Introducing UltraBatics: an open letter to the global slope aerobatics community
I wanted to let you know that upon much reflection and discussion amongst myself, Peter Richner, and Dawson Henderson, we have decided to label our unique style of ultralightweight slope aerobatics as “UltraBatics”.
We call this UltraBatics not because it is better than any other form of aerobatics – it most definitely is not, and we have absolutely no interest in such comparisons – but because it is oriented towards ultra-light, ultra-maneuverable, and ultra-durable gliders made from EPP and/or Depron that fly in a unique ultralight style, very often in ultralight lift. Hence, Ultra-Batics or UltraBatics.
The previous phrase “California Style VTPR” doesn’t really capture everything we are doing with these gliders, in the sense that people outside of California are actively building and flying them, and that the gliders themselves can be adapted to a range of flying styles, sites and pilot preferences. More importantly, we do not limit our approach to only flying close to the ground (although we frequently do that); in fact, our preference is to merge traditional aerobatics, VTPR and Madflight – all performed with the unique capabilities of an extremely lightweight glider of 4-6oz/sq.ft. (12-20g/dm^2) wingloading – into the same flight routine.
The core focus is to explore this new realm of possibility opened up by ultralight gliders. What are the limits of what we can achieve in slope aerobatics? We want to find out. We want to fly in a radical style everywhere, to engage with the terrain in new ways that are more akin to skateboarding, surfing or snowboarding than traditional aerobatics, but also to see what new artistic possibilities arise when the wingloadings become so low that the airplane can hang in the air for long, fascinating moments, creating the illusion of slow motion in realtime.
We of course cite the French influence as being very central to the development of this style of flying. Without the French having perfected the aerobatics glider – specifically via specialized airfoils such as the SB96V/VS and TP42/29, the development of the Madslide-style full flying stabilizer, the “fish shaped” fuselages, the inspiration of the VTPR videos, amongst many other examples – we would not be where we are today. We will always make reference to the French inspiration for this flying style and if nothing else, we intend UltraBatics as our own contribution to the larger effort of pushing slope aerobatics forward that the French have lead for so many years now.
In addition to the French aerobatics tradition, the Weasel and Alula by Michael Richter of Dream-Flight have been tremendously influential for Dawson, Peter and myself. Those gliders were our introduction to ultralight flying, and in many ways that experience is what set us down the path to exploring glider aerobatics and thereby discovering the French aerobatics scene. For my part, my own Le Fish design was meant to be like “a Weasel with a rudder and perfect inverted” first and foremost. Here in Santa Barbara, we have always flown in an “in your face”, close to the ground style; when Pierre Rondel first introduced the term VTPR to us on RCGroups in 2005, I immediately understood the core idea, because it was how we already flew.
UltraBatics is our attempt to synthesize all of these significant influences into a new and exciting flying style. We are only at the beginning of the beginning, and the possibilities are limited only by our imagination.