Why do we need to judge?

Imagine an aerobatic event in progress ...

  • A 1,000m square "box" area is defined, sometimes even marked-out, on the ground at an airfield. One centre-line (usually parallel to the runway) is called the "A" or main axis, and in one direction this is declared the 'official wind'.
  • By a big letter "J" about 150m back from one side of the box, up to 20 people sit in pairs on reclining chairs, some gazing at the sky whilst others wield clip-boards and pens. This is called the 'Judging Line'.
  • One aeroplane busily zooms through a series of darting aerobatic figures with a purpose or design that's not immediately obvious, whilst another gets ready to take-off and wait a mile or so away for its own turn in the box.
  • Around the club-house and marshaling apron groups of pilots watch the competing aeroplane, walk around with little bits of paper in a world of their own "flying" their hands through their sequence, or just chat idly. 

They're having an aerobatic competition, and in due course one pilot will win - while everyone else squabbles about the lesser placings. So just how does this all work, and crucially....

Why do we need to "Judge"?

In an aerobatic competition, to rank the quality of the sequences flown from "best" to "worst" we have to have some judges. Whilst in many sports the winner can easily be determined by who scores the most goals or pots the most balls, who flies the "best" aerobatics is a subjective matter based on observation of every element of the sequence of figures flown and the application of a set of rules or criteria to grade the result.

An internationally agreed format for running aerobatic competitions and judging aerobatic flights has been established and refined by FAI / CIVA over many years. The BAeA is the National Aero Club responsible for running aerobatic competitions for powered aircraft and gliders to these rules in the United Kingdom.