WAC Blog #1 - 21 August 2009

My apologies for not being more prompt in getting this blog started on the World Aerobatic Championships in Silverstone, UK. It has been a very busy time since I arrived here in the United Kingdom but things have come together and now we await the first flight of Programme Q. I arrived in the UK on Monday, the 17th of August, on a Delta 767 from Detroit at a little after 07.00 local time. I was met at London-Heathrow Airport by John Gaillard, the 1st Vice President of CIVA, who had come in on a South African Airways flight from Johannesburg arriving about the same time. We then took a taxi and a two-hour drive to the Staverton Park Hotel near Daventry to get settled in. Monday was a day to rest and get organized.

On Tuesday, the work began. The first order of business at the WAC was the CIVA Judging Seminar held at the hotel at 09.00. The Seminar was organized by John Gaillard and Graham Hill with Nick Buckenham’s assistance and was very useful. All of us spoke during the seminar, covering different areas of interest and concern, and a wide variety of subjects were discussed. Graham reviewed the CIVA Judges Recurrrency Course and several items which required further discussion in order to reach agreement on a standardized approach in areas where rules may not be clear or could be interpreted in different way. Graham’s and John’s goal has always been the best and most consistent judging that can be achieved and this seminar was very productive. John discussed many issues of concern and also discussed the new CIVA Judges Performance Database (JPD) and how Judges are evaluated and selected. Nick Buckenham made an excellent presentation on the FairPlay System (FPS) as well as the judging analysis that ACRO (the CIVA-approved scoring system in use here) produces for the Judges. Judges will receive their analysis between flight programmes so they can get feedback on their performance. All Team Managers will receive a complete package of judging analysis after the conclusion of WAC. I gave a brief presentation, welcoming the Judges and stressing their role as FAI International Officials. Judges were asked to sign a letter of agreement, certifying their currency and their understanding of their international role and to not be prejudiced toward any pilot of any nationality. This has been a personal crusade of mine for several years as I remember the “old days” when Judges were considered a part of their country’s national team and their mission in life was to benefit their own pilots. Those days are over – with our new way of selecting judges and the judging analysis which clearly identifies such bias. Judges who do not perform well will receive poor RI’s (Rank Indexes) which is our main measure of judge performance. Those RI’s have been used for judge selections and will be used in the future. CIVA will maintain a 5-year database on all Judges who serve in FAI Aerobatic Championships. On Tuesday afternoon, the Judges and Jury members went to the contest site at Silverstone. A word about Silverstone – I am very impressed with this facility. An air base during World War II, it is now the home of British motor racing and is a beautiful, clean, and well maintained motorsports center. Though not an active airport anymore, it was clearly a brilliant idea on the part of our friends in the British Aerobatic Association and Flying Aces to choose this site for WAC. They have had superb cooperation from the Silverstone people and as I sit writing this, various circuits here in Silverstone have been in use by racing cars and motorcycles or bikes. There is the constant sound of engines. It is a delight to those of us who enjoy not only aerobatics but racing as well. For many years, Silverstone has been the home of the British Grand Prix. Finally, on Tuesday night, the Jury had a meeting with Steve Green, Contest Director; Alan Cassidy, Flight Director; and Graham Hill, Chief Judge, regarding some issues concerning Programme 4 and other details. I have a very strong feeling of teamwork here and constant consultation is taking place between all involved.

]While at the contest site, I had my first look at the QinetiQ system as well – an electro-optical tracking system that will be used for box infringement penalties or “out calls” as well as height measuring. Altitude penalties will be assessed using the QinetiQ system. The monitors and computers are located in a small tower near the runway and involves people at the radar tracking head nearby, Stephen Madle and his assistants in the tower, and John Gaillard at the Chief Judge’s station. Stephen calls the outs to John who certifies them on the sheets on the judging line. Considerable testing of the QinetiQ has been going on over the past several days. At 17.00 on Wednesday, the General Briefing for all Teams was held and information was provided by Steve, Alan, Graham, and me concerning our areas of responsibility. Using PowerPoint and a huge screen at the front of the large tent made it quite effective. Communication is often overlooked and forgotten at Championships – obviously, it takes time to do it properly. There has been no problems with communication here and some old ideas and new ones have been implemented. All Team Managers, contest officials, and organizers were issued UK mobile phones which came pre-coded with the phone numbers. Motorola radios are also in use. But the organizers have also made effective use of SMS (text) messaging to notify everyone of important news by sending messages out en masse. From the Jury, we have also utilized e-mail more than ever before by sending Team Managers what I have called “Jury Policy Letters” which discuss Jury decisions and our interpretations of the rules. These documents can head off protests as well as answer and clarify questions brought to us by pilots and Team Managers. There have been six of these letters to date. Sadly, we lost Thursday, 20 August, to bad weather – low cloud and then high winds but we were back at the airport for briefing at 08.00 today, Friday, the 21st of August but have not been able to fly, though our two warm-up pilots did manage to get in the air. As I write this, I am happy to report that the first pilot in Programme Q has taken off in his Sukhoi 31, Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic. It is now 12.44 on Friday, 21 August, so the contest is now underway ….. More news soon.