Aaron McCartan is a competition aerobatic pilot from Northern Iowa. He has consistently proven himself as one of the top pilots in the Nation. In 2013, Aaron won his first US National Aerobatic Championship in the Intermediate Category. He slowed down the competitive ambition for two years with a career change but returned to the circuit in 2016 where he won his first US National Championship in Advanced Category.
In 2017 at the US National Championships, Aaron earned one Bronze and Three Gold Medals crowning him the reigning US National Champion of Advanced Aerobatics. The final event was also a qualification challenge to earn a position on the US Advanced Aerobatic Team. Aaron not only earned this position; he was crowned the CAPTAIN of the United States Advanced Team!
This Team will be Tasked with representing the United States at the 2018 World Championships in Strejnic, Romania. The costs to participate in such an event are considerable. Not only do the pilots require airfare to get over and back, we also have to consider freight costs for our aircraft to be disassembled and shipped to Europe...and back (roughly $11,000 alone!). Then there is all the supplemental training costs, coaching fees and more. The total anticpated cost per pilot is well over $20,000.
ROAD TO ROMANIA
The 2017 Nationals qualified the US Team for the 2018 World Championships. What happens between September 2017 (Nationals) and August 2018 (World Championships)? The short answer...a lot!
The Team has hired a coach. Each daily session with the coach costs roughly $300 in training fees, plus aircraft operation. Our coach is an American Citizen originally out of Russia, Nikolai Timofeev. Nikolai is a 3-time WORLD CHAMPION himself, understands the differences between a Domestic event and a World event.
Then there's the individual training. Homework if you will. The training each of us does between training camps with our Coach is similar to a fitness plan - we have between three and five assignments to complete each week to hone skills which must be demonstrated at this world event.
HOMEWORK EXERCISE #1
Here's an early season practice flight to give you the cadence...
IT IS A VERY INTENSE SPORT...
So what happens at the worlds?
We have four events which require us to demonstrate certain skills and talents. Each event is graded by a panel of judges to assess maneuver quality, accuracy to the prescribed sequence and the overall presentation. Think of this as an aerial ballet...but more vigorous.
Each event has Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals. The first event is a qualifier to start building a leaderboard for the pilots. Events 2, 3 and 4 are all Unknown flights - they are sequences that have not been seen or rehearsed by the pilots. There are literally THOUSANDS of maneuvers to choose from; they can show up in any order. They must be flown within a very small piece of airspace called a 'box'. If you fly a maneuver outside of the box? Penalty. Go to low? Penalty.
Upon conclusion of the event, we will recognize and award the top three pilots in the World. Secondly, the scores of the best three pilots from each Nation are averaged. This is for a concurrent 'Nations Cup'.
In 2016, the United States had three pilots inside the Top 10, with the highest scoring being 5th Place. This gave America the Second place finish as a Nation. France won by a small margin and Russia was on the heels of the USA.
Roughly two months later, Aaron (not a member of the Team in 2016) squared off against all of the returning Team Members at the US Nationals. This was Aaron's first foray into the Advanced Category after two years of developing the requisite skills. His performance beat each and every member of the Team.
Then a repeat Win in 2017 and even higher margin of victory.
Going forward, it's no longer about individualism. Sure, the Team all puts forth their best efforts. But we are more interested in a TEAM Gold. The only way to get there is for many of us to place well, not just one. The Coach understands this and is working to bring up deficient areas of each pilot so we all fly with uniform grace, precision and aggression. Of course, a few stand-out performances by one or two members pulls up the Team average; but we all must stand strong.
The only way we can train the way we must and put on our best presentation is with help of others. The United States is the ONLY team that is completely funded by the individuals. France, Russia, South Africa, Hungary and many others all are subsidized BY THE NATION. NOT THE USA. WE ARE ON OUR OWN TO SHOULDER THESE EXPENSES.
WE BELIEVE THAT WITH THE RETURNING MEMBERS, ELECTION OF OUR SUPERB COACH, AND INDIVIDUAL SUPERSTAR PERFORMANCES SUCH AS AARON'S OVER THE PAST YEARS THAT THE USA STANDS A SOLID CHANCE AT THE TEAM GOLD MEDAL.
The Goal is for the Gold. Last time USA won the World Championships was 1998 by Aaron's mentor, John Morrissey. John was the absolute champion of the world and was supported by two team members for Team USA Gold. In 2008 the USA had an individual Absolute Champion, Rob Holland and Team USA was Bronze overall. 2014 and 2016 saw the USA with team finishes in Bronze and Silver.
Between good foundations, solid mentoring and World-Class coaching, WE CAN DO THIS. IT TAKES HELP OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU!
In closing, here's one more video link; the Team Qualification Flight from the US Nationals, 2017:
- Mark Baedke
- Michael Nieves
- Chris Davis
- Shane Petersen
- DEB SCHLOSS
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