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Aerobatic pilots put on a show for Hammerfest in Llano

The 2013 Hill Country Hammerfest is Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at the Llano Municipal Airport, located two miles north of Llano off Texas 16 at 100 Evelyn Gould Drive. The event should attract aerobatic pilots and airplanes from across Texas and beyond. The airplanes, such as this Pitts Special, are built specifically for high-speed maneuvers. The event is free and open to the public. Courtesy photo

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

LLANO — Oh, those magnificent men (and women) and their flying machines take to the air above Llano on Aug. 31-Sept. 1 for the annual Hill Country Hammerfest.

“It’s an (International Aerobatic Club) competition,” said pilot and Austin IAC Chapter 107 member Jack Stovall. “The planes that you’ll see there are purpose-built for aerobatics.”

Hammerfest draws competitive aerobatic pilots from across Texas and the country. It is one of the last competitions before the national event in September and gives pilots a chance to get in some flying and practice.

Stovall said the Austin club, which sponsors the event, expects between 20 and 25 planes at the Llano Municipal Airport for Hammerfest. The airport is located two miles north of Llano off Texas 16 at 100 Evelyn Gould Drive.

While it’s not an air show, the competition is open to the public. Organizers will have an area designated for spectators who want to see these daring pilots and their aircraft go through a series of stunts and aerobatic maneuvers. Stovall said the spectator area gives people a great view of the competition.

While pilots take to the air both Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, Stovall said spectators should expect to see some of the most air-show like flying in the early afternoon Sept. 1. That’s when the pilots flying in the unlimited class compete in the four-minute freestyle.

“That’s basically an air show,” Stovall said.

IAC competition features five levels of competition: primary, sporting, intermediate, advanced and unlimited.

“Primary is a very basic class where pilots will do a spin, loop and a roll, things like that,” Stovall said. “It progresses up from there to the unlimited, which is the top class.”

The pilots will each compete in three flights for their division. The first flight is a known competition during which the pilots are given a routine ahead of time and must execute it. Each pilot flies the same routine.

Next is the free program.

Though it conforms to a set of rules and specifications, each competitor develops his or her own free program.

Those two flights occur Aug. 31.

Following the Aug. 31 competition, the judges pass out the unknown program to each competitor. It’s a program that none of the pilots have seen, so they will not have an opportunity to practice it.

“It’s an aerobatic sequence they have to memorize the night before,” Stovall said. The pilots will execute the sequence Sept. 1.

Judges score each program and pilot on a set of criteria.

The aircraft used in these aerobatic competitions aren’t the typical Cessna or Piper. Instead, these planes are specifically built for the tasks at hand. Stovall said some of the planes people can anticipate seeing include the Pitts (a biplane), the Super Decathlon, the Great Lakes, the Christian Eagle, the Edge 540 and several others.

Hammerfest has been stopping at Llano for several years. Stovall said the community and local businesses have made the event a great endeavor for the organization and the pilots.

“We have a lot of support from Llano,” he said. “We just have a great time there. We really enjoy coming to Llano.”

Go to www.iac107.org for more information on Hammerfest or aerobatic flying.

daniel@thepicayune.com