Aerobatic Pilots Compete For World Championship

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The skies above Lakeland, Fla., will be filled with tumbling airplanes this week, as some of the world's best pilots gather to compete in the World Aerobatic Championships. The 10-day event, starting Wednesday, is an intense affair. It opens with a night air show and closes with fireworks, but otherwise the schedule is focused on tough, competitive flying. Fifty-four pilots from 12 countries will compete, and titles will go to individual men and women as well as national teams. Pilots are judged on a series of compulsory and freestyle flights. One flight is known and practiced before the competition. Another flight is unknown to the competitor until hours before the pilot takes flight. The third flight tests a pilot's skill to design and fly a program that is both technically challenging and artistically appealing. In the bios of each pilot provided by EAA, a few competitors say they just want to fly their best and help the team, but at least three express their heartfelt desire to be World Champion -- so it's sure to be a hard-fought and interesting contest. U.S. team members include: Steve Andelin, Newport Beach, Calif.; Robert Armstrong, Athens, Ga.; Kirby Chambliss, Phoenix, Ariz.; Chandy Clanton, Lincoln, Neb.; Vicki Cruse, Santa Paula, Calif.; Julie Mangold, Apple Valley, Calif.; Mike Mangold, Apple Valley, Calif.; David Martin, Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas; Marta Meyer, Quartz Hill, Calif.; and Debby Rihn-Harvey, La Porte, Texas.