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Free to watch Aerobatic competitors fly at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport

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Amazing young men and women in their flying machines are in Rome this weekend for the International Aerobatic Club’s Southeastern Open competition at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport.

As many as 40 pilots are expected to compete, depending on weather conditions. Ken Lumpkin of Rome, treasurer of the southeastern chapter of the IAC, said pilots are having a tough time getting to Floyd County because of rain along the Mississippi and Alabama coasts.

Pilots from North Carolina, Florida and Minnesota were among those who came in early for some practice sessions Thursday. A number of pilots are planning to use the Rome event as a tune-up for the world competition in Dubnica, Slovakia, in August.

Craig Gifford, from Minneapolis, said he grew up going to air shows with his father and finally got time to actually participate.

Gifford said his hobby is not cheap. “It’s expensive both in terms of personal time investment as well as money,” Gifford said. He qualified for the World Championships at the U.S. Nationals in 2013.

The Southeastern Open, free to the public, is slated to run from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, depending on the weather.

Faith Drewry, from Tallahassee, said she took a stall/spin class and had so much fun spinning she couldn’t stop. This will be her second competition.

Judging resembles the way it’s done for figure skating. Pilots submit a written copy of their routine to the judges who then determine, on an Olympic-style scoring basis, how each pilot carries out his or her routine.

The pilots will compete in primary, sportsman, intermediate, advanced and unlimited categories.

Stan Moye, of Albany, is a past champion in the intermediate competition. He said the advanced pilots are allowed to fly as low as 700 feet and perform snap rolls.

“Half of the challenge is to put yourself in the same brain-body relationship for every flight. That way you can fly consistently,” Moye said. He’s been flying aerobatics for about 10 years.

Representatives from the Historic Fairview/E.S. Brown School restoration project in Cave Spring will be selling a variety of goodies each day.