More news from the SDCC flight team.... (click photos to enlarge)
Friday May 11, 2012
Friday dawned dark and dreary, and the Flight Team woke up weak and weary… Okay, so much for Faux Poe! But the clouds did threaten rain and wind. Drained from 2 long days 2 time-zones east of home, 0630 came pretty early for our young aviators. But we had to be at the airport early to practice landings in heats scheduled by NIFA officials to work all the schools in before competition starts Monday.
Most everyone got a chance for at least one power-off spot landing and one short-field (power-on) landing. The forecast for Sunday was for wind and rain so we wanted to get as much practice as we could. While the flying pilots were practicing spot landings, others were pushing and pulling planes into and out of position, refueling, and cleaning bugs off the windows and wings.
The runway used for spot landings is so far from the hangar that we can't see to coach the pilots from the ground. Each of the landing pilots flew with another landing pilot to take notes and help learn landmarks around the landing pattern. From all accounts our landings were consistently good. Not perfect, just good. They left room for improvement. There are probably a dozen schools here practicing with the bulk of the competitors due in Saturday.
Of all the events in competition, landings and message drop are the most intense and competitive. They also award the most points. But the other events are challenging too, so Mike Elm went to the Frasca simulator to practice the "IFR" event. IFR stands for instrument flight rules – and refers to a flight in a simulator from one airport to another in instrument weather utilizing all the skills one learns to fly in the clouds including tracking radials, holding, instrument approaches and go-arounds.
Dylan Jones and Kyle Mayhugh went to the Paradigm simulator to practice the "CRM" event. CRM stands for Crew Resource Management and refers to a flight in a multi-engine aircraft from one airport to another, similar to what the airlines call "LOFT" - or Line Oriented Flight Training. The pilots act as a crew. Kyle is the captain and Dylan is the first officer. They are tested on how they follow procedures, fly the aircraft, interact with each other and simulated "passengers". In short – it is about how they "manage their resources". They are graded on how well they do all those functions but the real points come from the decisions they make assuming they will be presented with a "problem" that requires them to divert to a different airport.
Paul Martin, Jenna Sims, Kayla Harder, Kevin Brandt and Laura-Beth Gathman worked navigation problems on their circular slide-rules known as the "E-6B" for the Computer Accuracy event. Will Lowery has been doing most of the driving but he's also a US Navy veteran and will be competing in the ACID event – also known as AirCraft Identification.
Saturday May 12, 2012
We got to the airport to practice landings and were told that we were at our limit and other schools were getting priority. It didn't matter that we had been saving our money for practice until we got here, and left early to have a couple extra days practice at the actual competition airport. So we put our heads together and Jenna came up with some intelligence that one of the other teams was practicing at a nearby airport and had even chalked the runway with landing boxes (300' marked each 50'). So we jumped in our planes and filled the van and hurried over to the Abilene Airport about 25 miles northeast. It turned out to be marvelous serendipity!
The tiny airport was all ours. We were able to fly the patterns for landings without burning fuel and expensive air time waiting for other airplanes in the pattern. Kyle Mayhugh, Dylan Jones, Paul Martin, Jenna Sims and Jackson Judge were all able to fly both power-off and short-field landings and we were able to stand next to the runway and grade each one up-close and personal.
The most difficult event to practice for is "message drop" - which is flown 200 feet over the runway at 100mph. The flight pattern is flown like a landing rectangle except instead of landing, the plane
levels at 200 feet and flies on a line upwind of a target on the ground. The window is opened and the "drop master" drops a 3-ounce box just far enough upwind to drift back onto the target. The distance the box lands from the target is measured and the total distance of two drops is added together for the score. Closest to the target wins. Kyle and Dylan flew together, Jenna and Kevin flew together and Dylan also flew with Will Lowery. I flew my plane for the drop-
masters to practice from the right seat and coached them as they guided the plane to a spot they calculated would be the perfect drop spot. At the end of the day we flew many more sorties than would have been possible back in Salina and we all agreed it was a great day.
Sunday May 13, 2012
The team honored the Lord's Day with a group devotion at the Webster Conference Center. The Christian conference center sits on 20 acres of woods and lakes and is a serene reminder of the quiet Kansas country. It was a natural reminder of God's great countenance and would have been an even greater reminder if the mosquitos weren't so large and so hungry! (Mom, send mosquito spray and anti-itch cream!)
We spent Sunday preparing for the ground events scheduled for Monday.
Monday May 14, 2012 – SAFECON 2012 is Underway
Today started out with a traditional "General Briefing" which is everybody's favorite because of the creative ways team think to respond to the NIFA "roll call". Last year John Crotts became famous for "ATIS San Diego" - kind of an inside joke, and this year SDCC was led in a cheer "I – Believe – We – Will – Win" - a-la-San Diego State. Lest anyone think our small school was too big for it's pants, Dylan Jones added - "18th place!" to complete the chant. Our goal this year is to break into the "teens." In 2009 we were 24th of 33 teams. In 2010 we finished 23rd. Last year we were 22nd. Our goal is to break into the teens so, "18th" is not an unreasonable goal.
At 10am our E-6B competitors, Paul, Jenna, Kayla, Kevin and Laura-Beth went in for their 90 minute ground competition. They emerged some thinking - "wow, that was really hard" and some thinking - "wow, I that was really easy" - so we'll see... Results are not posted until the Awards Banquet Saturday night so until then, performance postulations are merrily premature speculations. The ACID event was next with Kyle, Paul, Dylan, Mike and Will. I walked in at the end while they were reviewing some of the airplanes used in the ID pictures and realized I could only recognize a handful of the dozens of pictures on the test. Cadets from the US Air Force Academy and airplane-super-geeks with photographic memories usually do well on ACID tests. The final event of the day was SCAN – Simulated Comprehensive Air Navigation. This is a very difficult test, the equivalent of an FAA knowledge exam for commercial and instrument pilots. Kyle, Dylan, Jenna, Kayla and Paul sweated through the exam then compared notes after.