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British Championship : I answer your questions

After my unlimited British Aerobatic Championship title and freestyle win last Saturday and four days before the French championship, you all asked a lot of questions, so my coach Pierre Varloteaux and I replied to a few of them.

Melanie, you seemed to overfly the first 3 flights. The last one, the Free Unknown, was the most physical. Can you explain why?

Indeed, the last programme Free Unknown was the most physical, as there were more figures and particularly figures so called “complicated” proposed by the pilots, the objective being to destabilise the opponents. It was very technical but because of my physical, mental and technical preparation I was able to perform well to the bitter end and get an honourable result.

Melanie, you mentioned small problems of adjustments of your plane before the British championship, especially the ailerons. Did these problems affect your performance?

The problems started with the new covering of my plane in April. This period was particularly difficult as I could not feel my usual sensations. I was filled with doubt and fear of not being able to fly as before. It took me more than twenty flights to finally manage to fine-tune the minute details which make all the difference in competition.

We can see you « playing music » before each flight, can you explain what it is and the importance for your performance?

“Playing music” is the mental representation of our flight. If you see a pilot on the ground turning on the spot moving his/her arms in front of his/her plane, this is normal, he/she visualises the film before performing. In one programme, we can perform up to 60 turns: turn, half-turn, eighth turn… in less than a second. The more you know the choreography, the more you can concentrate on the details of the performance.

Some figures look quite violent seen from the ground with quick passing from positive G to negative G. How do you manage to remain focussed and know your position in space?

Compared to racing (Red Bull Air Race), the Unlimited aerobatics is even more physical. We have variations of G’s which turn upside down the inside of your body. You only have your belt to hold you back. With 1G, you weigh your normal weight on this planet. With an acceleration of 2Gs, our normal weight doubles. In aerobatics, you can take up to 10G’s therefore weigh up to 10 times your normal weight. You need to have strong abdominal muscles to avoid the blackout.

During the championship each participant performs 4 flights. Can you explain the differences between each flight?

There are 4 flights in a championship plus a 5th one, free style flight.

The first flight is the free known: made up of 10 figures, 5 of which are imposed by the jury at the beginning of the season and 5 figures chosen by the pilot, respecting a maximum mark of 450 points. The aim is to build a programme which allows to score points. The other flights are unknown programmes: the pilots discover 10 figures that they have to perform in front of the judges.

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Pierre, Mélanie scored an average of 79,6%, with one flight above 83%. For neophytes, is this a good average and how are the flights rated?

Depending on the competitions, marks vary between 78 and 82%. So yes, it is an excellent average. A programme consists of between 10 and 14 figures, each allocated 10 points. The judges (between 7 and 10) start with 10 and downgrade the mark according to the established criteria. The average gives the final result.

We have noticed a great progress this year with Mélanie’s flying, even at the Red Bull Air Race where she made it to the podium in Abu Dhabi. How do you anticipate her participation at the French Championship and the WAC?

Technically, Mélanie has a lot of qualities to succeed. Her technique is excellent and she has very good physical capabilities. But nothing is given. She must continue to work hard till the end to arrive in the best possible conditions. And then, may the best man/woman win!!