Even from the ground, the loops, twists, turns and dives pilots pull off in the Corvallis Corkscrew can be gut-wrenching.
But not so for Hannah Neill, who's training to be a commercial pilot in Eugene. Neill, who was flying in an aerobatics competition for the first time Friday at the Corvallis Municipal Airport event, said she doesn’t get air sickness, nor does the situation feel stressful.
“I’m plummeting to the ground at 200 miles an hour because I’m having fun,” she said.
Flying in the aerobatics competition, which is hosted by the Oregon chapter of the International Aerobatic Club, is a dream come true for Nell.
She came to the event, which began with a training camp Monday and wraps up Saturday, expecting to just volunteer on the ground. But its community of pilots encouraged her to begin practicing aerobatic maneuvers with them. A group that collectively owns an airplane even loaned her the craft for the competition.
“(Everyone) has been so, so supportive,” she said. “They have been an amazing support system.”
Corkscrew director Travis Forsman of Corvallis said the event opened with a three-day training camp for pilots iike Neill who wanted to practice aerobatics, followed by a practice day on Thursday, and competition Friday and Saturday. That last portion of the event drew 26 pilots this year.
Flights are expected to run from around 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and the public is welcome to watch the competition, which takes place in a square kilometer over the airport and nearby farmland.
“We are a competition foremost, but we do welcome the general public,” said Forsman.
The appeal of aerobatics competitions for pilots, according to Forsman, is similar to other adrenaline sports. “You get into it and you get hooked.”
Neill said the competitions also help make her a better pilot. Although as a commercial pilot she wouldn’t be pushing the plane to do anything like what she does in aerobatics, she said she's better prepared for emergencies because she has a feel for how planes feel at their limits.
“You don’t know how to do it till you do it,” she said. “This type of flying teaches you to be a better pilot.”
Richard May, a corporate jet pilot from Albany who has flown at the Corkscrew the last four years, agreed that aerobatics is good preparation for emergencies.
He recalled a story about a corporate pilot who ended up upside-down in an emergency — and that pilot tried to pull up the way he would if the plane were right-side-up, which caused it to crash into the ground instead. With more experience with aerobatics, May said, that pilot might have had the experience to make a better decision.
“(Aerobatics) rounds out my skill set,” he said. “It really does help you as a pilot because there is no fear of the airplane ever being in an odd position because you’ve already been there.”