An Introduction to Slope Aerobatics
|“Aerobatics… is a challenging and enjoyable sport with no upper limit to the quality of flying one can achieve.”
– Jef Raskin, creator of the Macintosh and slope aerobatics enthusiast
Most slope flyers perform aerobatic maneuvers in the course of nearly every flight. Loops, rolls, and stall turns are part and parcel of the slope flying experience for novice and expert alike.
Taken at even their most casual level, aerobatics present ample opportunities to advance flying skills, show off to friends and onlookers, test model performance, and enjoy the simple pleasure of watching a glider sketch artful lines across the sky.
Aerobatic flying can offer more than that, however. A disciplined, goal-oriented approach to aerobatics offers new and exciting challenges that are limited only by one’s dedication to mastery of the requisite skills. This quest for improvement also drives experimentation with new airframes and equipment, study of aircraft design and engineering, and a deepening understanding of flight dynamics and energy management. The net enjoyment of the hobby expands accordingly.
This essay, An Introduction to Slope Aerobatics, offers one pilot’s perspectives on glider aerobatics in the slope soaring context. It begins with an examination of the unique challenges and opportunities inherent to slope aerobatics as compared to flat field glider and powered aerobatics. A brief primer on Aresti notation, the lingua franca of aerobatics, is presented. Some general principles of aerobatic slope glider design to achieve voltige totale (“total aerobatics”) are discussed, which leads directly into a survey of current slope aerobatics disciplines. These run the gamut from traditional precision sequences, to high energy/ballistic “bank and yank” flying, to Voltige Très Près du Relief (“VTPR”) and Madflight / 3D glider flying, and a number in between. It concludes with a discussion of competitive slope aerobatics and their conspicious absence from contemporary slope soaring.