Saturday, December 12, 2009

African Bush Flying Course

I received an email from a guy named Eric asking if I'd like to travel to Africa with him and his crew to be a student in CC Pocock's BUSH AIR flying course....what a dream come true! The reason that I became involved in aviation was because I always hoped to become a bush pilot one day...this was my first opportunity to chase that dream since I became involved in Aviation! I used to train with Rolf Engelhard in Prescott, AZ training to land in the desert and fly in the I could take that dream to the next level!

My trip to Africa started out with meeting Eric and Dennis, the camera men who invited me take part in creating a television show on a bush pilot named CC Pocock. CC spends his days teaching pilots how to fly in the lower (slow) edge of their aircraft's envelope and teaching them how to land and take off from seemingly impossible landing areas in the wild African bush! CC is also involved in a vehicle hijacking and theft program where he chases down stolen cars from the air!

Upon arrival in Johannesburg we drove late into the night to make our way to CC's home...needless to say, driving at night through South Africa may have been the most exciting portion of our trek! There are plenty of cars with no headlights or tail lights driving along un-marked roads with no street lights or reflectors! There was a stunning lightning storm going into the night creating an absolutely amazing light show in the distant African sky!

At CC's home we drove up his dirt driveway that we were lucky to get down without a 4WD!! We saw several monkeys running playfully in front of us and looking curiously at the 4 strangers driving along "their" road. Along one side of us there was a jungle of beautiful trees and bushes filled with colorful birds and wild animals...along our other side was a tall electric fence built by CC to keep wild animals and un-expected guests off of the runway. The gates were open for us (don't worry, we locked them behind us) and we were greeted by CC in his pj's on the front porch.

CC's home is is the pilot's ultimate dream! Located in the Barberton Vally of South Africa, surrounded by beautiful mountains and not far from the famous Kruger National Park (Game Range) CC built his home with a wrap around deck, hot tub looking out on his creek that he dammed up for water and bar/kitchen filled with old African artifacts. The bedrooms are overlooking his hangar and airplane which then looks out to his private grass strip airfield...everything that a pilot could ever dream! CC built 2 extra bed rooms and a bathroom before our arrival so that we would have a place to that is SERIOUSLY good customer service! Oh, and did I mention what an amazing cook CC is??? He love's to BBQ! Look at that fire :)

Flying with CC in South Africa was a great experience! We flew through the mountains surrounding the Barberton Valley in South Africa and landed in remote mountain strips and dirt roads in the African bush. Our first mountain landing brought some real excitement when a thunderstorm came in from behind the hills on a one way in, one way out landing and changed our wind direction. We took off and used everything we could to climb out and get home quickly and safely. CC's aircraft that we flew in is appropriately named "Bush Air 1" and is a heavily modified Cessna 172 (go figure!)

At one point during the trip we did a re-enactment of a car hijacking in which CC chased down the car head on with his Cessna while a helicopter helped to round them up. The guys in the car had guns shooting at CC from the ground!! The re-enactment was a lot of fun, we chased down the cars with the planes and in the process accidentally scared a few actual thieves out of the bush who were steeling copper wire! I guess that the cars with guns and sirens and helicopters over head made them think the were getting busted!

I also got to go for a sky dive out of CC's Bush Air 1 and check out a crocadile farm!! Each morning I went for a run up and down the runway (that is unless we were starting flying at 4am) and found a scorpion!!

All in all it was an extremely fun experience and it was good to know that the skills that we were practicing could be put to use in an emergency situation where everyone (including the airplane) could go home safely at the end of the day...just a little sun burned! I highly suggest CC's Bush Air school in South Africa to anyone interested in either Bush Flying or advancing your skills to become a safer and more competent pilot in the face of emergency situations. Not to mention we made a bunch of great new friends!!

When Denis and Eric put together the show on our trip I will try to post it so that everyone can see video of our great adventure!!

CYA next time,

Melissa Pemberton
Scroll down to see more scenic shots of the crocodile canyon, elephants from above and more pics from Africa!!
P.S. You will have to ask CC what his nick name stands for if you want to know!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Bush Flying in Africa

We just had a beautiful Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh, PA with my family and I am getting ready to leave for South Africa this afternoon. I will be flying with 'CC' ( and filming a pilot for a new TV show. We will have a video to post when we get back home! Air safari's, off field landings and more! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WAC, Europe shows, Ca Capital and Fleet Week

Hi everyone! Unfortunately due to bad weather we were only able to fly half of the programs at the World Championships and had about 7 days of no flying. It was still hosted beautifully by the Brits and they had excellent hospitality. I was able to meet teams from all over the world including 2 girls from the french team who are my age, this was a first for me! I hope to return next year for the European Championships.

The Extra300s that I was flying belongs to Alex and Martina Stegner who run a flight school in Augsburg Germany. The plane did well with how much training we all did in it! I was very happy to get back home to my Edge though :-)

I returned home for the CA Capital Airshow in Sacramento where we had crowds easily breaking the 100,000 mark! Not bad for a cloudy day. The clouds set in and cool us down from around 110 degrees to the high 70's. There was a bit of lightning off in the distance, even a little grass fire started by one bolt but the weather directly over the airport remained clear for most of the day and we were able to get through all of the aerobatic displays including me, the F-22, the Thunderbirds, Tim Webber, Tim Decker, Dan Buchanan, Kent Pietch, The Patriots and many more! I can't wait to return again next year!

After the show I was straight back to Europe to pick up the good little Extra from Germany to take to the Sanicole Airshow in Belgium. We had an amazing event there! I was happy to make it after waiting for a few days in the clouds before I was able to transport the plane to the show. Sanicole is a small airfield just West of Brussels. The Airshow was put on at the same time as the annual Tiger Meet. If you don't know anything about the Tiger Meet's I suggest googling it, they are amazing! From all different countries the military pilots with a Tiger in their badge get together to train and we had the privelage of having them at the show. For my first European airshow I was very impressed and I think that it will be a tough one to beat! I'll be back in 2011 for sure!

From Sanicole I headed to Budapest to meet with the Aviatrix Magazine people to discuss an event they are planning for next year. Every year Europe names a center of culture and Pecs, Hungary won that honor for 2010. To start off the festivities I will be performing a skydive and an aerobatic display for an all Women's Aviation Day at their local airport! I can't wait! Along with this event they will be launching the Aviatrix Magazine which they have asked me to be the face of! A lot of exciting things happening in Europe.

I'm finally back home after a canceled United Flight and I'm starting to prepare for Fleet Week in San Francisco this weekend. I hope to see some friends and fans out there!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

World Aerobatic Championships

The World Aerobatic Championships are held every two years and bring together the best aerobatic pilots in the world. The Championships last 10 days as pilots battle it out for the top titles in air sport. Silverstone Circuit in Britain will host the 25th FAI World Aerobatic Championship in 2009

The Championships include two separate competitions, the Technical Championship and the Freestyle Championship.

Technical Championship

The first is called the 'Technical' contest and involves flying a series of aerobatic figures as accurately as possible, the emphasis is on precision and to win this contest a pilot has to fly very complex aerobatic manoeuvres better than any of the other pilots. There are up to four 'rounds' in this contest, so most pilots will fly four aerobatic sequences during the contest. In each sequence the individual figures flown are geometrically defined and drawn from the internationally agreed Aresti Catalogue system.

Qualification Round: Known Programme

All pilots fly the same sequence and will have practiced flying the sequence before the contest. Pilots have to fly the sequence of figures accurately, in the correct order, in the specified direction, in a small area of sky and without stopping! A safe flight in this round qualifies the pilot to participate in the remainder of the competition, but this round does not count towards the final result. The World Championship is a very difficult contest, so pilots have to prove that they are good enough to fly in the contest!

Round 1: Free Programme

In the 'Free' programme each pilot flies a sequence that (s)he has composed him/herself. The manoeuvres flown must demonstrate a high level of technical difficulty and a wide variety of flying techniques. The Free programmes are designed by each pilot to suite his/her own preferences and the capabilities of their specific aircraft type.

Round 2 and 3: Unknown Programmes

Each pilot will then fly two 'Unknown' sequences. These 'unknowns' are composed from figures submitted by the competing countries and are flown without practice. Each nation will try to fox the others' pilots by choosing figures difficult to fly well at the first attempt. The Unknowns are a severe test of pilot skill and the Championship can easily be lost if a pilot executes just one figure incorrectly.

The two 'Unknown' sequences, revealed to contestants only when the previous sequences have been completed, will often be very complex and each pilot's ability to execute these requirements without practice will determine how well (s)he scores.

At every contest, pilots can be observed with hands in the air, walking backwards, or holding an imaginary stick, studying a piece of paper and making sudden turns reminiscent of a ballet dancer. This is known as 'walking the sequence' and is a vital part of the pre-flight mental rehearsal they must make if they are to succeed.

Pilots can win individual medals, or team medals. Countries need three pilots in the competition to be counted towards the team results. Aerobatics is unusual in the world of sport, because men and women compete equally in the battle to win the world title the overall winner of the Technical Championship is called the World Aerobatic Champion, a title that could be won by a man or a woman.

The Freestyle Championship

This flight is much more like airshow flying each flight is very different and flown with smoke and music. The pilots invent their own display sequences that last between 3½ and 4 minutes, using any combination of manoeuvres - anything goes! The only limit is the pilot's skill and imagination. Each performance is judged for technical and artistic merit.

It is a tremendously exciting programme to watch, with aircraft gyrating and tumbling in ways that seem quite impossible to the spectator.

Programme of Events for 2009

20th-28th August Classic Contest Flights. Flying between 0900 and 2000 depending on weather.

Saturday 29th August Freestyle Championship Flights. Airshow and Closing Ceremony. 1300 to 2000 depending on weather.

Sunday 30th August Departures Only

Monday 17th August Judging teams arrive Tuesday 18th August CIVA Judging School Arrivals & Practice Jury Meeting (pm) Teams arrive & register. No landings at Silverstone before 0900 on 18th.

All contest officials to be on site on the 18th. These two days will be used to test the contest systems (judging set-up, video, scoring and aeroplane tracking system).

Wednesday 19th August Arrivals & Practice

Judges Briefing (am) 1700 Main Briefing at Silverstone 2000 Opening ceremony at the Hotel

20th August - 28th August Flying days for Programmes Q, 1, 2 and 3

Daily Briefing 0800

Flying between 0900 and 1830 Saturday 29th August Programme 4

End of flying at 1700 (estimated) Contest Dinner and Closing Ceremony at 20000 Sunday 30th August Departures only All departures by 1100

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Hello and welcome to Melissa Aerobatics!

Melissa's air show routine is a high energy and action packed display of Unlimited Aerobatics in the Edge540 Aircraft. The show will give your audience everything from the thrill of gyroscopic maneuvers to the extremely complex and technical maneuvers learned through competition. Melissa believes that mastering the skills of both competition and air shows will make her the most skilled and safe pilot that she can be. You will be provided with a full and entertaining display for every type of audience.

Melissa views each venue as a new palate where she can create a beautiful painting in the sky to please the eyes, ears and imaginations of all. As a young female in aerobatics, Melissa attracts the harder to reach audiences. The younger viewers can relate to her and be encouraged to pursue their own dreams of aviation!

"Melissa is a very impressive (and attractive) young lady! She puts on a great show too!"
~Spectator Fleet Week 2008

The Audience is the most important part of any show and our goal is to leave them wanting to come back for more next year!

Thank you for considering our show. Melissa Aerobatics is based in San Francisco, California. Any show within' 300 nautical miles is considered to be local and I will not charge any travel fees. Please visit the ICAS website and view our profile to download contracts and more.

We hope that Melissa Aerobatics is right for you!