Fly-In to Challenge Flying Fundamentals

By Scott Spangler on September 6th, 2016

If you are confident in your proficiency in flying fundamentals and are willing to put it to the test, consider a cross-country flight to the West Bend (WI) Municipal Airport (ETB) this coming Saturday, September 10, for Kettle Moraine EAA Chapter 1158’s 3-in-one fun flying day. It starts at 0900 with the pilot briefing for the Old School Navigation Mission that does not allow the use of electronic navigation; pilots must navigate solely by compass and clock. It will be followed by the group’s annual spot landing contest and chili cook off.

Maintaining and expanding the social bond among old, new, and prospective pilots is an important function of any fly-in. But as this event shows, they can be so much more. What better way to improve safety and keep pilots enthused about the stick-and-rudder aspects of flight than by challenging them with flying fundamentals that apply to anything that flies?

The Chapter’s Old School Navigation event reminds me of the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON Navigation event, in which pilots fly a course to predetermined checkpoints using nothing more than dead reckoning and pilotage. The Old School Navigation Challenge employs many of the same requirements.

Each competing airplane has a crew of three: the pilot, who flies the course at the assigned altitude and planned speed; a copilot, who assists with timing, recording the flight’s parameters, traffic watch, and photographing the predetermined checkpoints; and a judge, who assures that the crew employs no electronic navigation  (GPS, VOR, NDB, Loran, etc.) during the event. Two-seat aircraft will have a pilot and judge.

The chapter asks that pilots provide their own copilots and judges, which is an excellent way for pilots to get their nonflying friends more interested in aviation. Instead of just looking out the window and waiting for the social feed, they are essential members of the crew involved with the flight. The judges are allowed to carry a sectional chart (old school paper or on a tablet computer) for emergency (lost aircraft) use only, and their use disqualifies the pilot.


There will be two hour-long routes whose leg lengths are based on speed: the Blue route is for aircraft that cruise at 140 mph or faster, and the Red route is for those who cruise speed is slower than 140 mph. Each route will consist of multiple legs and a target the copilot will photograph (don’t forget your phone or digital camera). Each route will end at a point near the airport, from which the flight will transition to the traffic pattern.

At the 0900 pilot briefing crews will receive a map showing the route of flight, “flack and enemy fighter concentrations” to avoid, rudimentary landmarks to allow en route calculations, basic terrain height and obstacle data, frequencies required to conduct the flight, and total distance data to calculate fuel consumption and reserve requirements. (Pilots: DO NOT FORGET your E6-Bs!) The briefing will conclude with a weather briefing, including winds aloft. (And the event’s rain date is the following Saturday, September 17.)

Crews will submit a flight plan to the event’s air boss. It will include the planned cruising speed and predicted leg times. Aircraft will be launched every 5 minutes in order of fastest to slowest, and they will be assigned a cruising altitude to enhance safety and separation. During the flight the copilot will record the actual leg times and photograph the designated targets. The judge will verify that the crew completed with mission without electronic navigation or charts. Oh, and the “Crew must successfully return to base.”

The crew that achieves these requirements with the lowest differential between the planned and actual leg flight times “will be deemed the Lead Crew with attendant celebration,” said the event coordinator, Howard Schiel, on the chapter website. The spot landing contest will follow the navigation challenge, and I’m curious to learn how it will be judged.

Curious to see the level of participation at this worthy event, I’ll be there, camera in hand, and will report on it in another post. In the meantime, I hope that other pilot groups consider holding an event like it in their areas because I can’t think of a better way to get—and keep—people involved in flying (and enhancing safety in the process) than by challenging the proficiency of their fundamental flying skills. –Scott Spangler, Editor

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