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OMG WMC 2024

Flying in Competition; what an experience!

 

I had the most perfect approach set up for landing on the “deck” of 125 meters; approach angle was just right on the aiming point on the uphill runway, wind sock said less than 5knots; speed was right on the button at 40 knots, flaps down, airbrakes extended; the motor nicely ticking over at idle, main wheels expecting to touchdown on the first 5 meters of the landing box…. what could go wrong?

 

A whisper of a devilish dervish lifted us up just a little bit, the sneaky ground effect over came the drag from the airbrakes and gently put the Alpha microlight down beyond the scoring lines. I said to myself, well, we wont get any points on this landing, so I forgot all about using brakes to stop within the box and lost any chance of getting the 50 points for actually stopping short of the red tape.

 

Alpha at Preston Capes

My, what an experience it is to fly in a Microlight competition. Full transparency here… I have not taken part before in the BMAA Open Series and was considered a novice pilot in Round Two and Round Three.

 

My friend Adrian Jones was flying his immaculate Shadow at the Round One held at Over Farm, where I had flown in to watch the event. My company Fly About Aviation Ltd are one of the Sponsors of the WMC 2024 (which everyone knows is being held in the UK from 27th July to 4th August), so I thought I may as well go and see an example of what the event is like.

 

As a flying instructor with many years and many thousands of flying hours on various Microlight types, I consider myself to be a competent pilot. The level of skill in pilotage I witnessed at Over Farm on the BMAA Open Series First Round was an eye opener. In my naivety I said, yes sure I can do this and better!

 

After speaking to several pilots, whom I know well and organisers of the competition I was emboldened to enter the Open Series. I convinced Adrian Jones to be my Navigator since he has so much more experience of competing and winning and knows the strategies and tactics used (not to make mistakes) and win.

 

It seemed obvious to me that as Sponsors of the WMC2024, it made sense to fly the Pipistrel Alpha that we market and sell in the UK & Eire. Adrian agreed to teach me to fly in competition, he also sent me some previous tasks done and my job was to learn.  It was so easy, I said to myself, I could do this.


Photo Spotting....

During my first practice flight with Adrian from his farm strip, I expunged the word “easy” from my flying vocabulary. NO GPS ! No Blue Line To Follow in Flight ! No SkyDemon ! OMG use paper map with a line drawn on it…. following ground features, identifying landmarks, power lines, railway tracks, spot grand houses as turn points.. what kind of crazy flying was this.

 

It brought back memories of my flights in powered hang gliders across India in the 80’s and early 90’s. Aviation maps were prohibited for sale, not accessible to civilians, so I had to follow roads and railway lines, staying away from any airports. Sometimes I had to land on country roads with little traffic and ask passing cyclists the name of the village and directions to my destination town, if I was on a cross country flight from A to B. Ah, the freedom to fly anywhere with the risk of getting stuck due to weather or an outlanding and then taking days and days to return home!

Adrian and I entered as a duo in the Round 2 (held at Deenethorpe) and Round 3 (held at Preston Capes) of the BMAA Open Series… and boy, was it hard work understanding the rules, the tasks, the mission, the tactics to be used to score most, the map reading, the weather complications, the spotting of photo markers, the accurate flying to get the fuel burn to match the declared fuel consumption, the spot landings and the stopping in the box.

 

I have a unique selling point for our customers of “Tour & Train” where I take them around the UK and Europe whilst they are learning to fly with me. This involves a lot of route planning, departure procedures, weather conditions and assessments, alternate routes, diversions, arrival procedures, and safe landings.  This takes us over several countries and a variety of terrain.

 

I was totally unprepared for the competition tasks set around a small area with a flight time of under two hours. The intensity of concentration required whilst flying slowly to look out for waypoints which usually consist of minor road crossings or disused railway and power line crossings was more than that required for international flights.

 

It was so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that I was lost…. until the identification of the next waypoint was made positively within a few moments. The time this feeling of being lost seemed inordinately longer than reality which was quite strange. 

 

Usually I find the time to take lots of photos during any flight, as the flying itself is almost automatic now; however the task of identifying land features from the photos given by the competition director is very difficult.

 

All the experienced competition pilots (and Adrian, my Navigator) were very gracious in sharing their knowledge, (with the Newbie), of tactics, tricks and tips on how to manage the cockpit work load and their ideas and designs of cockpit map holders, marker pens, masking tape, stopwatches and other allowed gadgets gained over their experiences of participating and winning competitions.

 

Once the task is given to the competitors, they have about 45 minutes to plan, prepare and declare their timing to start and complete the task to the nearest minute or fuel burn expected to the nearest litre. There are penalty points to lose when these pre declared times or fuel burn is not accurate enough.

 

There are some hidden gates one has to fly through to gain points; the more “gates” one flies through the more points. So flying along the route given must be extremely accurate as the gate radius is 250 meters. Seems large enough for an aircraft with a 10 meter wing span; but from 1000 feet above the ground, the top of the cone of 250 meters to fly through directly overhead is very small indeed.

 

Every competitor is given A set of photos in random order along with the A4 size map of ¼ million scale. The route is pre-marked with a Start Point (SP), Turn Points (TP) and Finish Points (FP). You have to declare your arrival time at the SP and every second away from this time gets some penalty points.

The simplest task is the spot landing in the box of 125 meters; yes that’s what I thought. Until I tried it….. and was soon disabused of the thought. One of the tasks, I missed the landing spot and forgot to apply the brakes thus overshooting the stop marker, getting zero points. Adrian wasn’t happy at all at my carelessness.

 

I came home from the two competitions with my head buzzing with thoughts that there is still something I can learn and improve my flying skills, rather than resting on my flying hours and aerial tours.  I highly recommend this kind of task immersive flying to my ex students and bored club pilots who allow their hard earned flying skills to atrophy by doing the same sortie to their favourite aerodrome.

 

Since the UK is host to the WMC2024 this is an event not to be missed. Come ye all to witness the experts from all over Europe in their flying machines.  I am taking part in the World Microlight Championships this summer with my Navigator, Adrian Jones, and I hope not to come last of the lot. 

 

Deepak Mahajan

10 June 2024

2 kommentarer


accassidy
11. jun.

If you really want to get an increased challenge into, and satisfaction out off, your piloting, I must suggest that you do some aerobatic training. Once you have the rating, you will truly have the capability to fully exploit the third dimension in all senses. 🙃

Lik

Scott Barnard
Scott Barnard
10. jun.

Amazing post !!! Well done Deepak and navigator Adrian!

Lik
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