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Friday, 30 August 2013 00:00

Ladislav Bezak (Lomcovák) Featured

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Ladislav Bezak

Ladislav Bezák, a 1960s Czechoslovakian aerobatic pilot, is known in the world of aerobatics for being the first pilot to win the first world aerobatic championship held in Bratislava in September of 1960, and for being the creator of one of the most amazing and innovative maneuvers of those times; a manuever which, to this day, continues to be utilized by the best Freestyle pilots: the Lomcovák.


The rules of that championship were very different from the current regulations of the world championship. For example, in the Free programs of that era, pilots were allowed to incorporate a brutal 30 figures in the sequences, 5 flat spin revolutions at the height of figure 24, and include lines of 70 degrees - compared to the 45 and 90 degree lines used today.

In that championship Ladislav Bezák, member of the Czechoslovakian team and flying a Zlin 526, performed quite an innovative and daring Free program for that era, as it included completely new maneuvers, never-before-seen in an international competition.   A kind of rotating and "uncontrolled" maneuver which, over the years, has come to be known as the Lomcovák; and a vertical auto-rotation maneuver, the flat spin.

In 1960, no one knew what a Lomcovák was, much less the difference between a gyroscopic Lomcovák and a conical gyroscopic Lomcovák. Both manuevers were included in his program. In the gyroscopic Lomcovák (in the main figure), the plane was situated at a 45 degree line while outlining a parabola at almost zero Gs, while somersaulting.  In the conical gyroscope, the plane made a vertical line, and upon applying the right foot with right aileron and depth forward, the plane came into a rapid exterior, making two interior loops.

Explanation of the Lomcovák for Ladislav Bezek

After Ladislav gave a basic explanation on the ground, the judges - who had neither seen a flat spin nor understood how differed from a normal spin - took notes about important elements; for example, that the elevator pointed downwards and that the engine was at full power during the execution of the manuever. Above all, they specified that the maneuver should be performed at a height of less than 500m (very low, considering the plane had to make 5 revolutions) to be visible to all the judges.

Before these phenomenal and innovative figures inspired and created by Ladislav Bezák, the judges evaluated his impressive flight and gave him the highest score, proclaiming him the best pilot of the first world aerobatic championship. 

Some months after the championship these figures were erroneously declared "uncontrolled maneuvers," primarily because of individuals who were reticent to accept an advance in the world of aerobatics, and to a lesser degree, because the maneuvers were introduced by young pilots like Ladislav. However, he would try to show that these maneuvers were being carried out in a controlled manner in each moment. 

 1st WAC 1960 Podium

At that time, variations of the Lomcovák were put into practice by civil authorities to investigate the G-loads produced in different planes, as well as the angular velocity of the plane, which seemed incredible.  During the investigation, which Ladislav participated in, he lost the propeller during one of these maneuvers precisely because it was impossible to convince anyone of the very high angular velocity that the plane experienced and the gyroscopic effects involved.  After 6 propellers were lost (Czechoslovakia, England, Poland, Germany), it became clear that the pilots were to respect certain limitations like beginning the maneuver 60 degrees above the horizon, having a velocity under 100kt with 25% power, using the opposite rudder before rotating (to increase the kinetic angular rotation speed), and then beginning the exterior snap roll.

In 1964, after some slight modifications to the same sequence utilized in the world championship, he finished second behind the Spanish Tomás Castaño, during the 3rd world aerobatic championship, held in Bilbao. These modifications to the figures were necessary because of the calm wind and the high temperatures. According to writer Neil Williams, championship attendee and author of the book Aerobatics, Ladislav's sequence affirmed that it was virtually impossible to fly that program without an excellent understanding of ballistic aerobatic flight and a plane with less than 200 cv weighing 1000 lbs, and staying inside the box. Zlin Chief of Design, also an attendee of the championships, was convinced the plane would be destroyed if he tried to fly the sequence he had designed. But he was wrong.    The historic reason was that the plane he was flying at that time had 168 cv and was equipped with a special wood propellor weighing 519Kg. It also included certain modifications: diferent elevator geometry and distinct direction, a shorter wingspan, flat wing tips, and the inclusion of a fuel and oil tank only - no battery, starter, flaps, carburetor heating, or brakes. 

For this reason, the plane was categorized as experimental by the Czechoslovakian authorities, benefitting from some excellent performances at low speeds, and being able to fly high Gs in a safe way outside of the structural limits of the plane.

Ladislav sequence translated to the Aresti system

Over 50 years have passed since the Lomcovák was introduced for the first time, and the controversy it generated to this day continues to persist among many pilots.  According to Ladislav, "for some, the Lomcovák belongs to the family of uncontrolled maneuvers, and unfortunately, they are unable to perform it correctly, possibly because no one has explained it to them appropriately."  On the other hand, there are other pilots, just a few to be true, who fly gyroscopic variations of Lomcovák spectacularly."

There is no doubt that Ladislav was an innovator in aerobatics, being a pioneer in the eyes of many in performing these initially impossible maneuvers and changing the perception and limits of the sport in that era.  People like him sought to go beyond -  adventuring to the unknown despite sometimes being alone -  and they were responsible for establishing the pillars and fundamentals of a sport which, over the years, has become one of the most spectacular in the world.

Ladislav Bezac with his Zlin 526


The origin of the word "Lomcovák" and its meaning has different interpretations. According to Ladislav, the public has been responsible for adopting this word, interpreting the origin of the word in its own way, and giving it an amusing meaning.

In France, Switzerland, and other European countries, Ladislav was known as "L'homme slovaque." At a 1962 exhibition in Cannes at which Ladislav performed, his sister was present and they asked her what her brother was doing. Not knowing the language, she simply repeated what she had heard: "Lommesolovak."

For the Americans, the word took on the meaning "headache" after an interview with a mechanic and another Czech pilot. When they were asked what they were doing in that moment, they responded, "What, you hard head, don't you know what a Lomcovák is? The response was poorly interpreted and the expression "wood head" was born, over time becoming "headache" for Americans.

The word also has a significance in Moravia, where normally it is used to describe the rotating movements of someone who has drunk too much. Moravia is a region known for the "Jelinek Slivovitz," a traditional Czechoslovak alcohol.  "Lomcovák" refers to drinking a glass of slivovitz, and it is also used humourously to describe when someone shakes. 

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