Annual Club Comps 2012

So here we are at the 2012 Club Competitions.  The wrinkle this time was that I had to organize it!  It's funny when I think about the contributions I used to make to the running of previous years comps I didn't understand how much work was involved before you even start.

First there is the advertising, letting the members know it is on.  Then there is making sure I have a copy of the updated rules so I know if there are any changes I need to brief ground judges on (air judges are briefed by the CFI as an operational matter so thankfully that's not my job).  Then there is printing out ground judging sheets, air judging sheets and getting them into a coherent system so they can be handed out to the right people at the right time.  That task alone took 3 of us 2 hours to complete.

I must say the worst part was sitting there stressing about the things I couldn't change, like the weather.  We had a backup weekend set, but the decision to go/no go was up to me and on the Thursday prior I chose to go ahead with the original plan as we'd get at least one and a half days of suitable weather (the reality was that the forecast front slowed and didn't arrive until well after dark on the Sunday so we were fine).

Saturday morning.  Arrive early at the club - I'm the first to arrive so I have to sit waiting in my car for one of the instructors to arrive with the keys.  Weather looks pretty good.  A light northeasterly and no moisture to speak of, a far sight from recent events.  The ground was damp from all the rain we've had but there was no dew.  Both B Cat instructors arrive along with the office person for the day and the ATC representative who kindly came in on her day off to liaise.  Thank you Megan.  After a quick discussion we select runway 07R as the into wind runway and after enough people arrive I press gang them into helping me set up the landing grid.  Thankfully one of the student pilots fathers has a Ute (aka pickup truck to my American readers) and we throw everything in and after contacting the tower for clearance we head on out.

No sooner had we set up the grid then the sound of Lycoming powerplants being fired up gives us the warning that the air judges have spotted some victims competitors and have kicked things off.  The day would see the grid landing competitions being held.  They are:  Junior Landings, Senior Landings, Ladies Circuits, Gentlemens Circuits, Junior/Senior/Professional Forced Landings. At the same time, non instrument circuits and the student preflight and circuit competitions were held.  The latter two are not ground judged.

I competed in Senior Landings, Gentlemens circuits and Senior Forced Landings.  I think the stress of organizing the event as well as defending my 2011 titles affected my flying because I was rather average even for me.  The wind conditions were such that someone with my experience should be able to put a 172 into the grid in a decent spot but I blew through the grid on one pass and landed short of the 50 point box in the other.  My forced landing attempts were a disaster.  By the time I went up the wind had swung from 060 to 030 and had intensified to 15 knots.  My plan was to shorten my final to account for the loss of lift from the crosswind but I severely miscalculated my flight path and was far too high on both attempts, having to initiate a go around.  Next time I'll think a bit less and fly the plane a bit more!

Sunday saw the bombing and liferaft dropping, aerobatics, navigation and instrument flying competitions being held.  Again, 07R was initially the runway selected but after the wind moved around to 020 and hit 17 knots the tower advised me to switch runways to 36L.  After conferring with the head judge we moved the bombing grid to it's new location and continued.  I felt really sorry for one of our juniors.  He was doing extremely well, getting very close to the target (by close I mean within 40m).  Those of us on the ground would be willing him to drop at the right time, and on the occasion he did the bomb lodged itself firmly between the wheel spat and the undercarriage leg.  It stayed there for two entire circuits before falling off when he was on finals.

My flying on Sunday was a lot better than Saturday as I think most of the shock, stress and nerves had gone and I was feeling more mellow.  My plan was to give myself a decent final leg to get WAM stable before worrying about dropping bombs.  I made certain I was on height and on speed before I bothered to make sure I was on course!  I selected 70 knots as an approach speed.  Previously I'd use 80 knots but I think it's too fast for bombing.  I hear my bombs were pretty close to the target.  I was feeling confident until I overheard the judge saying she disqualified a number of competitors for overflying the centreline, which I did!  Oh well.  There's always next year.

The afternoon it was my turn for the liferaft drop.  Again I selected 70 knots as my airspeed.  I think I might push that up a bit next year.  The liferaft is not very aerodynamic so tends to lose a lot of forward momentum quickly.  My plan for this was not to overfly the centerline (!), and absolutely not descend below 200' AGL.  The altimeter had been set for QFE so I watched it like a hawk.  I had heard a comment from one of the judges that altitude is more important than airspeed on the dropping competitions because if you get too low or high you can DQ, if you are fast it doesn't really matter, just you may not fly slower than 1.3 Vs (which is 52 knots in a 172).  That was not likely to happen.  I had Andrew in the back as my poor fool dispatcher.  It's always good to get someone who has never done it before because they are always really enthusiastic until they put their face into a 100 knot slipstream.  He did an excellent job though, and any success I get in this competition which I have never won (nor even placed) yet thoroughly enjoy competing in belongs in part to his effort as well.

As I was the last competitor for the day by the time I landed JGP and did my entry for the unofficial 172 wheelie competition they'd packed up and headed to the bar so there was no one to see it.

All in all, I would call the weekend a successful one, despite my poor personal performance.  I guess when you are running things it is all about everyone else having a good time that trumps personal glory.  But we shall see as the clock ticks down for the second big event I must run after the club competitions, the annual club dinner and prize giving.

But the next piece of news is that the clubs new Tecnam P2008's are arriving this week!  So we'll be saying hello to ZK-WHZ and ZK-WIP very soon!