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Monday: January 21, 2013

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An early breakfast and Titus started the long but satisfying drive back to campus. Pleased with our efforts and results, pilots completed their flight planning and took off for Gillespie Field. We took advantage of the opportunity to get some air-to-air pictures of Juliet as Steve and Kayla flew down the coast by Morro Rock and Pismo beach. Everyone was home and tied down by 5 o’clock – the last being Titus and the van as they drove on campus, horn honking and hands waiving. People walking around campus could not have known what the all the fuss was about. But 12 pilots and 4 coaches, beaming with pride, were acutely aware of the sacrifice and effort behind the celebration. An honor well-deserved…

The following is a detailed list of individual honors and awards received by our flight team!

The Winners List for PCIFA Regional Competition 2013! 

Power Off Landings: 2nd Place - Dylan Jones
Short-Field Landings: 5th Place - Jenna Sims
8th Place - Kayla Harder
9th Place - Dylan Jones
10th Place - Sean Conlan
IFR Competition: 2nd Place - Michael Elm
Message Drop: 1st Place - Sean Conlan & Dylan Jones
5th Place - Kayla Harder & Jackson Judge
6th Place - Mike Visnovsky & Kayla Harder
7th Place - Kevin Brandt & Jenna Sims
Navigation: 4th Place - Jackson Judge & Kayla Harder
5th Place - Jenna Sims & Kevin Brandt
8th Place - Sean Conlan & Dylan Jones
E6B Event: 10th Place - Jenna Sims
Pre-Flight Event: 6th Place - Kayla Harder
9th Place - Jenna Sims
ACID Event: 7th Place - Mike Viskovsky
Simulator Event 7th Place - Sean Conlan
9th Place - Dylan Jones
10th Place - Blandy Castro
SCAN Event: 6th Place - Dylan Jones

Top Pilot Awards: 

Top Female Pilot - Jenna Sims (2nd year in a row)
Top Female Safety – Jenna Sims (2nd time)
Outstanding Team member – Blandy Castro (Voted by the team)
Red Baron Sportsmanship Award – SDCC Flight Team

School Overall Ranking  Point Total 
ERAU (national championships) 313
SDCC (national championships) 136
MT SAC 115
SJSU 103
CYPRESS 13
USAFA Compete out of regions -
scores not included

Finally... the Results

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You have to understand how tension builds in the room as the awards are announced. Coaches scribble madly on their scorecards, quickly adding up the points to compare the teams. Knowing that only two teams will make it to the National Championships this year – instead of the traditional 3 – seemed to “pressurize” the moment. The ground events are announced first. SDCC’s name is not called very often and we watch as Embry Riddle, San Jose State, and Mt. San Antonio rack up the points. Only the top 10 competitors in each event get points – which when added up, determine rankings of each team.

Our best showing is Dylan Jones – 6th in SCAN, followed by Mike Visnovsky 7th in ACID. Jenna Sims scores in E6b Computer Accuracy (10th) and Sean, Dylan and Blandy earn points in the Simulator.

Coach Titus shakes his head – but says, just wait, I think we did well in flight events. He is correct. Flight Events are double the points for ground events. Tension builds. Dylan scores an all-time high with 2nd place in power-off landings. Two of our pilots score in the top 10. Jenna gets 5th in Short field landings, followed by Kayla, Dylan and Sean who all score in the top 10.

Things are looking up. Coach Steve Geary smiles as the Master of Ceremonies, Captain Frank Maine – announces the Message Drop Winners: Sims & Brandt (7th), Harder & Visnovsky (6th), Judge & Harder (5th) – and finally, Jones and Conlan – First Place! SDCC pretty much sweeps message drop and Dylan (who also flew for the Cypress pilot) take the trophy for first place.

Navigation – one of our stronger events – all 3 teams score. Conlan & Jones (8th), Sims & Brandt (5th), and Judge & Harder (4th).

Ground Simulator event – all 3 of our competitors score points. We are perennially weak in pre-flight, but this time Kayla and Jenna both score. Michael Elm takes second place in the IFR event.

So it is with great honor that we announce the placement of SDCC Hawks Flight Team in the Regional Competition.....drum roll please!......2nd Place!!! 

As a special recognition to team spirit, team cooperation, helpfulness and sportsmanship, SDCC was awarded the Red Baron Team Sportsmanship Award. While this is not the first time SDCC has won this award, it is particularly special because of our desire to stand out as Christian pilots – many whose desire is to become missionary pilots. We were truly blessed by this award representing other schools’ recognition of our Christian testimony.

For the first time in its history, SDCC Hawks Flight Team took 2nd place and earned a bid to Nationals for the 5th consecutive year! We could not be more proud of our pilots and the many financial supporters that made this dream a reality! To the team members we could not afford to take with us – thank you too, for without your support we could not enjoy the success we earned together. Thank you!

The Moment We Are All Waiting For... The Envelope Please...

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The Sunday evening Awards Banquet was held at the Salinas Sports Complex. By now the judges have painstakingly gone over all the results and created an awards list. The Chief Judge Jared Testa was the best. San Jose State’s Robert Boykin was amazing. The entire competition went off without a hitch and we are so appreciative of the tremendous effort put on by SJSU to host the PCIFA regionals.

One of the highlights of the awards is the guest speaker. Some of the best have been Rod Machado (SDCC 2009), Steve Hinton (Mt SAC 2010) and this year we were treated to a most excellent and inspiring keynote speaker, Sean D. Tucker (World Famous Aerobatic Pilot). Sean D. Tucker performs for us each year at the Miramar Blue Angels Show and is home-based at the Salinas Airport. His videos of loops, spins, lomcevaks, and especially the one of an emergency landing he made after his propeller came off during an inverted spin let all our pilots understand the meaning of grace under pressure…

Sunday: January 20, 2013

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The day we have all been waiting for! Our last technical day of competition was Saturday with the exception of two events. Because SJSU has to host the event in Salinas – about a 1.5 hour drive from their campus, there are no flight simulators nearby for competition. Blandy Castro, Dylan Jones and Sean Conlan drove with the Mt. San Antonio College team for the Ground Simulator Competition at the SJSU campus.

Meanwhile, back at Salinas, Michael Elm and his IFR event judge were busy flying up to the Watsonville airport to shoot approaches, holding, and other instrument-related maneuvers as a part of the final flying portion of competition. Both events were finished by noon as the rest of the team took time for praise and worship at Salinas Valley Community Church. We thanked God for such great weather and for the amazing team we were able to bring to Regionals. Thanks to Pastor Mark Simmons and the SVCC for the generous use of their vehicle during our stay as we often cannot afford to compete without the help of local churches.

Saturday: January 19, 2013

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Until today, the wind has been brisk in the morning, tapering to light and variable by mid morning. All of our landing practices have been in light winds. Not today. The wind is fierce and cold. Wind chill in the 30’s. But our determination is strong! Plane Captains are responsible for the readiness of our aircraft. Josh Quisenberry (91E), Alexander Closs (68Fox) and MikeVisnovsky (96Juliet) were hard at work preparing our competition aircraft for the landing event.

Despite challenging conditions, our pilots, with great skill and determination, consistently landed in the competition "box" (landing zone) while the coaches and team watched from the ramp. The judges unwisely chose to begin the event with “power-off” spot landings. Power off landings require pilots to close their throttle abeam the landing line on downwind – and glide without using power – to land on a line in the middle of a 300-foot landing “box.” With winds gusting to 22 knots, it would have been better to give pilots a feel for the wind by starting with “Short-field” spot landings – which allow pilots to use engine power on their approach. Despite the winds, and thanks to the influence of our new coach, Commander Sean Brennan’s expert landing advice, our pilots were in a far better position to judge their pattern techniques. We believe by adding Sean’s “science” – gained from many years as a Landing Signal Officer (LSO) on aircraft carriers - our landings are more predictably consistent.

Cypress College has a small aviation program in Orange County. They don’t have any airplanes, but they have a flight team. When they needed a plane and pilot to fly their competitor in the message drop event, Dylan Jones quickly volunteered. SDCC ground crews jumped at the opportunity to help and completed a successful message drop flight for them!

Our 5 message drop teams appeared to do well compared to other teams. We wouldn’t find out how well until Sunday night’s awards banquet. Saturday was a busy day. Each night we meet around the dinner table (tonight was Chevy's Mexican Restaurant) and debrief the day's events. It's a great time to relax and share stories from an amazingly successful day!

As we were sitting down for dinner, the parent of an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University competitor came by our table to share a text from his son. It said, “SDCC – I love those guys!” He was a Christian student at ERAU – but in keeping with our goal to be a beacon for Christ to our secular school opponents – his note was proof positive that our tightly-knit team had accomplished it’s goal!

Friday: January 18, 2013

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The day dawns clear, bright and cold. There is a breeze, but it dies down by mid-day. A nearly perfect day in all respects, our pilots are excited for the competition to begin. The Navigation Event was scheduled today and it proves each year to be an important event for our pilots and navigators, since we consistently score points in this event. Each team is allowed 3 competitors. Jackson and Kayla, Jenna and Kevin, and Sean and Dylan were our 3 teams. After their hour-long flights, we were pleased to hear that their planning and execution were almost flawless!

In the Nav event, pilots are given latitude/longitude coordinates and 30 minutes to plan time, speed, distance, headings, wind and fuel for their route while the copilot pre-flights the plane. When the flights are complete, estimated time enroute and estimated fuel are compared to actual time and fuel. Pilots win or lose by a few seconds or a few tenths of a gallon in their hour-long flights. Our pilots competed in ground events including Pre-Flight (Jenna, Kayla & Bryanna), Computer Accuracy (Jenna, Bryanna, Sean, Michael, and Alexander) and SCAN – Simulated Comprehensive Air Navigation (Dylan, Bryanna, Mike, Kayla & Alexander).

Traditionally, all the teams get together for a BBQ Friday night. It is our first official chance to get to know pilots and coaches from other teams and to fellowship with them. We find that each year our respect and appreciation for the competitors from our “rival” colleges increases with the time we spend with them. It gets easier to cheer for the winners when you win an event and understand what it took to get there…

Thursday: January 17, 2013

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First official day of competition! Well...sort of! Our morning started with scheduled landing practice. This practice requires pilots to fly in heats of 4 aircraft each, simulating actual competition. The types of spot-landings alternate between power off and power on - every half hour. Scheduled practice is limited with pilots only receiving 6 landings each, hence our strategy to get as much practice as possible in the days before. The official competition kicked off with our Aircraft Identification Event (ACID) in the main hangar this evening! Each team is allowed 5 competitors. Pictures of unique aircraft are displayed for 3 seconds and pilots have 5 seconds to ID the aircraft, it’s nickname, and manufacturer. Completely exhausted from an intense training schedule, the team ordered pizza for dinner and called it an early night in preparation for a full day of competition in the morning!

Wednesday: January 16, 2013

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With competition starting Thursday evening, we needed to have a strong practice day. Every pilot got a chance to practice power off and short field spot landings on Rwy 08 using the 300-foot long “landing box” for precision spot landings in their respective aircraft. We left 96 Juliet to continue landings at KSNS while 91E and 79MR flew 8 miles to the Marina Airport (KOAR the former Fort Ord airport) to practice Message Drop.

It is difficult to find places to practice the MD event. Most airports are too busy to allow planes to fly 100mph at 200 feet above the ground and drop the streamer-boxes on ground targets. Consequently most teams probably do not practice the event much. We have always done well – mostly because we practice and strategerize. Using both aircraft, we flew numerous sorties and zeroed in on accuracy. Unfortunately we had to cut our practice short when the starter-shaft on 79MR (Coach Breslin’s TR-182) sheared. We had to leave the plane at Marina until new parts could be ordered and installed a couple days later. The day ended with another late-evening dinner at the Bear Paw!

Tuesday: January 15, 2013

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Tuesday morning dawned bright and cold. We practiced spot landings and Navigation while waiting for our teammates to arrive. Colonel Geary and Kayla arrived first after fuel stop in Juliet. Head Coach and Flight Team Advisor, Captain Denny Breslin, Flight Team Captain Dylan Jones, and Coach, Captain Jill Geary, landed just after dark in 79MR. The ground event competitors had opportunity to take multiple practice tests. We met at the Bear Paw restaurant for a team meal, debrief the day's accomplishments, and to thank God for the safe arrival of our pilots and the continued beautiful weather!

Monday: January 14, 2013

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Following months of planning, fund-raising and training, the first to leave early Monday morning, were Coach Titus Dinkins and six of our team that were not flying to Salinas. They drove 7 hours in our SDCC Van. God provided such amazing weather for the ferry flights from San Diego to Salinas. Mike Elm and Jenna Sims led the pack of 4 aircraft in N5291E. Alexander Closs and Sean Conlan flew the Piper Archer, N168F. Kayla Harder and Col Steve Geary were to follow but decided to wait until Tuesday while a maintenance repair on our newest competition aircraft Cessna 96J ("Juliet") was fixed. Each aircraft flew over 4 hours to get to Salinas, with a stop in Camarillo for fuel. We could not have had better weather, as it was blue skies for the entire route!

SDCC Hawks Flight Team Reach New Heights in Regional Championships

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For the 5th consecutive year, SDCC Hawks Flight Team earned a bid to the National Intercollegiate Flying Championships! The following are the blog entries for the PICFA Regional Competition 2012- 2013!

Team practices begin in September with ground and flight event preparation. As important as the competition – for without it, we could neither afford to practice nor attend – are the fund-raising efforts. So an appreciable amount of time is spent washing planes, selling team-designed “Hawks” apparel, and telling donors about our program.

Training is important because the skills required to compete against top collegiate pilots in our region demand expert working knowledge of aircraft, flight planning, instrument flying skills, regulations, technique, safe flying and raw pilot skills…

There is a description of each event on our Flight Team web page. Here is a day-to-day account of your SDDC Hawk Flight Team competition:

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