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!