2023 IAC36 Spring Hammerhead Roundup


Last updated 5/31/2023 at 10:23am

Eyes were to the sky once again, as the International Aerobatic Club (IAC) Chapter 36 San Diego Hammerheads were back for the Spring Roundup competition from April 27 – April 29 at the Borrego Valley Airport. Despite the temperature heating up, it did not stop folks from enjoying the competition.

"This contest was the largest IAC regional event since the 1980's! We had 54 pilots, which made us 75% the size of U.S. Nationals. And we do everything in 1.5 days instead of 7! We also returned glider aerobatics to Borrego for the first time in decades, which was great to see," Contest Director Bryan Jones said.

"The heat wave was a little challenging, but other than that the whole event went off perfectly. I'd especially like to thank Patrick Meehan, The Propellor, and our excellent airport manager, Meadow Chase – we couldn't do this without them!"

Pilots Rory Moore, Phillip Gragg Alex Huey and Hiroyasu Endo made their appearance, setting high standards as usual, with the absence of well-known pilots Jim Bourke, Susan Bell and AJ Wilder. But new competitors flying in their first contest made themselves known.

Endo also made his appearance as a judge this year.

With their dynamic expertise, vertical dives, rolls, graceful maneuvers, exploitation of aerodynamic and gyroscopic forces, pilots flew with precision for the judges, led by Chief Judge Michael Church.

After the five competition categories, many look forward to watching the Hammerhead finale, a four-minute freestyle with trailing smoke by experienced Unlimited pilots. However, that freestyle did not take place. The four-minute free has no limit to the number or style of figures and can be flown with smoke and music in order to add points for presentation. The competition consists of flying for four minutes. Any long or shorter could be subject to penalties that can drop a pilot from first to last. However chaotic it may look to the spectator, it is judged to standards like the rest of the competition.

Top awards went to Ruben Alconero, Primary Power (flying a Pitts Special S-2B), topping Steven Frasier by just 30 total points.

Other top awards went to Alex Huey (flying a Laser 200), Advanced Power; Raymond Collins (flying a Laser 200), Intermediate Power; Jake Carter (flying an American Champion 8KCAB Super Decathlon), Sportsman Power. Carter bested Phillip Gragg by a meer percentage of .10%. In the Unlimited Power category, Matthew Dunfee bested the other three competitors with his Extra 330 SC plane.

In the Gliders pilots category, Robin Simmons bested Greg Borovykh in the Sportsman category. For advanced, Shad Coulson topped Mallory Lynch. They all flew a Fox MDM-1 plane.

The gliders fly aerobatics without an engine. A tow plane tows them to altitude and then releases them, at which point they enter the box and fly their sequence.

The volunteers for the competition deserve a lot of praise. Under the current circumstances, they were able to help make this competition possible, sticking through the intense heat, still able to help judge the competition.

Jones added, "I'm trying to convince the powers-that-be to hold U.S. Nationals in Borrego. It's a bit of a commute for pilots on the East coast, but I really do think that Borrego has become the flagship location for aerobatic competition nationwide!"

Pilots will be back in October for the annual Akrofest Competition, to be held in October.

The Akrofest Competition in October is a premier event, as the chapter touts their aerobatic box as "the world's finest aerobatic box – built to CIVA standards, designed to host the world championships, and practically visible from space," said IAC President Bourke, who is also one of the top stunt pilots.

Chapter 36 is one of three IAC chapters operating in Southern California, founded in the 1970s. IAC is a non-profit organization, as are all its member chapters. They are also a division of EAA, an organization that promotes the sport of aerobatics, provides standards for measuring the quality of aerobatic flight, and is the central governing board for contest aerobatics. IAC also works with the FAA in matters regarding aerobatic flight and associated regulations. While IAC operates at a national level, local chapters within the organization operate at a regional level.