The buzz area residents and visitors hear overhead in the Spencer area this weekend is nothing to be concerned about. Planes will be swooping, looping and circling the skies as part of an air skills contest.
A group of some of the region's most talented pilots will begin arriving in Clay County Friday to take part in the Doug Yost Challenge conducted by the International Aerobatic Club Chapter 78 out of Minnesota.
This year marks the third straight year the Spencer Municipal Airport has hosted the air manuevering challege after previous stops in Cumberland, Wis. and Albert Lea, Minn.
So why is Spencer the new site?
"The wide open spaces here in Iowa," answered Justin Hickson, contest director.
Named for Doug Yost, who perished in a plane crash nearly a decade ago, the challenge pits top pilots in various air skill competitions.
"There are a couple of airshow performers involved but this is not an airshow," Hickson stressed.
"These pilots come from different walks of life. Farmers to pilots to aeronautical engineers to doctors. They will come from all over the area. We've even got one pilot coming from California," Hickson said.
Twenty pilots in all are expected to take the challenge which will be broken into three stages and involve five levels with judges conducting the scoring.
Aerobatic flight is flight that explores all dimensions of the air and and the limits of performance of an airplane. The air is a three-dimensional environment and aerobatic flight explores the vertical as well as horizontal flight paths through the air. Suitable constructed airplanes can spin, tumble, slide, roll, loop, and fly through a wide range of airspeeds. Aerobatic pilots simply enjoy the challenge, and the beauty of flying their airplanes through the full range of maneuvers of which they are capable.
Following some tune-ups and test flights today, the action will begin at around 8 a.m. Saturday and continue all day, picking up again Sunday at 8 a.m. and wrapping up by 1 p.m.
The contest is broken into three stages. First round contestants will fly a course with manuevers they've been allowed to prepare for. Second round is freestyle where the pilots will present a routine they designed for themselves with specific elements incorporated as determined by the contest coordinators. The final round is unknown. Pilots will receive a flight pattern with specific requirements shortly before they are asked to fly it.
"It's the skill of the pilot and the skill of the airplane," Hickson said.
Hickson also encouraged area residents to come out and enjoy the skills on display.
"They are more than welcome to come out to airport, watch from the parking lot, or come by and ask questions of pilots as long as they aren't preparing to fly," Hickson said.