The annual Lone Star Aerobatic Championship returned to the skies over Texoma this weekend, welcoming pilots and spectators alike to enjoy the thrill and skill of precision flight.
The competition was held on Saturday and Sunday at North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field in Denison. Competitors put their three best performances on in front of a panel of five judges, who assigned scores from zero to 10 points.
“This particular competition has been held at this airport for more than 10 years,” Competition Director and Chief Judge Curt Richmond said. “We have people coming from basically all 50 states to participate in this. We even have a competitor from Brazil here.”
Richmond said competitors engaged in three specific competition categories, which took them through a competition issued set of maneuvers, a free flight they created themselves and an unknown flight pattern meant to keep competitors on their toes.
“This is much like Olympic-judged sports,” Richmond said. “In other words if it calls for a vertical line, how straight is the aircraft as it moves through the air? If it’s a loop, how round is that loop? And there’s no prize money. Everyone’s pretty much out here for bragging rights and the trophy.”
Erick McDaniel said he was happy to return for his fifth year as a pilot in the competition. McDaniel said he became interested in the sport after his plans of flying for the military fell through.
“Since I couldn’t be a fighter pilot like I wanted, this was an immediate draw,” McDaniel said. “I thought, ‘This is absolutely what I want to spend the rest of my life spending my money on and pissing my mom off in the process.’”
McDaniel said no matter how much time pilots have to practice in the air, the ground is where winners of the aerobatic contest are always made.
“The key is getting critiquing and coaching,” McDaniel said. “You can’t go up in that cockpit, fly and win unless you’ve got somebody from the ground watching all your angles and everything. That makes all the difference.”
Doug Jenkins, who had a career flying F-15 fighter jets in the U.S. Air Force, said he was glad to bring out his bright yellow Pitts S-1 to the competition. As he wheeled his bi-plane back into the hanger and awaited the judges’ scores, Jenkins said the competition wasn’t about winning or losing but rather getting a lift from the people and feelings that mattered most to him.
“It’s just fun,” Jenkins said. “I’m probably going to be last, and I don’t care. I have friends here, my wife my daughter and my grandkid are all here. For me, it’s about the friendly people, my family and the freedom of flying.”