Last June 23rd, together with my friend Asier, we took part for the first time in an aviation rally (rallye aérien) organised by my aero-club, ACAT.
For starters, an aviation rally, following (more or less closely) the rules of the Aviation French Federation (FFA), is not like the sport cars’ rallies that we may be used to see. It is not about who is the fastest in a given circuit. It is rather about precision, and the purpose of organizing such rallies is to improve as pilots and increase the safety of flight, along with the competition side of it.
The rally in itself included the following parts:
- A theoretical part.
- An observation part
- A navigation part.
In order to rank the teams, a series of penalties are introduced in each of the parts, as described below:
In order to discover the route of the flights, even if not subject to penalties, the different teams received a questionnaire. By correctly guessing the answers to the questions we would be able to find the route that we had to fly. For this we had a map, a ruler and pens. From that moment the flight preparation started.
We made two flights of about 1h20’ each. In each of the flights, a part of it would be the subject of the competition, defined by a “starting” and “finishing” points that we had to closely over fly. In between those points a few turns had to be made. We had to estimate at what time we would fly over each of the points with a precision of plus or minus 15 seconds. A greater deviation than that was penalized.
To correctly track the route followed and measure the time in which we flew above each of the points, we carried 2 GPS recording devices provided by the organization. With them, the organization was able to print the track of the flights as below.
The image above corresponds to the first of the two flights. In the image you can see that we missed the Final Point, in red. But in the table below you can see how we passed the different turning points. We over flew the starting point (10 minutes after take off) 23 seconds behind schedule, which carried a 9 points penalty. The following turning point (PT1) was passed in 6 seconds above schedule…
Along each of the flights we had to spot on the ground a series of images (16 per flight). For that we had some papers with small photographs taken in advance by the rally organization. When we saw an image, we had to identify where we had seen it in the map we had been given. The photographs for each of the flights were not in order, so we had to pay attention to see them. The more you saw, the less you were penalized. However, if you placed the landmarks corresponding to the photographs in wrong locations in your map, you were penalized as well.
Before the flights we had to estimate the overall fuel consumption of the aircraft for the two flights. After the flight we refueled to see how good or bad our estimate had been. In our case we had estimated 69 liters and needed 67. Not bad. But those 2 liters of deviation, carried the corresponding penalty.
As part of the theoretical side of the rally, we also completed a multiple choice questionnaire, similar to the PPL exam but shorter.
The experience was great. We had much fun and even if we did not place well in the rally, we learn quite a bit out of it: (1) to select a slower target speed to allow for wind variations and then set your speed to the targeted one instead of compensating at turning points, (2) to better prepare the reaching of the Starting Point of the circuit, (3) the lower fuel consumption to be employed when flying in with a lighter take-off weight.
I guess we will take part in more aviation rallies in the future.