Precision Aerobatics (or Pattern, or F3A) is a Radio Control activity using aircraft primarily designed for precision aerobatic manoeuvring - and often likened to the Formula 1 category of the hobby.

What types of manoeuvres are involved in Precision Aerobatics?

Generally, manoeuvres follow prescribed "schedules" for various "classes". These are incorporated into the APA and FAI handbooks as part of their routine rules development cycles. Many of the manoeuvres emulate full-scale aerobatic competition, and some are specific to the event.  The competition schedules are changed every two years just to keep things interesting.

*What are the "classes" in Precision Aerobatics?

At the present time, there are 4 classes, designed with increasing complexity and difficulty of manoeuvres:

  • Sportsman - where we all start;
  • Advanced;
  • Expert; and
  • FAI-F3A -the class used in the international World Aerobatic Championships.

Pilots are promoted up through the classes by achieving 3 promotion scores within a moving 12 month period.

*How are Pattern airplanes different?

Generally, pattern designs are extremely "stable", meaning that they are built with inherent ability to "stay where they are put", meaning that these airplanes are INHERENTLY designed to have little or no self-induced corrections of attitude.

*How are Precision Aerobatic Competition events run?

Usually, all four classes will be flown, on one flight line, and with three or four flights per day, the number depending on various factors including weather conditions and the number of competitors. For some large national competitions, two flight lines are used simultaneously.  The classes and pilots usually have one flight at a time, and the judges are rotated but arranged so that all competitors in the same class and flight are judged by the same judges. Scores are given by each judge for each manoeuvre, based on a 10 – 0 scale, with difficulty weights built into the scoring system. The judges score each manoeuvre by deducting points from an initial value of 10 for each error made. All manoeuvres are performed within a virtual aerobatic window, or box, in the sky, defined as 60 degrees left and right of the pilot's position, and 60 degrees elevation. Typical Flight line distance is recommended to be 150 - 175 metres from the pilot to the mid point of the box.

*How is the winner of an event determined?

Each class usually awards plaques or prizes for each of the first three places, depending on turnout, funds, etc. The winner of each place is determined by scores within each round, with the "best" or highest scoring pilot within a class being the "winner" of that round. All other pilots within the same class have their scores comparatively ranked against this "best" pilot of the round using a system called "normalizing".

*Are there specialised equipment needs for Precision Aerobatics?

Each increasing degree of difficulty class places greater competitive demands on pilot skills, equipment reliability, and capability of designs. Generally, practically ANY kind of reasonably-capable aerobatic design will work well in Sportsman, while in the FAI and Expert classes, designs must be pretty specialized and refined to be capable of the complex figures.

What organization "governs" Precision Aerobatics?

In Australia, the Australian Pattern Association - APA defines competitive requirements, judging criteria, and contest administration for events. Other countries have similar governing bodies, but the international class, FAI, is governed by the participating countries who are members of the CIAM or Federation Aeronautique Internationale. At a state level, the Victorian Pattern Association is in charge of the local scene and of promoting local contests and events.

*Is there a "Special Interest Group - SIG" for precision aerobatics?

The APA is the designated and recognised SIG for Australia. The MAAA has delegated responsibility for the coordination of national events, rules changes, and contest
organizing/planning to this SIG.

Adapted by Fernando Monge from an article by Bob Pastorello