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SDC Flight Team Region II Championships - Prescott, AZ

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  San Diego Christian Flight Team Places 4th 


The San Diego Christian Flight Team returned Saturday after competing in the Region 2 collegiate flying championships. They placed 4th in the annual competition at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  Five teams from college aviation programs in California and Arizona fought for the title in Region 2 at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ February 4-8th.   San Jose State, Mount San Antonio College, Cypress College, Embry-Riddle and SDC competed in both ground and flight events in the Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (SAFECON). 


Twelve teams competed in Region 1 and Region 2 to receive bids to the national championships. Those in Region 1 were from Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Those in Region 2 were schools from California, Arizona and Nevada. Only the top 3 teams from each region advanced to the nationals.  


The winner from Region 2 was Embry-Riddle, the current reigning national champion in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA), and the winner from Region 1 was the US Air Force Academy. 


The Hawks took a large, but inexperienced team to the championships this year, half of which were first year students. Senior Sean Conlan was the highest-ranking pilot placing 3rd overall followed by the Team Captain Michael Elm at 16th, Matthew Carter 29, and Mike Visnovsky, 30.  


Top female pilot was Blandy Castro who finished 3rd, followed by Becky Uecker 4th, and Kayla Harder, who tied Bryanna Raue for 6th place. 


SDC came out strongest in the Power-Off Spot Landing. Michael Elm and Sean Conlan finished 4th and 5th consecutively. Sean and Matthew Carter placed 2nd in the Navigation event, and Sean and Bryanna Raue placed 2nd in Message Drop. 


Team Captain Michael Elm and Sean Conlan won the Safety Award recognizing SDC’s excellence in flight operations safety.  Sean and Michael’s safety presentation to a panel of judges was deemed the winner and we believe it is the first time SDC has won this event in recent years. 


SDC Flight Team believes their Christian example is one of the most powerful testimonies they can provide to their fellow competitors. It did not go unnoticed and the Hawks won the Red Baron Team Sportsmanship Award for the second year in a row. 


The competition in Prescott, AZ was marked by cold winds and biting temperatures for most of the week. The airport’s 5000-foot elevation meant lower performance for our Cessna 150, affectionately known as “Juliet.” Juliet was also plagued with some mechanical problems. Replacing a broken mixture cable caused the Hawks spot landing team to miss critical practice landings at the high altitude airport.  Practicing landings in the gusty, tricky wind conditions in the Prescott Valley is essential to the all–important spot landings.  Team Captain Michael Elm, who placed 4th in the Power-Off spot landing, said “Juliet broke Sunday morning before we could get more than a couple runs in so we couldn’t get a feel for the gusty winds. That made it tough for everybody because we needed to gain familiarity with the runway we will be landing on and we didn’t get a chance this time.” Captain Elm said it is very important to get used to the flying conditions before competition, but he was very proud of the effort his team made. 


“Winning the Sportsmanship award was really important because it validated all the work the younger kids on the team put in to make the flying events successful,” said Bryanna Raue. “If it weren’t for Rob Spicer and Mike Visnovsky and the non-flying ‘Penguins’ helping to move the aircraft we could not compete.”  


Robert Spicer was voted “Outstanding Team Member” by his teammates. The team returned Saturday night but had to leave Juliet in Arizona due to a rough running magneto.   


Congratulations to the 2013-2014 SDC Hawks Flight Team! Although we will not be going to the national championships at Ohio State University this year, the team will continue to prepare for regionals next fall. SDC will be hosting the 2014-2015 Regional championships on November 12-16th at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, CA.   





San Diego Christian (SDC) Flight Team is in Prescott, Arizona this week competing in the Region II college flying championships hosted by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. This year’s team, led by senior Flight Team Captain Michael Elm includes: Hunter Blackwell, Kendra Brabec, Matthew Carter, Blandy Castro, Sean Conlan, Megan Dombrowski, Aaron Giannetto, Kayla Harder, Thomas Powers, Bryanna Raue, Robert Spicer, Kenny Travis, Rebecca Uecker, and Michael Visnovsky. Karinne Russo was unable to make the trip due to the flu. 



prescott az slideshow 


Part of the team drove to Prescott on Saturday in a RV graciously loaned to the team by Kevin and Debbi Eggleston. The others flew over in the competition airplanes.  


The weather has been cold and windy, with wind chills during the morning in the low teens. This morning dawned with snow just above the airport level with threatening clouds surrounding Prescott Valley. Despite these conditions, all competitions were completed.  


Your SDC Flight Team will be returning next week – after thawing out from the below freezing temperatures this week. Hopefully the team will do well and earn an invitation to the national college flying championships at the Ohio State University in Columbus Ohio next May. Only the top 3 teams will earn a slot at nationals. This was a unique combined event with 11 total teams from Region I (CA, AZ & NV) and Region II (CO, UT, WY, NM).  


Keep the team in prayer this weekend for their return both on the highway and in the air as inclement weather makes flying difficult between Arizona and California. 


SDC Flight Team works hard to excel in the field of Aviation. They have been planning and practicing for SAFECON (Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference) since August and will be hosting the 5 colleges in our region next November at Gillespie Field.  


If you are interested in finding ways to support the SDC Flight Team, you may contact Captain Denny Breslin.  





marked the beginning of the competition with ground events, SCAN, E6B, and Aircraft Identification. Ground events are all about flight planning questions using complicated formulae to solve multi-level problems involving airplanes, federal regulations and technique. Each team has five competitors in the ground events.  



is when flying events begin with the Navigation event. Each college has 3 “Nav” teams that fly a pre-determined route of about 100 miles comparing actual time and fuel used to the estimates made in pre-flight planning.  



is the big day featuring two kinds of spot landings – Power-Off and Short-Field. As the name implies, pilots cut power a mile from the runway on the downwind leg, and glide to land on a line painted in the middle of a 300 foot landing box on the runway. Judges along the runway mark how far planes land from the line and the pilots with the lowest cumulative distance in two flights is the winner. For the Short-Field spot landings, pilots can use power, but must land power-off on the line. 



is the Message Drop event where pilots fly over the runway at 200 feet and 100 mph dropping a small box with a streamer attached to land on a target on the runway. Similar to “bombing,” message drop tests pilot’s ability to judge wind drift from the plane and hitting the target is harder than it looks. 


Friday ends with the results from the competition tabulated overnight.  



will begin at noon with an awards luncheon where the winners will be announced.  

SAFECON National Championship 2013 Blog

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 Welcome to the SDCC Flight Team National Intercollegiate Flying Association - national championships flight blog. We are competing in our 5th consecutive national championships at the Ohio State University in Columbus Ohio and we got here by placing second in regional competition last January.    

Only the top teams in America get an invitation to nationals. It's a big deal. Last year we placed 18th in the nation out of some 30 teams invited to the national championships. We don't take previous successes for granted. Competition is fierce and pride is at stake. Those stakes are high for colleges that invest heavily in their flight teams because of what a national championship can mean to a college that specializes in aviation. We're no different. We work hard at our craft and covet your prayers and support throughout the year, but especially during these pressure-packed, tiring days of competition. 


The SDCC Hawks Precision Flight Team left San Diego Wednesday on Southwest Airlines. This is the first year we have not flown our own aircraft to SAFECON. In years past we've flown our our planes from San Diego to St Louis, Terre Haute, Ohio State and Kansas State universities. Most of the flying is covered by student cross-country syllabus flights. But we didn't raise enough money this year to cover contingencies if weather made it impossible to fly syllabus training flights to Ohio so we took the airlines.  


I am the Flight Team Advisor and Head Coach. But I am also the "mule"(no jokes please!) - hauling team gear and stuff we need for 2 weeks on the road. I left San Diego in my Cessna 182RG Tuesday at noon for the 2600 mile trip to the Ohio State University. The first leg to Albuquerque was brutal - heavy turbulence and rolling mountain wave. I hoped and prayed for smooth flights on Wednesday.


But aside from a navigation database that failed on the way from Iona KS to Columbus OH, the storms stayed respectfully away - lining the course both north and south of my route to KOSU - (yes Ohio State has its own airport). I landed at 7:30pm on a nearly perfect Wednesday evening. I picked up Coach Steve and Coach Jill Geary just before midnight at the Columbus airport and the team arrived a few minutes later with so much added baggage we had to rent 3 cars! By the time everybody got to bed - it was nearly 2:30 in the morning.




Our team is supported by donations - we don't have a budget. So we save where we can. We found a Christian family in London - about 40 minutes west of KOSU who offered their home for our team at no cost! They are a missionary family with 8 children, so squeezing 11 more seemed impossible. But it is a huge mansion-like house and Denise and Mike McFarland graciously and humbly provided a most amazing retreat from the frenetic activity at the airport located on 10 acres about 30 miles west of the KOSU airport.


Without our star "Juliet" to fly, we were forced to rent 2 airplanes for competition. Anytime you fly a "stranger" - there are always some things you have to get used to... When Colonel Steve Geary checked our pilots out in the little red and white Cessna 150, we noticed one thing unique to an airplane in "farm country." Kenny Travis, one of our teammates, is a big John Deere fan. We thought it ironic, but endearing, that the little Cessna - a poor substitute for our favorite "Juliet" - featured cowling plugs sporting 2 John Deere flags sticking up above the cowl by the propeller!





No time to rest - what's circadian dysrythmia anyway? The weather was perfect - warm, sunny, and calm. We met for breakfast and a briefing, and got to the airport by noon. It took most of the afternoon to get everyone checked out on the airplanes. Some colleges send their teams to practice a week ahead of time. But it was bad timing for us and we had to make the best of the circumstances. The spring semester officially ends next week, but our pilots had to take their finals before leaving and most had the added pressure of taking their FAA check-rides before leaving as well. It takes a toll. The price Jenna and Dylan - more specifically their mom and dad - pay for participation in SAFECON is missing their graduation commencement services next Saturday.




 The weather just west of here is atrocious. There are thunderstorms just the other side of Dayton, a line of storms with snow, ice and lightning just beyond that. The line is so severe many flight teams are unable to penetrate and may not make it before Monday's opening ceremonies. The weather in Columbus is okay but getting windy. By early afternoon four pilots, Sean Conlan, Jenna Sims, Kayla Harder and Jackson Judge have practiced Power-Off Spot Landings in competition heats with the other teams. As the cross-wind picks up the judges say they may have to shut practices down because the heavy cross-wind makes landings on Runway 9 dangerous. As the wind picks up and shifts further south - they cut landings but okay Navigation flights because they can land on a runway more aligned with the wind whereas spot landings must have a dedicated runway.      

At 2pm, Coach Steve Geary and I put together a 5 waypoint Navigation route and Jenna Sims plans the 1-hour nav route on the sectional navigation charts. The idea is to plan and fly a pre-determined route after determining course, distance, time and fuel between waypoints. Then by comparing actual time and fuel used to planned time-enroute and fuel we can determine how many points they get. You win or lose this event by a tenth of a gallon of fuel or a couple seconds on time - so accuracy in planning and flying are paramount.  


With 35 knots of wind at 3000 feet, it was tricky planning the route carefully. To be accurate in planning you have to know how much fuel the plane uses in cruise flight. But this was a "new" old airplane so Jenna made a calculated guess of about 6 gallons per hour. She said she and her navigator Michael Elm got pretty close on fuel. We're building a database of information for the real competition next week.


Our Nav teams are: Team 1 - Jenna Sims and Mike Elm; Team 2 - Jackson Judge and Kayla Harder; and Team 3 - Sean Conlan and Dylan Jones. 


You haven't heard much about Dylan. Why is that? Well, he isn't here - yet! But he's due in Sunday morning after baseball championships are over. We've had to share our team captain with the Hawks championship baseball team. It hasn't been easy. We're looking forward to getting Dylan back.
Today the winds are blowing but we get Jenna, Sean, Kayla and Jackson at least one round of Short Field (power-on) landings. Two Nav teams plan Nav routes with the final waypoint near Madison County airport which is just south of the McFarland home. We thought we could move our operations over there to practice landings, message drop and take the McFarland family for plane rides as a way of repaying their generosity. But before we get very far into our lineup the wind picks up again and we are threatened with another wind cancellation. (Shades of shortened competition last year in Salina KS) We only get a couple landing heats in before the wind gets dangerous and the judges shut off the operation again. 
The forecast for the week is for clouds and rain Monday and Tuesday with more sun later in the week. Practice will be shortened tomorrow due to a "VIP TFR" - a Temporary Flight Restriction - because Obama is flying in (for the 10th time this year) - (Ohio was a swing state - remember?) to speak at the OSU commencement. Wherever Obama flies, air traffic is shut down - including SAFECON. So we have to wait it out...


Meanwhile the team will give its testimony at the McFarland's church which is near the KOSU airport. We will attend church services with our hosts and perhaps make a pitch for San Diego Christian College missionary aviation in the process!


As we close our first installment of our SAFECON blog, I wanted to alert you to an interesting website that Embry-Riddle coach Alex Tamsing has hilariously stitched together to have some fun with SAFECON. We think you will enjoy the clever parody of all-things-SAFECON from Alex's unique perspective. You may not get some of the inside stuff, but it's a fun read: PGNN News - News from SAFECON 2013   
Sunday started out as a sun day, but within a few hours the overcast blotted out the blue and we were left with gray skies and light winds.Our host family, Mike and Denis McFarland - who have opened their giant home in London OH about 30 minutes west of the airport, invited us to join them for Sunday services at the Linworth Baptist Church. Pastor Brent Miller recognized the team as we shared communion with a wonderful group of believers. As it turns out the Pastor Emeritus George Hattenfield was a former pastor at Cedarville college where Pastor Jeremiah went to college and where his father was the Chancellor! 
Sunday is the day before official competition starts. It is also the day each of our pilots have a chance to spend time in the simulators for the Ground Trainer, IFR, and Crew Resource Management events. Time spent familiarizing themselves with the instruments, switches, checklists and nuances of the simulators from Ohio State University is essential because each one uses pitch attitudes, power settings and trim adjustments different from any sim our students are familiar with. Blandy Castro and Sean Conlan each had 15 minutes to practice - and that was it! Next time they see the sim, they will be flying a complex, demanding instrument pattern with constant-speed climbs, turns and descents that are timed and scored based on accuracy and errors. 
Mike Elm and Dylan Jones worked in a Frasca Beechcraft Baron Simulator set up similar to our Redbird Simulator at Gillespie Field except it had dual controls. CRM - Crew Resource Management tests the pilots ability to work together as a crew of an airliner, managing their resources to solve problems introduced by the judge. They had 30 minutes to become familiar with idiosyncrasies of the simulator, and fly an instrument approach. 
Mike Elm will be competing in the IFR - Instrument Flight Rules event which is an instrument flight where the judge requires them to track courses, enter and exit holding patterns and fly an instrument approach to a "go around" - and hold. The scoring is brutal and demands very disciplined instrument procedures. 
Due to the TFR - Temporary Flight Restriction for Obama's commencement speech at OSU, we could not fly between 10am and 3pm. So we got one landing slot to practice spot landings before the TFR and Dylan Jones was able to snag a slot afterwards while Colonel Steve Geary checked him out in the rental airplane. 
We then took off and flew all the planes to the Madison County Airport - about 30 miles west to practice landings and Message Drop. We asked the McFarland family to join us and we gave them rides in my airplane - the Cessna TR-182 "N79MR." It was such a joy to see how thrilled these youngsters were for their first plane ride. The McFarland family is a mixed family of natural and adopted children from all over the world. They will become missionaries in September for The Masters and manage an orphanage in Morocco upon completion of their training next spring. So it was a special treat to see the excitement as I challenged each one of them to be the first to spot their house from the air! 
SAFECON always begins with a contestant briefing at the college. Three hundred plus competitors from the top 33 aviation colleges in the country filled the room. The highlight of the briefing is always the roll-call. While some colleges meekly announce "here" or "present" - your SDCC Hawks worked hard into the night creating the most ingenious, creative skit of the entire auditorium at the Ohio State University Union building. Here, for your enjoyment are the words to the song sung by your SDCC Hawks, to the tune of Amazing Grace, accompanied by Jackson Judge playing Coach Jill Geary's mandolin. We have a video which we will try to share as we have time to upload it. The lyrics were penned by Sean Conlan IMC refers to instrument conditions, E6B is a circular slide rule we use for aviation, TFR is restricted airspace strictly prohibited - punishable by prison time: 
Amazing Tower, how sweet the sound,
That saved a pilot like m
I once was lost but now am found,
Accidentally flew in IMC
T’was landing that taught my heart to fear
And diapers my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The moment I first pee-pee’d.

The Staging Judge was good to me
When I forgot the keys.
I haven’t slept, at all this week
Without my E-6-B.
 Through many dangers, toils and snares 
 We have already come
T’was I that broke the TFR
Now the 
Air Force is after m
Amazing tower how sweet the sound 
That saved an inmate like me
I once was lost but now am found
Locked away in cell block “C”.
Believe me when I say it was the best of all and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the effort. Thanks to the whole team for their effort. I push them to be creative and to say something memorable and this song was perfecto and received a rousing ovation! 
After roll call the ground training began with the first group of 5 going in for the Computer Accuracy event with their E6B computers. It's actually more of a round slide-rule type calculator. (Hence the reference to the E6B in the song). With the E6B they solve navigation problems, weight and balance, make conversions and plan flights the old fashioned way - no computers, no internet, no electronics. Memorizing and practicing all the formulas is tedious work and I commend Bryanna Raue for doing her best to help train our contestants. Those competing were Jenna Sims, Bryanna Raue, Mike Elm, Alex Closs and Blandy Castro. 
ACID - aka Aircraft ID immediately followed E6B. Mike Visnovsky, Aaron Giannetto (not here), Bryanna and Alexander have worked hard scanning images from Janes All the World's Aircraft and going over hundreds of powerpoint slides in preparation for the ACID event. But it is really hard and they all said that no matter how much you study, the chance of seeing Mars melting exceed the odds of seeing one you studied! Contestants for ACID were Mike, Byranna, Alexander, Will Lowery and Mike Elm. 
SCAN is the most difficult event involving complex flight planning spawning questions of legality from the federal aviation regulations, and all sorts of answers that are dependent upon answers you've already calculated - hopefully correctly. Contestants for SCAN were Dylan Jones, Kayla Harder, Alexander, Mike Visnovsky and Bryanna. 
With that the competition was over for the day. Coach Steve Geary, Sean Conlan and I went to the airport to check Sean out in an extra aircraft we needed to rent for the Navigation event while the rest of the team went to dinner. We joined them as soon as the plane was tied down and concluded with a team briefing for landings scheduled for Tuesday morning and a final prayer for weather, health, safety and endurance. 
Tomorrow - Tuesday, the flying events begin. The weather is supposed to start out nice and gradually deteriorate to rain in the afternoon. We'll update you then. 
Please check out the "PGNN News wire" compliments of Embry Riddle's coach Alex Tamsing. He has a clever way of making fun in the midst of the serious competition that is both entertaining and goofy: PGNN SAFECON News and Parody 
Tuesday was supposed to start with the Navigation event but weather throughout the region precluded launching aircraft. So the judges switched to the Power-off spot landing event. The difference between "power-off" and "short-field" landings is that power is reduced to idle abeam the landing spot on the downwind leg. Pilots "drift" or coast to the zero line in the middle of the landing box which is 300 feet long. Short field landings simulate a power on approach to a short runway where power can be carried on final approach, but the airplane must land with power at idle, full flaps, and near the stall speed. On the difficulty scale, power-off landings are more of a challenge because once removed, you cannot add power back. Determining when to turn and how much flap to use is strictly a matter of experience borne of practice. 
All our pilots except Jackson Judge were able to complete their two landings. The conditions were not the best due to gusty winds and rain-squalls. Several times the judges had to put the event on hold when a thunderstorm rolled over the field. No way to tell how we did, but from our vantage point at least some of the landings looked very close. People said "today was a day of go-arounds" meaning, I suppose that conditions were bad for everybody. 
Dylan Jones, Jenna Sims, Sean Conlan and Kayla Harder finished their power off heats. Jackson Judge will be in the final group to finish when they resume tomorrow. Meanwhile Sean Conlan and Blandy Castro were able to compete in the Ground Trainer event. Ground trainer is a pedestrian term for flight simulator. Contestants fly a complex pattern at precise headings, altitudes and airspeeds while climbing and descending at a constant airspeed. It's harder than it sounds. Instrument pilots practice an "instrument scan" that keeps their eyes focused on the attitude gyro to maintain pitch (which controls airspeed) and bank. At the same time they use the attitude gyro to keep their wings level so as not to turn. That works great up until its time to turn, climb, or descend... Best description of this event is "eyes on a swivel - hands precise and quick." 
We still have a couple ground events scheduled. The IFR Simulator event is scheduled with Mike Elm Friday, as is the CRM Event with Mike and Dylan. Preflight and Safety Brief Event are also scheduled later this week.  
We are hoping the weather will clear enough to finish the Nav routes. The Navigation routes take a crew of two over a course of 5 waypoints covering about 100 miles so they need high ceilings and good visibility for about an 80 mile radius around Columbus. SDCC Hawks have 3 Nav teams: Sean Conlan and Dylan Jones, Jenna Sims and Mike Elm, and Jackson Judge and Kayla Harder. The forecast is for cloudy, rainy skies for the rest of the week. 
We won't know the results until the Awards Banquet Saturday night so as much as we would like to say our team is doing well - it is impossible to tell. Meanwhile tension builds throughout the week - as does fatigue. I suppose when the two peak - sometime around Friday evening - there will be a huge collective sigh of relief. 
The team drives out to London each night and cook dinner for themselves at the McFarland home. They say it is relaxing out there and very pleasant. But it's also a long drive at 0630 each morning. I'll go out on a limb here and just say I don't think the majority of them are "morning people!" But their spirits are high and they are staying strong. 
Included in todays pictures are some airplanes other teams fly. Most teams have their own fleet of aircraft - a few of us have to rent. It is an interesting mix of airplanes from the venerable "old" Cessna 150 with manual flaps (Like our beloved "Juliet" back in San Diego) to the modern Cirrus SR22 and the "STOL" Maule flown by Embry Riddle-Daytona. Our two "clunkers" from a local flight school are working ok - but flying an unfamiliar airplane in landings can be a disadvantage. 
Tomorrow they are supposed to start with Navigation - again - unless weather intervenes, then they will start the "Short Field Spot Landing" event. More on that later. Please pray for good weather and for our team to stay focused during this long week. 
Here is the link to the "SAFECON DAILY" - the daily journal published by the host school. In Tuesday's edition - see if you can find Dylan Jones waiting by his Red and White Cessna 152 for Power-off landings. 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gets the idea of rain. The 1st and 3rd verses of his poem "The Rainy Day" applied to today's flying: 


The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains,and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Ok, it's raining - so we're holding out for tomorrow when Navigation re-starts! But today the teams were pretty much at the mercy of the intermittent showers that rolled across the field. We finished all the spot landings. Pilots in the Short-field landing event were Dylan Jones, Jenna Sims, Sean Conlan, Kayla Harder and Jackson Judge. In their debrief we learned they thought some did pretty well but some missed the landing box altogether. I was relieved to hear from Embry-Riddle - Daytona coach Les Westbrooks that many of the teams were landing short or long or doing go-arounds. So we didn't feel so bad.  
We've had to solve a lot of problems from not having our own planes here. Our Ohio State hosts have been gracious to allow modifications to rules that help make up for renting unfamiliar planes. 
Kayla Harder and Blandy Castro finished the Pre-flight event
 on a Cessna 152. Pre-flight is one of those events that you either have it or you don't. A keen eye for things out of place and out of the ordinary (like a rubber snake in an air vent) helps, but knowledge of what should be and what should NOT be on or in the plane is key to doing well.
Traditionally we meet with the other Christian Schools to fellowship and swap stories. Tonight we met with Liberty University from Virginia and LeTourneau University from Texas and we shared Mongolian Barbecue. The "rules of engagement" as LBU Coach John Marcellus said - were that no two teammates can sit together. It was a great evening and everyone enjoyed it. Tomorrowthey will start with Navigation. For an "official" update on the days activity, click on the link below to SAFECON Daily. 
Stay tuned to this station for breaking news!


Thursday morning started out with a plan to fly Navigation and finish another round of landings. NAV involves flight planning 5 legs based on coordinates provided by the judges and then flying them with precision, noting figures and features on the ground at each waypoint. The winners are judged by who has the least difference between their estimated time enroute and actual time plus the estimated fuel difference from actual fuel used. There are many other parameters measured by the GPS units onboard but precision and careful planning are key. 

The morning was beautiful but the results were ugly. Due to a change in the way the NAV waypoints were given, 11 of the first 19 teams were disqualified. Many people were confused by a procedure they'd not seen before. After a conference between judges, Team Advisors and coaches, they decided to scrap the first round and re-fly them. Before they could do that, the judges had to develop 3 new Nav routes within a 50 mile radius of Columbus (typically between 7-120nm routes) then give pilots 30 minutes to plan them. But they never got the chance to finish all the rounds. Jackson Judge and Kayla Harder flew their route near the end of the day, the other two were not able to get airborne as weather started moving in late in the day. Then, unfortunately weather precluded flying any more Nav routes for the balance of the day.

Mike Elm said his IFR Simulator event went exceedingly well. He was well prepared and we are hoping for a high finish for Mike. Later in the day Dylan Jones and Mike Elm went up to the CRM simulator and flew an odd scenario out of Hawaii. CRM is supposed to be a regular flight with two pilots who are given choices to make due to things the judge decides to throw at them - such as beginning the approach and finding out the weather is below minimums - what are you going to do now captain? Or flying from Point A to Point B and the "boss" sitting in the back changes his mind and wants you to land at a different airport than you had planned - what are you going to do now captain? OR when you find out the weather is barely legal to fly there - but it IS legal??? It tests the judgment and skills of each flight crew as they work together to achieve their goal and land safely with their passengers. They thought they did well, but like every other event, we won't know until the results are announced in the awards banquet Saturday night.

While all these events were taking place, rain showers were popping up here and there. The forecast for Friday was not good so we worried whether we would be able finish all the events.


FRIDAY MAY 10 "The End is Near..." 

Friday is usually the last day of competition. With weather threatening this morning, we hoped to finish Landings, Nav and Message Drop. As our pilots prepared, the weather stagnated between overcast and rain - finally giving way to rain squalls and wind changes. But not before the judges wrung their collective hands over which events had the best chance for completion. Which to run or which to abandon? That is the question...

We look at it like this: We came a long way, spent a lot of time, effort and money to compete in these games. Our kids want to compete. Wasting time while the judges decided which of us to allow into the fight was frustrating. It was finally decided that two rounds of Message Drop would be allowed and two rounds of Navigation would be completed after landings were done. 

Normally we would have 3 teams flying Navigation. Jenna and Mike Elm had already flown, but their round was cancelled and scheduled to be re-run after all the disqualifications the day before, due to a mismanaged waypoint calculation method introduced at the last moment by the judges. However, they were not able to finish the first round in the re-run and none of the results from their round were counted. Meanwhile Jackson and Kayla were the only ones to finish a round that would be tallied in the final results. Sean and Dylan never got airborne which was a huge disappointment.

Normally we would have 5 teams flying Message Drop - but it would be limited to only two due to threatening weather. MD is one of our strongest events and we almost always score near the top. This year Jenna and Sean were able to fly first, followed by Jackson and Kayla. Dylan Jones, Mike Visnovsky and Will Lowery didn't get a chance to drop - thus ending one of our strongest events without an opportunity to show our stuff.

By now the clouds and rain were bearing down and the wind picked up. All flying was cancelled shortly after noon and SAFECON was all over but for the shouting...

OSU does not have a viewing area to watch landings and message drop so there was no way to know how any of our teams did. With strong winds, message drop is difficult and we won't know the results until they are announced Saturday at the Awards Banquet.

Friday night all competitors went to the movies. Not just any movie. NIFA Council and sponsors had arranged a special preview of a movie adapted from a Broadway play called "Charlie Victor Romeo." No, it's not from Shakespeare. CVR is an acronym for "Cockpit Voice Recorder" and the movie, which was just introduced at the Sundance Film Festival, is a series of 6 vignettes of airliner crashes re-enacted with dialog lifted from actual cockpit recordings of doomed airliners. The movie was less entertainment, than an object lesson for crew resource management. Although painful to watch at times - partly due to bad acting, and partly due to the graphic realization that people actually died in the crashes portrayed, the movie was profound. 

You can decide how much so when it comes to a theater near you. It's definitely not for kids...

The beginning of any competition begs the end. With the struggle goes the glory. Some pilots love the fight, the struggle and the victory. Others are inspired by the glory and recognition. With Flight Team it's a little of both - but for sure, relief is welcome at the end of a long struggle that begins in September and concludes at the SAFECON 2013 Awards Banquet Saturday night.

Saturday is also a day of packing up, paying bills and taking care of business. All competitors met in Hangar 7 for the Business Meeting - the main reason being to select the site of the following year's competition. Hearing that Kansas State and Indiana State had pulled their bid, The Ohio State University was once again the default winner of the SAFECON location lottery for next year.

At 5pm we took our seats in the cavernous banquet hall at the St. Charles Preparatory School. This is by far the most elegant setting we've seen in 5 years of attending national championship banquets. Our SDCC Flight Team were dressed in their best as we waited out the guest speaker, NASA's SR-71 pilot, Bob Meyer, and a terribly mediocre dinner - just to get to the good part, the payoff, the results!

At last the moment arrives and they work slowly through each of the events. Finally, after what seemed like - way too long - we hear our first award for SDCC. In the Power-Off Landing event - Jackson Judge places 15th. Later Dylan Jones is cited for 13th in Short Field Landings. Jackson Judge and Kayla Harder win points for 18th place in Navigation. Michael Elm places 14th in the IFR event  and Dylan Jones and Mike Elm score points, placing 18th in the Crew Resource Management event.

At the end of the day, the national champion is crowned - and it is none other than Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Prescott - for the second year in a row. It is comforting to know that the champion is from our Region and competing against the national champion makes us a better competitor. So we congratulate coach Alex Tamsing and his ERAU- Eagles for a job well done.

In recognizing the contributions of each of our team members, we always make sure the efforts of Bryanna Raue, Mike Visnovsky, Blandy Castro and Will Lowery are appreciated for the support they provide. When our pilots go out to fly, their planes were always serviced, shined, polished and ready - because Alexander Closs, Mike "Viz" Visnovsky, and Bryanna always made sure they were ready. It was a lot of pushing and pulling as each heat required the planes to be towed or pushed from their parking spot to the starting box. Do that 10 or 15 times a day with two airplanes and you can appreciate why Alexander Closs was voted by his teammates for the Outstanding Team Member Award! If we could spread the award around - it would go to our support guys to drive the van, plan the meals and move the planes - we'd give the award to all of them.

But with all that - how did SDCC compare with our peers? When the team packs were distributed, we found that SDCC had placed 17th in the nation - one ahead of our friends at Liberty University, and one better than last year. Above all, it was the best finish SDCC had ever achieved in its history of competition in the national championships!

Congratulations to SDCC Flight Team 2013! 

After congratulating our fellow competitors and thanking our hosts and friends, our excited, but exhausted Hawks retired to the hotel for a debrief of the events. Will Lowery picked up a cake and we all signed graduation cards for Dylan Jones and Jenna Sims who missed their commencement ceremonies today in San Diego. 

We also wanted to toast the anniversary of our coaches Steve and Jill Geary who humbly downplayed the importance of both Steve's birthday, and their 17th wedding anniversary - to spotlight joy for the Flight Team's success. We want to thank and congratulate Steve and Jill on their anniversary and to tell them how much we appreciate their love and dedication to the team's efforts. It was a good night, a great night! God is Good...

Sunday morning was all about getting everyone to the airport for their flights back to San Diego. By 5pm everyone except the coaches were safe and sound back in San Diego. Thus we bring to a close a successful, God-honoring competition season where we achieved our goal to compete to our potential, and to bring honor and glory to our Lord and Savior - and to San Diego Christian College.

What did the coaches do? Captain Jill went to help her sister during a medical procedure this week. Captain Breslin and Colonel Geary flew to Lynchburg Va. to tour the aviation facilities at Liberty University. Then they flew to Ionia Michigan to tour the School of Missionary Aviation Technology, then they attended the International Association of Missionary Aviation at Andrews College in Berrien Springs, MI. We hope everyone is home by the weekend.


Thank you for your support of the SDCC Hawks Precision Flight Team. Please stay in touch and consider supporting our team next year as we prepare our young pilots by testing them through competition in SAFECON.
Captain Denny Breslin
Advisor/Head Coach SDCC Flight Team

SAFECON 2013 - Slideshow - Click image below to watch

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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
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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