, and casual. Suffice to say, that was welcome, as I was as nervous as at my first contest in 1988, but worse...Having practiced what I remembered, and though would be important from 20+yrs ago, I had to do a lot of guessing to prepare, since I didn't have a mentor, or current pattern flyer anywhere close by to watch. But alas; I did pretty well, so I wasn't too far from the mark. Here are some of the similarities and contrasts, that may help someone coming or returning to Pattern:
- 2M planes are in! Of 19 contestants, including Sportsman, only two did not have 2M sized planes - I was one, and an electric stik in Sportsman was the other. Get as BIG a plane as you can afford; my 1.75M plane looked tiny by comparison. I picked up a Nuance at the contest; good time to buy used equipment - at the end of the season. If it competes in Masters and FAI, it'll be good enough for you!
- SLOW IT DOWN! I could not believe how slow things were. My Persuasion is a turnaround plane, but based on the Aurora airfoils, it's way too fast, and I blew the box more than once per round. Increase the prop diameter, decrease pitch; I'm going from a 16x10 to a17x8 this week
- Learn Electric. I'm a nitro guy; 35 years of habit is hard to break. But, I was one of only two nitro burners in the field, and super LOUD compared to the others. I honestly thought something had broken the first time I pulled up, it was so loud! The only other guy flying nitro was a YS185cdi that was really nice, but also very quiet; a long way from my OS120AX.
Most of pattern flying is conformance. Formally, to the maneuvers, but informally to the equipment and style of flying. I got comments that I looked 'rushed', and 'pressed', that are not part of the scoring vernacular, but I completely understood. If you're a rebel, or a rogue, Pattern is probably not for you. A turbine jet is not going to do well in pattern!
- Competition = pressure Everybody feels it. It's what makes some better, and some worse. That has never changed. The only time I wasn't nervous pattern flying was with 4000pts going into round 5 or 6, which is rare!
- Camradarie I showed up by myself, and knew no one. A few recognizable faces welcomed me, and persisted to help with calling. pitting, and judging through the contest. What a great gang! This is what settles the nerves, to some extent; knowing you're welcome, and that everyone is glad you're there. There are some 'prickly pears' from time to time, but really; doesn't every club have them too?
- One-ness I talk about this at our club patten events a lot. In this day/age, it's not uncommon to see a guy show up with 6 foamies in the back of his truck for an hour or two of flying. Rarely does this pilot know much about those planes, much less their flight characteristics. The best pilots are always a step ahead of their planes. The best pattern flying I've done is when I've had a plane that suits my style, put in the hours/days/weeks & gallons getting to know the plane, and only then stepping up to the line. Eliminate the unknows, pick your partner and dance the dance...It's a beautiful thing!
Guys at my club comment all the time how smooth and graceful pattern is. Obviously they're seeing the practice and improvement, since we do the same things every time the plane leaves the ground. 6 months ago, when I pulled my planes out of their packing crates where they've been entombed since 2008, it was all I could do to keep it out of the trees, and from soiling my shorts! Now, I'm competing again, and really loving it. Thanks for the welcome back!
...Maybe not as fragile as that!
For something like pattern, being measured as sameness, things sure have changed. But, we're human, so change is/should be an everyday thing.
Also, it's required by the designer of life, and could not be expected if it was not afforded (aka; becoming Christ-like)
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