BMAA Microlight Comps

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EMC2010 - A Pilot's Eye View PDF Print E-mail

This is an article by Richard Rawes, describing a pilot's eye view of a single task in the European Championships 2010. Richard later went on to win the European Championship title in his class.

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Running in towards Sutton Meadows I had a couple of photos left; unless Paul had loaded the last few miles I had clearly missed some! Keep looking though as the task is not over yet.

In the overhead there are several other contestants, all setting themselves up for a short landing over a tape. I hold back and monitor the circuit, trying to establish what the conditions are like on the ground. Up here it all appears calm with a light breeze that appears to have a slight downwind component – will have to watch out for that.

On finals and I am racing in; there are no go around options (unless of course there is a safety issue ahead) and I just can’t bleed off the speed. Long and fast, at 70m to the stop that was clearly not my shortest landing – mind you repeating the 18m or so in the 2003 Worlds would take some doing!

On the ground it is pleasantly warm, unusual, as so far this week the weather has not been particularly pleasant. I consider this as home territory for between Chatteris and Sutton Meadows I started my microlight flying ‘career’. Over lunch everybody is really relaxed; the Club has put on a good spread and the sunshine is maintaining the high spirits. Competitors are mingling and I catch up with a few of my old club mates.

Lunch over and a briefing is called for the 4th task this week to take us back to Sywell. It has become traditional to name our tasks and this one is the Drain Pipe.   Two parallel lines work their way from a start point south of Suttom Meadows to a finish point North West of Sywell in a zig zagging fashion. The lines are approximately 5 miles apart and the aim of the task is quite simply to fly down one side of the pipe until a photographic feature has been spotted. At that moment a change in direction is required to fly perpendicularly to the opposite side of the pipe and then continue towards Sywell. This is to be repeated every time a photo is spotted on the pipe side. Easy? Not quite so as during the whole flight a pre-declared groundspeed also has to be maintained!

In competition, local knowledge is not always an advantage as your concentration is so focused you could be in any part of the country. However, on this day being able to identify the town I spent most of my youth living in and the many features around that required identification to ensure I was on track certainly did help. With good viz and plenty of track features to aid navigation, the first few legs were going reasonably well; I was spotting and marking the photos and even keeping a reasonable grip of the groundspeed – well I thought so. This aspect was however, becoming more and more difficult as I was aware of errors in plotting and calculating the times I needed to be at certain points. I began to consider how I could improve my plotting of groundspeed on the new legs as with a scoring tolerance of 2 points deduction for every second of error I would soon lose most of the speed ponts.

Now, ‘Pimping’ is a phrase coined in the recent past by team pilots Hadders and Owain Johns. Quite simply it involves following somebody to ease the navigation burden. The problem is of course the aircraft you are following might be lost or off track! None the less it is always comforting to be able to see someone ahead or indeed behind.

Midway along the pipe I had no body ahead but checking to the rear I did spot an aircraft making a sharp turn to the left. Aghh! Had I missed a photo, I was sure that I hadn’t but then I began to doubt myself. During this time I had also inadvertently left the track line and in all the meandering had also lost account of my speed. With the rules not permitting back tracking I was committed to continuing along my original track line almost certain that I was now on the wrong side of the pipe.

Never give up – if I am finding it difficult so must others – that’s my motto. So onward I press and depressingly the photos appear to have dried up. Once again I spot one and an aircraft ahead. I fear that my groundspeed has been lost so I now concentrate on spotting. For the rest of the task all appears to go well and I find myself crossing the pipe a few more times. With the end in sight, the concern now is that am I running in to the end of the pipe on the correct side as to be on the wrong side means an absolute zero for the whole task. Hard rules – but this is the European Champs and points make prizes.

Have crossed the finish line now and its head back to Sywell to join for a precision landing. A short wait later and the scores are out – 845 out of 1000; 4th place in the task is good considering the difficulties maintaining speed for which I actually scored zero!.

The score keeps me in the running at the top of the leader board by just under 50 points but With Lukas champing at the bit, there is no opportunity to relax. Focus for the days ahead.

 

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