Being a dutiful daughter I made the journey northwards on Father’s day back in June to spend the day with my Pops. We hung out on a freezing airfield in Cambridgeshire, drinking lukewarm tea whilst shouting instructions over a walkie talkie at a guy flying around in the overhead.
Side note: Pops used to fly. Not big planes. Little tiddlers like the one up the top. It’s a Pitts S-1 btw, and was his first proper plane. And yes that is him in it too.
Pops did his PPL in the late 1980s, and as part of your PPL you have to do some aerobatics; learn how to recover from spins, stalls and stuff like that. Pops fell in love. Ever since then he’s been consumed by all things aerobatics; he was Chairman of the British Aerobatic Association for eight years from 1991, he competed on the GB team at the Advanced World Aerobatics Championships from 1997 to 2000, and reached the dizzy heights of 10th place, and a Team Bronze medal – whoop – in 1999!
He’s stopped doing powered stuff now (it’s an age thing), instead he occasionally goes gliding, runs the judging school in the UK and is forever dotting around the globe doing weird and wonderful aerobatics related stuff. Outside of that he trains a lot of people. Ergo the standing on an airfield and shouting bit.
Way back when it quickly became apparent to the rest of the Buckenham family (Ma and me) that this wasn’t a flash in the pan, so we decided that if we couldn’t beat them, we might as well join them. And we did – I learnt to judge and Ma became a dab hand with the very complex scoring system. We got involved.
I digress… Back to the matter at hand: Me, Pops, an airfield, shouting and a plane. It got me thinking about perception; what we think people see versus what the outside world actually sees.
The whole thing about aerobatics is that it’s totally subjective. In a competition, to rank the quality of the sequences flown from “best” to “worst” there are a number of judges. They are there to observe every element of a flown sequence (made up of 8-10 figures) and apply a strict set of criteria to grade the end result. God this is complex isn’t it? Bear with me please.
The afternoon in question the guy my Pops was training got really agitated. He knew all the theory; what to push, pull and stamp on to make the plane gyrate in a certain way, however what he simply couldn’t get into his head is that theory isn’t enough. You have to factor in other stuff; the conditions, the capability of the plane (it was quite *agricultural* and wasn’t built for major stressing), where he was in relation to the *judges* (in this instance me and Pops) and so on.
A good aerobatics pilot knows what their audience expects to see and how to adapt to the environment so that what they deliver meets – if not exceeds – expectations. They think about the whole package – the conditions, the plane, the figures that they are flying, the judges – and how it will look when it’s all stitched together.
Life’s a bit like that wouldn’t you agree? After all life’s got multiple facets / dimensions and we should tailor our behaviour accordingly… Its not just about how we think we come across – the inside looking out bit – its about what our audience see – the outside looking in bit too.