Friday, August 31, 2007

Preparing for my first contest

The Dust Devil Dash is an annual contest that starts in Tehachapi. It's a straight-out contest: furthest landing point wins, after applying a handicap based on the glider model. I've flown cross-country in that area before, but not beyond Silver badge distance, so this will be a challenge, but I think I'm ready for it. There's a lot to do to prepare. Here's some of what I've done. Some of this may be overkill, but I want to be safe - I'm doing this for fun!
  • Crew One of my fellow club members, N, will be the retrieve crew. I was hoping to get two, but the contest is the weekend right after a club campout, and few are willing to go out two weeks in a row. I worried about this for a while, but N and J assured me that we should be fine with 1. The PW5 is light enough for two people to disassemble.
  • Navigation I've loaded up my PDA with the latest airspace and map files, and loaded waypoints / airports / landout sites for the region. The region 12 web site has a list of landout sites contributed by pilots, so I've pulled a bunch of those too. Then I have built a task consisting of the sequence of waypoints and landout sites I am likely to use.
  • Backup Since I don't want to be totally reliant on the PDA, I have prepared printed info on each of the landout sites, with runway info and aerial images from Google Earth. I'll take them along on a kneeboard in case I need them. Copies of them will be in the truck as well. Also, I got sectional charts for the rest of the area where I'm likely to fly.
  • Communication I got more familiar with the radio in the PW5, since I may need to get on various frequencies for different airports and AWOS's. No one in the club had really programmed its memories. I'll take along my handheld radio as a backup. N will take his handheld in the truck, and I'm getting a magnetic-mount antenna for the roof.
  • Emergency comm I've bought a 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon, the smallest I could find. It'll strap onto my parachute.
  • Ground navigation Last year I got a very good, large-format road atlas that even shows dirt roads. I've marked some of the landout sites on it - need to do the rest.
  • Landout/emergency kit I think I talked about this before... I have a bag with a lot of survival gear, along with stakes and ropes. It fits under the seat and weighs about 3 pounds.
  • Water I had a 1.5 liter Camelbak, but I have found that I can go through that in a 2 to 2.5 hour flight. So I just got a second one that's 2 liters.
  • Badge planning I should certainly be able to do Silver distance and altitude, possibly duration as well. I need to do a little more planning to make sure my likely distances and elevations are acceptable. Gold distance is not a possibility this time - I'm not planning to go past Bishop, and that's not far enough.
  • Equipment and supplies I have an extensive checklist of stuff to take, so I don't forget something dumb like chargers for my radio and cell phone.
  • Preparation I plan to take a couple of days off before the contest. Thursday I plan to drive to many of the airports and landout sites along my route. Friday I plan to fly in the local area around Tehachapi just for practice and familiarity.

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