Achievement Awards Program Update

by Dave Watson and Britt Lincoln, Achievment Award Program co-chairs

We are very excited to announce a few changes to the Achievement Awards Program, which on the surface may seem minor, but we are hoping this will enable more of you to earn these prestigious awards and add them to your “walls of glory”. We submitted a proposal to the IAC Board at the Fall meeting to streamline the qualification process for Smooth Achievement Awards and our proposal was approved! We hope you are as excited about this as we are and we look forward to seeing many of your Award Applications in our inbox.

Background on Achievement Awards

I know we recently wrote an article explaining the Achievement Awards Program, but here is a quick reminder about Smooth Awards for those of you who may have missed it or who were distracted by the mesmerizing photo of Dave with his Mastery of Flight bling. J Smooth Awards may be earned by flying prescribed figures (for each category) in a non-contest environment. Candidates can earn Smooth Awards by one of two methods. Method A: having the prescribed figures judged by an IAC judge from the ground (for example at a critique day), or by Method B: scored by the grading judge as an occupant in the aircraft (only allowed for Primary, Sportsman and Intermediate Smooth Awards). When being judged from a ground-based IAC judge (Method A), the figures are scored according to the rulebook (0.0 to 10.0) and each figure must receive better than 5.0 to qualify for the award.  When scoring takes place with Method B, the figures can be ‘scored’ by the judge from inside the aircraft as a ‘Grading Observer’ whereby he or she simply determines if the figure flown would have “Qualified” as a 5.0 or better (as if it had been observed from the ground).  Method B cannot be used for qualifying for Advanced or Unlimited Smooth Awards.

According to previous IAC rules, the grading judge for Method B had to possess a FAA CFI rating. Since being a CFI is not a requirement to be a “Safety Pilot” in IAC competitions and does not in any way add to the qualifications of a person to score IAC figures, we felt this requirement was arbitrary and possibly overly burdensome in allowing members to earn Smooth Awards. The IAC Board agreed, so this stipulation has been removed from the criteria for Method B. The updated rule now states that the ‘Grading Observer’ must only be a current IAC member and possess an Achievement Award (Smooth or Star) that is at least one level higher than the one being sought. These two requirements are unchanged from previous requirements. 

Safety is always the priority at the IAC, so please fly only with persons that you know have the skills, physical condition, and training to perform aerobatics safely with you.  We hope this change increases the opportunity for more of you to qualify for the Smooth Achievement Awards. So, as you are preparing for the 2021 season and working with coaches or flying at local critique days, keep the Smooth Awards in mind and use it as a tool to challenge and reward yourself. We love seeing your accomplishments and awarding you with bling! We also like receiving photos of your smiling faces with the awards that you earned! Please share your photos with editor [at] and tag us on Instagram @iachq.

Fall 2020 Update

The Achievement Awards program was pretty active in 2020 despite the drop in the number of contests.  We are happy to report that 38 Pilots earned Smooth and/or Star Awards from March to September 2020. As you can see from the table insert that the majority of the awards were Smooth Awards which we believe is an indicator that IAC pilots are still getting coaching and working with their mentors to safely advance their aerobatic skills. Keep it up!  

Certificates Issued:

Power Primary:          Smooth 7 | Stars 2

Power Sportsman:     Smooth 7 | Stars 1

Power Intermediate:   Smooth 5 | Stars 1

Power Advanced:       Smooth 7 | Stars 0

Power Unlimited:         Smooth 2 | Stars 0

All Five:                      2

All Ten:                       1

Mastery of Flight:        3

Glider: (All categories) 0

Highlights: Aaron McCarton achieved All Five of the Power Smooth Awards, which also qualified him for the ALL TEN POWER.  Eric Lenz-Gauthier qualified for the Unlimited Power Star at Borrego Springs, but he has not yet applied for the award and we have reached out to him to notify him of this power achievement and his previous achievement of Glider Unlimited Star.  We are hopeful of his participation and look forward to adding him to the very short list of pilots that have earned both Power and Glider Unlimited Star Achievement Awards.

For more information about the Achievement awards program and applications for the award including the list of required figures visit Achievement Awards | International Aerobatic Club (