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Achievement Awards Program Revised

By Rich Stowell, MCFI-A

The IAC Board of Directors has unanimously approved a proposal submitted by Rich Stowell to facilitate greater participation in the IAC Achievement Awards Program. Achievement Awards were conceived in 1970 to promote and advance sport aerobatics by providing definite goals that pilots can work toward as they increase their proficiency in aerobatics. The awards aren’t easy to achieve and a high level of skill is required; the awards, however, are certainly within the reach of every pilot.

Smooth Awards in particular offer the mechanism by which competition and non-competition pilots alike can be recognized for various levels of aerobatic proficiency outside of the competition arena. Previously, Smooth Awards could only be earned “by flying a designated set of figures in front of a judge listed on the current IAC Approved Judges list” to a grade of 5.0 or better.

Under the new criteria, Smooth Awards in the Primary, Sportsman, and Intermediate categories can now be earned one of two ways:

  1. By flying the designated figures in front of a judge listed on the current IAC Approved Judges list to a grade of at least 5.0; or,
  2. By flying the designated figures with a Grading Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) in the aircraft. The Grading CFI must:
    1. Be an FAA CFI;
    2. Be a current IAC member; and
    3. Possess an IAC Achievement Award (Smooth or Stars) that is at least two categories higher than the Smooth Award being sought, as shown in the following table:

Smooth Award Sought by the Applicant:




Minimum Award Achieved by the Grading CFI:





For Advanced and Unlimited Smooth awards, the designated sets of figures must still be performed in front of a current IAC judge.

Rationale and Benefits
Although specific point grades for aerobatic maneuvers are predicated on what ground-based judges observe and not on the perception from the cockpit, a CFI who is a current IAC member, and who has also earned an Achievement Award (Smooth or Stars) that is at least two categories above the Smooth Award being sought, is capable of determining whether or not a figure would at least earn a qualifying score in front of judge. But Grading CFIs are not authorized to assign point grades to maneuvers; instead, Grading CFIs can only evaluate maneuvers as qualifying or not.

This new criteria will increase the number of individuals who are available to qualify applicants for Smooth Awards in the most popular aerobatic categories. The new criteria will also simplify the logistics behind earning Smooth Awards for many applicants. According to Achievement Awards Program Chair Lorrie Penner, “IAC is excited about the new criteria. This could provide the impetus for more aerobatic instructors to earn Achievement Awards themselves so they can promote and administer Smooth Awards directly to their students.” She added, “The Grading CFI alternative could prove especially beneficial in areas where access to approved judges and/or locations for judging are limited.”

How to Complete a Smooth Award Application

Grading CFIs are required to fill out Smooth Award application forms as follows:

Grade Judge’s Name & IAC # I
Q John Instructor, CFI 00000, X-YY 999

“Q” stands for Qualifying.

Note: Provided the maneuver indeed qualifies, this is the only grade a Grading CFI can enter on an Achievement Award application form.

“John Instructor, CFI” is the Grading CFI’s name and designation.

“00000” is the Grading CFI’s IAC number.

“X” is the Grading CFI’s own achievement award level, either:

I = Intermediate

A = Advanced

U = Unlimited

“YY” is the type of award achieved by the Grading CFI, either:

SM = Smooth

ST = Stars

“999” is the Grading CFI’s corresponding Achievement Award number as published on the IAC website.


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