|“My lifelong philosophy is that if I see something that looks like fun, I do it.” Aerobatic pilot and systems engineer Gene Gottschalk became interested in flying as he watched Tomcats fly over his head while working at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. “For $35.00, I took an introductory flight lesson and actually got to fly. It’s a blast.” After about 38 lessons and around 70 flights, he passed the flight certification test consisting of a written test, a flight test, and a medical examination and obtained a pilot’s license in 1990. “While taking the flight test, the FAA examiner was also conducting an oral examination about FAA regulations to intentionally distract me,” Gottschalk says. The next day, Gottschalk took his wife out for a ride. She was, he recalls, “cautiously biting her tongue.”
In 1994, his wife’s birthday present to him was an aerobatic flying lesson. Gottschalk is grateful that “the craziest thing either of us wants to do is supported by
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Gene Gottschalk getting ready to board his plane. Credit: G, Gottschalk
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The Aresti figures chart. Credit: G. Gottschalk
|International Aerobatic Competition rules require that pilots fly within a one kilometer aerobatic box. Notes Gottschalk, “The curious thing about a one kilometer aerobatic box is that there is not enough room within the box to fly several maneuvers and then turn around. So you must execute vertical maneuvers to reverse direction within the box.” Gottschalk found the point rolls to be the hardest maneuvers. In a point roll, the 360 degree roll is divided by the number of points or rolls. A two point roll is 360 divided by two, or two, 180 degree rolls. “People commonly do up to eight point rolls. Any more and you lose track. Throughout the course of a point roll, all the controls are constantly changing. When you invert 90 degrees, top becomes bottom and bottom becomes top. So you control the plane by pushing the control stick where you normally would pull,” says Gottschalk.|
One of Gottschalk’s favorite maneuvers is the accelerated spin, where you put the plane in a nose low vertical spin and one wing flies around the other. “All I could see was concentric rings of color,” he says. Another of his favorite maneuvers is the snap roll which is a horizontal spin taking ¾ of a second. “I did not get dizzy because I was always looking outside for visual references. Aerobatic planes are typically painted in bright colors to provide reference points which you line up relative to the horizon,” explains Gottschalk.
As a safety precaution, he always flew “three mistakes high,” or high enough to make three mistakes before hitting the ground. “I had a lot of fun and managed not to hit the ground,” says Gottschalk.