They couldn't have picked a better day for the 2011 Club Competitions (OK maybe a bit warmer), it was 0 degrees celsius, CAVOK, wind variable 3 knots. We set up our landing grind on 18R.
The cones you can see are pretty much the physical manifestation of the grid as per the rules:
The big arrow is the landing direction. The aim is to land in the zone marked with the 50 in bold. The competitions that use the grid are: Junior/Senior Landings, Junior/Senior/Ladies circuits and Junior/Senior Forced Landings. I would compete in the Senior categories of all 3. There are several other circuit competitions being run which would not use the grid but my job as ground judge would be to determine where aircraft landed and award points accordingly.
Of course, when I was flying other club members would mark my performance. This year was unlike others in recent times because we did not have a crosswind (or a tailwind for that matter!) to deal with. In fact, the lack of wind would cause me problems later, but I digress.
The first competition I competed in was Senior Landings, of which I was the second competitor. Here's a hint for young players, if you have the option, go as early in the day as possible if you are competing in Hamilton, the weather is best in the morning. My logbook says I have not flown a 172 since June, so I was a little rusty, but not too bad. I managed to mess up my base to finals turn (its funny what aspects of your flying atrophy when you don't fly a lot) but both approaches were reasonably stable on speed and on centerline and I think I put WAM down somewhere around the 50 mark.
I spent the rest of the morning at the grid judging other landings, and after a nice lunch I was up for the Forced Landing Competition. Most other competitors use the clubs Alphas but I prefer the 172 for its gliding characteristics. From 2500' AGL you have time to make yourself coffee and cake when compared with the Alpha's rather high best glide speed, so I intended to give myself time to size up the situation and not do what I did last year. The initial descent went OK, I managed to get the checks out after a fashion, I hit my 1500' area and turned downwind, arrived at the 1000' point more or less where I should be and started my turn towards my aim point. The new rules this year say you must be established on finals at no lower than 300' AGL or face instant disqualification. Unfortunately for me, I was far too close when I turned finals at 300 and at that moment we hit a patch of lift and WAM levelled off so I ended up floating through the grid. The second attempt I thought I had lost too much height to make it over the fence at the end of runway but I was wrong. Flaring a second too early I bled off too much speed and landed early. An improvement, but I could have done so much better.
After lunch I flew the circuits and I was not happy with my performance, I think the forced landings had hit my confidence. We packed in the grid around 5pm and retreated to the bar.
Sunday was to be the fun stuff, bombing and life raft dropping. We set the bombing target up on Grass 25, which was to fortuitous because the wind swung around later in the day to be blowing 250 degrees at 6 knots, right on the nose. As a result we had some excellent scores on the bombing. I think I got one within 30 meters of the target (a personal best).
As for the liferaft dropping, I got Chris to be my liferaft dropper this year. I love the liferaft dropping, you get to fly around the circuit low level in a 172M with the door off. My first drop I thought was more or less where it needed to be, but on the downwind leg I accidentally (I swear I don't remember doing it) hit the flap switch and lowered full flap. Lowering full flap at 100 knots is not a good idea if you are trying to hold 500' AGL which meant I lost a ton of points (damn it!).
After we dropped the second liferaft I joined left base for Runway 18R and performed my first crosswind landing for a while, which I was rather proud of. Chris took a movie on his iPhone as we came down finals. Turn the sound down because the wind noise is quite loud (not to mention it was freezing - thank goodness I had a warm jacket on).
It was so well run we were all packed up and in the clubrooms by 4.30pm, thats almost unheard of.
We shall see who won what next month at the club dinner.