For the 4th year in a row, the San Diego Christian College Precision Flight Team will be competing in the national NIFA college flying championships. This year competition is at Kansas State University in Salina KS. This blog will chronicle the trip to the championships as well as the competition and the trip back. I will try to update daily with pictures and descriptions of the travel and competition. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Tuesday May 8 – Wednesday May 9
The team left Tuesday, some in a van and some in the competition airplanes. Coach Titus Dinkins drove 1200 miles with William Lowery, Paul Martin, Kevin Brandt, Kayla Harder, and Laura-Beth Gathman. Michael Elm and Jackson Judge flew the Cessna while Dylan Jones and Jenna Sims flew the Cherokee.
I flew with team captain Kyle Mayhugh on Wednesday and despite different departure times and routes we all met within 15 minutes of each other in Oklahoma City.
Thursday May 10 - Oklahoma City - FAA High Altitude Training
We left a day early to attend the FAA's high altitude training and pressure chamber at the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI). The special training qualifies pilots for a logbook endorsement to fly above 25,000 feet in pressurized aircraft. Classroom training taught about the causes and symptoms of hypoxia and the pressure chamber allowed us to experience it. The hypobaric (low pressure) chamber simulates pressure experienced at 25,000 feet during rapid decompression. Each pilot had a chance to feel the subtle, and not-so-subtle effects of hypoxia as it progressed over 5 minutes. Some had to put their oxygen masks on after only a few minutes. Others held out the full 5 minutes but tests showed their functionality made it impossible to control an airplane after only 5 minutes of hypoxia. It was incredibly valuable training. Thanks to Titus for setting it up. Such training is difficult to get and very expensive. But for us it was free at FAA headquarters.
Everyone had a chance to sit in the Barany chair, a device used in training for spatial orientation. Kayla was the first to try the chair, blindfolded, then spun about the vertical axis while keeping her head upright. Jenna and Paul were asked to perform tasks such as determine direction of rotation or rapidly change the orientation of their head, or attempt to point at a stationary object after the chair is stopped. The chair is used to demonstrate spatial disorientation effects, proving that the vestibular system is not to be trusted in flight. So much for flying by the seat of the pants!
Flight to Salina and answer to prayer.
After training we flew and drove 250 miles to Salina and tied down the planes. The van took 4 hours, the airplanes 1.5!
We are staying at the Webster Conference Center, a secluded Christian center just north of Salina. The weather has been phenomenal until Friday, but even so, it is flyable. We asked for prayer last Sunday at Shadow Mountain Community Church (archives) because weather hovering around the border near El Paso TX posed a threat along our route. So Pastor Jeremiah introduced the flight team during services and prayed for good weather. Behold, our prayers were answered! The weather stayed south and even though we had to adjust our flight plans to the north, the temperatures were mild which meant the planes were not affected by high density altitudes at the airports at higher elevations on the north route.
Late in the evening we checked into the WCC and lights-out was a welcome relief for some very tired pilots.