by Trent Heidtke
On February 26 and 27, 2022 EAA Chapter 228 and the Arizona Pilots Association co-sponsored the first inaugural AZ Navigation Challenge. So, what is a Navigation Challenge you might ask? Well, in our case, we provided clues, bearings, altitudes, and distances to participants who then used the information to fly a 100nm course around the Phoenix metropolitan area. They did this without GPS waypoints and by plotting the course the “old school” way, on a sectional or TAC.
Along the course, there were several manmade or natural visual turning points identified to help keep the participants on track. In addition to visual turning points, there were also six specific spots they were required to take pictures of to validate successfully flying over the targets.
In our case, the Nav Challenge was a team event with the pilot maneuvering through the tricky airspace and the navigator providing the bearings, distances, and altitudes plus looking for and taking pictures of the photo locations. In other words, a lot going on in the cockpit. Several class B shelfs had to be traversed as well as adjacent class D airspace. Though the course could be completed without speaking to any controlling agency, participants had the option if they wished to contact the various controlling entities.
The event was conducted over two days to minimize traffic in congested airspace with the course description provided one day ahead of the event. The Nav Challenge concluded with a BBQ at Falcon Field Airport in Mesa, AZ, on Sunday. Prizes for best photos, worst photos, fastest time, slowest time and event logo’d t-shirts were awarded to the teams. We even had a Wrong Way Corrigan award for the team that missed a checkpoint. To be fair, they were distracted by a larger than life 737 filling their windscreen while adjacent to one of the busy airspaces, or so they say……
Those participating had a great time and brushed up on skills that most had not used in years. In today’s world where we place so much reliance on GPS navigation to get us from point A to point B, knowing you can fall back on your training and still arrive safely at a destination using paper maps and a plotter is a good feeling. Everyone is looking forward to next year’s event and what challenges lay ahead of them on that course!