Intercollegiate Flying Competition
The San Diego Christian College Precision Flight Team competes against as many as 7 collegiate flight teams on the West coast. On November 11, 2009, SDCC will host the PCIFA (Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Flying Association) Regional SAFECON (Safety and flight Evaluation Conference) at Gillespie Field (KSEE) in El Cajon California. At the PCIFA SAFECON, the flight team competes against schools from within NIFA Region II. Region II includes Colleges and Universities from California, Nevada, and Arizona who have a flight team. Our most frequent competitors include: Embry-Riddle Prescott, Mount San Antonio College, Cypress College, and San Jose State University and often the United States Air Force Academy – even though they are not in our region. We have invited teams from Orange Coast College and San Diego Miramar College as well.
If the flight team places in the top 2-3 schools at Regional Championships, they earn a birth at the National SAFECON which will be held in Terre Haute Indiana in the spring of 2010. At the National SAFECON we compete against 35 other College and University flight teams for the title of "National Champions!" The events are the same at Nationals as they are at Regional Championships (with a few exceptions), however the competition is much more intense. While regionals takes place over 3 days, nationals lasts nearly a week!
Last year SDCC tied San Jose State University for 3rd place in our region and flew 4 airplanes 1500 miles to compete at the national SAFECON championships in St. Louis Missouri. The experience created a lifetime memory for our pilots and allowed them to compete against the top collegiate pilots in the United States.
Here is a summary of the competitive events in SAFECON:
No flight experience is necessary to compete in ground events.
E6B - Manual Flight Computer:
In this event, contestants are given a written test consisting of 30-40 questions that require the use of the E6B or CR2 as desired - [the equivalent of a circular aviation slide rule]. Typical questions require multiple conversions (US to metric, nautical to statute, degrees F to degrees C, etc.) in order to come up with the correct answer. The questions can be both multiple choice or fill-in, but are all equally challenging since the only tool you can use to solve these problems, other than a pencil and paper, is your E6B (Electronic E6Bs NOT allowed)!!
SCAN (Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft Navigation):
The SCAN event consists of 30-40 questions pertaining to a simulated flight. The test takes you through flight planning (weight, fuel loads, headings), enroute navigation, navigation charts, Federal Aviaion Regulations, weather, and much more! This tests a pilots overall ability to plan a successful cross country flight. Many have compared this test to the Commercial Pilot FAA written test as they are similar in scope.
ACID (Aircraft Identification):
If you can spot a Russian cargo plane from miles away then this event is for you! In the ACID event contestants are shown a slide picture of an aircraft for 3 seconds and then are given 15 seconds to identify the make, model, and nickname of that aircraft. The first section of this test is multiple choice, however the last 5 or so questions are fill-in. What makes this event challenging is that most of the slides are not pictures of the entire aircraft, but of certain parts (a cockpit, wing, landing gear, etc.). Many of the aircraft in the test are foreign made, which adds even more to the difficulty of the event.
The Simulator proficiency event is one of the most challenging events in the SAFECON, but also one that can refine your instrument skills beyond compare. During the simulator event, contestants fly a predetermined pattern while holding specific altitudes, airspeeds, and headings within a very narrow range. A computer scores the event and penalty points are added for deviations from the pattern. After competing in this event you will notice that precise instrument flying becomes a necessary part of the way you fly.
Pre-flighting an aircraft is one of the most important things that you do to ensure a safe flight, that's why this event is so important. During the event contestants are given 15 minutes to inspect an aircraft and report any items that make the aircraft unsafe or un-airworthy. The items may be as obvious as a blown tire, or as subtle as a missing piece of safety wire. This event will prepare pilots to make competent and extensive pre-flights of your aircraft and test their ability to spot pre-placed obscure but obvious safety flaws. The aircraft planned for this year is a Piper PA-28-235 – Dakota.
This event has to be one of the most fun events at SAFECON. Teams consisting of a pilot and a drop master fly a pattern over the runway at 200 feet and 90 knots with the window open to drop a message container with a flag over a target. The object of the message drop event is to land the message boxes as close to the ground targets as possible, which is not as easy as it sounds. It is a fun and exciting challenge to analyze the wind drift, determine where the message box should be dropped, and then navigate your aircraft to a precise drop spot so the box will drift down to the target. There are two drops on each pass and the total distance measured from the target to the box is the score. Lowest combined score wins.
The precision taxi event is another of those fun events that we participate in at SAFECON. This event counts towards the final team standings and attracts a lot of enthusiasm. The goal of the event is to taxi the aircraft on a course resembling a “maze” through a series of "gates," through which you must drive a specific tire. Points are given for accuracy and completing the course the shortest amount of time. To make things more difficult, the "gates" are not much wider than an aircaft tire and actually get smaller as you go through them. This is a contest for student pilots who do not possess a private pilot license yet.
CRM-LOFT (Crew Resource Management-Line Oriented Flight Training):
In recent years CRM has become an essential element of the airline industry training. CRM is the concept that takes pilots used to flying single engine aircraft, and pairs them as a “crew” to teach them how to manage their resources in a multi-engine aircraft during a stressful event that might happen on a normal flight. Competing in the CRM event prepares the contestant not only for life in the airline world, but also for dealing with situations that arise in all forms of aviation. The contestants are judged on how they work together to solve problems and how well they use all the resources available.
Private license or higher required.
Short-Field Spot Landing (Power-on):
Private Pilots, are taught to make short-field landings within 200 feet of a target on a runway, but competition for spot landing accuracy trains pilots to hit the “0” line! In the short field landing event, the contestant must land the aircraft as close as possible to a "land" line. For every foot that the contestant is off of the line, a point is added to the contestants score. The contestant must land the aircraft within a box 200 foot beyond the line or 100 feet short of the line in order to score. To add to the difficulty, once the contestant reduces power he/she may not add any more power until touchdown and must touch down in a full stall with full flaps. They are also judged on making a perfect traffic pattern. All legs must be perfectly straight and within set limits no matter what the wind conditions are. Mastering this event gives the contestant precise skills for handling his/her airplane.
Power-off Spot Landing:
Being able to safely land an aircraft that has lost engine power depends on a pilot’s ability to land the aircraft in a specific location with great precision. Power off spot landing is a skill developed for making emergency landings – generally off the airport. But just like with the short-field spot landing – pilots are judged on their ability to reduce power to idle 800 feet above the runway abeam the landing box – then gliding their aircraft to a spot on the airport and putting their main landing wheels precisely on the landing line. The Power-off spot landing event is very similar to the Power-on spot landing event with the exception that, from abeam the landing line, you must glide the aircraft to a soft landing on the line without use of any power. The same standards for a precise pattern as in the Power-on event remain for the Power-off landing, so precision flying is a must.
Contestants are given coordinates for 4 or 5 specific checkpoints and given 30 minutes or so to plan plan time and fuel used to fly over the checkpoints. Using only a chart, clock, gps, and the aircraft's compass can you find a landmark under a set of coordinates picked by the judges so you can come back and say what was at the checkpoint when you flew over it? And can you cross over that point at the exact second you planned back on the ground? If you compete in the Navigation event, not only can you do this with ease, but you can plan your fuel burn right down to 0.1 gallons! During the navigation event contestants are scored on their ability to find specific points on the earth's surface (charted or not) and to fly over those points at the exact second they had planned. For every second that they are off, points are added to their score (lowest score wins). After landing the aircraft is re-fueled and, if the fuel burn is not within specified limits of the estimated fuel burn, points are added to the contestants score. The navigation event is the definition of precision!
The Instrument Flight event takes place in two parts: a written test, and a flight check. The written test consists of several fill in questions dealing with weather, federal regulations, and general instrument procedures. After the ground test has been completed the contestant begins the flight portion of the event. During the flight, contestants are judged not only on precise flight, but also adherence to all airplane procedures, IFR rules and flight clearances. Points are deducted for mistakes made, sloppy flying, imprecise navigation and not flying the exact clearances given at the precise speed and altitudes specified. The contestant who scores highest on both portions of this event is declared the winner of the Instrument flight event.