Archery Practice and Moving Objects With No Real Reference Points

As a young man learning to fly, one of the most challenging things I did to hone my skills as an aviator was to cut toilet paper in the sky. Yes, toilet paper. Yah, I suppose that sounds funny, “don’t cut the cheese too,” or “what ever happened to merely squeezing the Charmin?” Okay but jokes aside, this maneuver was much more difficult than you might think actually. Let me explain how it works.

First, you get up at about 3000 feet AGL or more, preferably in a practice area where there are no buildings, or city streets nearby, someplace where if the engine quits you can find a place to land. Next, you get the wings straight and level, and if you have a low wing aircraft, you turn the aircraft inverted, slightly open the canopy, unroll the first 10 feet of toilet paper (holding it like a ball in your hand), and then you throw it all straight down as hard as you can so it clears the vertical stabilizer. Now you are ready.

As the toilet paper roll streams down slowly towards the earth, you try to cut it with the wings as many times as you can before it hits the ground. One strategy I used to use was to try to cut the top and the bottom over and over again, but eventually you can’t turn inside of the remaining length of the toilet paper stream. Then you have to start doing “S-turns” or lazy eights, or hammerheads. It’s quite difficult because there are often no points of reference, you have to improvise, and your mind has to try to work out the details. The toilet paper is in 3-D space, and if you are cutting it while flying at a downward angle you can use the ground points as a reference, but not when you’re cutting it laterally, or at a high angle of attack.

Now then, the other day I was out with a friend shooting his high-tech archery bows at little red balloons. He would launch the red balloons, and then we’d try to hit them in the air, in midflight. Now realize they are slightly moving with the wind, in a somewhat free-flowing fashion, but not exactly a completely predictable flight pattern as they move upward. Now you can see the problem, as you are trying to shoot from the ground up into the sky with no reference points. Interestingly enough I was able to use some of my judgment skills that I learned when I was a young man practicing my aeronautical abilities to help me with this.

If you want to learn to be a better archer, I can think of no other way to practice your skills of hitting moving targets and to use floating balloons. Just make sure there’s nothing nearby, because when those arrows are shot they keep going. So you need a lot of open space. Next week, we are going to go out with another friend who has some old RC Model Aircraft and see if we can shoot down some UAVs or model drones, wish us luck. Please consider all this and think on it.

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