Pilots who are bored of flying upright might be inspired to take a lesson from Harv’s Air Chief Flight Instructor Luke Penner.
The Steinbach pilot was the best Canadian at the 15th Advanced Aerobatic World Championships in Las Vegas. He was also captain of Team Canada during his first World Championships.
Canada placed fourth behind France, Romagna and the United States.
It was the first time the Canadians had flown before these judges, with seven of the eight coming from Europe, according to Penner. He said the different scoring system may have affected scores, with what he described as a “bad decision” on his penalty for flying too low dropping him 10 places and leaving him in 20th place. out of 49 pilots.
“I have been competing for eight years now and have never had to suffer a minor penalty,” he noted, adding that he has learned some things for future events.
There are also government-funded training courses in France and Romania, which have already hosted Worlds.
“Whereas here in North America, it’s kind of a melee. Everyone tends to own their own plane individually. And it’s a lot harder to get coaching,” Penner said.
“All things considered, we did what I expected.”
While Penner is used to flying against his fellow Canadians, the sense of camaraderie took over in Vegas.
“I’ve known these guys for a really long time, ever since I’ve been playing this sport,” Penner said.
“It was good last year, we had a team mentality, and in previous years I was trying to beat these guys and trying to beat them. It’s different because now the sharing of information is much more important,” he explained.
The sport is pretty collaborative, but being part of Team Canada took it to a whole new level, according to Penner. He said the bond stood out between the teams.
And these pilots from 17 other countries got to know them well in their tent.
“Team Canada seemed to be the place people wanted to be the most. We had sort of the most fun, most open, most inclusive tent. That was the kind of vibe we were trying to create, just relaxed, friendly and welcoming,” Penner said.
Penner was able to enjoy the whole experience. He visited the new Sphere attraction and flew over incredible sights, getting a unique perspective above the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley on the way to the competition.
The return was another story. Needing to return to Steinbach for his daily job as an instructor, Penner encountered bad weather and left his prized plane at Thief River Falls, Minnesota. His wife came to pick him up, but he planned to take a ride with his pilot brother to pick him up.
Penner plans to take the next step onto the world stage by aiming for the highest level of aerobatics competition: unlimited. It would be the first Canadian team at this level, he said.
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