Rain and frustration were in the air — and the pilots most certainly were not — during Tuesday’s lunchtime briefing at the World Aerobatics Championship. Gloomy weather at North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field meant the planet’s best sport pilots were grounded for a second straight day.

Rain and frustration were in the air — and the pilots most certainly were not — during Tuesday’s lunchtime briefing at the World Aerobatics Championship. Gloomy weather at North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field meant the planet’s best sport pilots were grounded for a second straight day.


"I suggest you venture out and make some memories that don’t involve flying today," said Contest Director Chris Rudd, who had to admonish the grumbling crowd during his briefing. Rudd explained to the group of 60 pilots and dozens of support staff that the Championship, which originally was supposed to include four flight routines for each competitor, would now include only two guaranteed routines Wednesday and Thursday, with the possibility of a truncated third routine on Friday for those in the hunt.


According to Mike Gallaway, who represents the U.S. on the panel of 10 international judges, it’s not the first time weather has affected the event.


"In 2006, we were in Radom, Poland, flying a world championship and the same thing happened. It was bad weather for the whole time and we barely eked-out the contest. We’ve been doing the nationals (at NTRA) since 1972, and the last time any of us can recall having weather like this is 1996."


Event Safety Director Chelsea Engberg said the climate issues are threefold.


"We’ve got low ceilings that are an issue. Also, the international rules say we can’t fly if there’s any rain, so one drop of rain hits and we’re shut down until it goes away. And then finally, we also have a wind limit of roughly 25 knots. So, all of it at once? It’s just Texas weather."


Event organizers said it’s vital that they get two full rounds of flying completed to meet the threshold required to consider the championship valid, and weather issues have meant only two-thirds of one round has been completed thus far. Gallaway said the group will push as hard as possible to include a third round for the top 30 or 40 pilots on Friday, as the third round is particularly effective at separating the wheat from the chaff.


"Unlike the first two rounds, the third round is an ‘Unknown’ round, where the pilots only have 18 hours to learn a routine they’ve never seen before," he explained. "There’s a lot of confusion in the Unknown. You’ll see people falling out of maneuvers, going the wrong way, because it’s just too much going on at once. I mean, there’s carnage, man! Literally you can go from first place to tenth place, and vice-versa."


After the World Championship concludes on Friday, a separate, smaller competition will be held on Saturday at noon, called the Four Minute Freestyle.


"Pilots are invited based on their credentials; it’s very prestigious if you win the event," said Gallaway. "But it’s also the most entertaining for the general public. It looks like an air show: they get to blow smoke, they fly to music, there’s typically a narrator telling the crowd, ‘Man this guy is awesome, check him out.’ And it’s actually very cool because the reigning champion is an American by the name of Rob Holland."


Holland, a tall New Hampshirite who was hanging out at the back of the briefing room, said any cooperation from Mother Nature between now and Saturday would be much appreciated.


"We watched a movie yesterday, we’re going to lunch; maybe we’ll go go-karting here in a little bit. I think everyone’s kind of surprised by the weather, it’s not typical for October here. But there’s not much you can do about the weather except wait."