ACE Committee Member Discusses ICAS' Safety Initiative for Air Show Performers
Safety has always been a vital priority to the International Council of Airshows (ICAS), both for air show performers and air show attendees. The backbone of ICAS’ safety initiatives is the Aerobatic Competency Evaluation (ACE) program. Administered by a seven-member ACE Committee comprised of Greg Poe (acting chairman), Bob Carlton, Bud Granley, Makr Proulx, Gene Soucy, Greg Koontz, and John Mohr, the ACE program sets the standards for evaluating aerobatic competence. In cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada, the ACE program is able to issue a Statement of Aerobatic Competency for air show pilots who perform aerobatics both in U.S. and Canadian air shows.
Established during the late 1980s, the ACE program’s original intention was to merely provide check rides for ICAS members seeking the Statement of Aerobatic Competency; however, in 1992, after a series of discussions between FAA and industry representatives, the FAA issued authorization allowing ICAS and EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) to administer the Aerobatic Competency Evaluation Program. As John Cudahy remarked in a 2004 Aero-News Network article, "The program is essentially based on a single, very logical concept. Experienced air show pilots are better equipped to judge good and bad aerobatic pilots than FAA inspectors with little or no aerobatic experience. The acknowledgement of this basic fact in 1992 has likely saved dozens of lives in the twelve years that have passed since."
That tradition continues today; the ACE program aims at identifying the minimum standards, rules and regulations by which evaluations are conducted, and the necessary qualifications for both ACE evaluators and air show pilots. Aerobatic competency must be renewed each year through completion of both a flight and ground session. In addition to the established flight standards, ACE pilots are expected to follow a Code of Ethics conducting “himself or herself in a manner that reflects on the professionalism of the airshow industry and the integrity of the ACE program.” ICAS estimates that its ACE evaluators are responsible for certifying approximately 90% of today’s aerobatic pilots.
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