Redbird Challenge Aims To Improve Stick-and-Rudder Skills

 - April 1, 2014, 8:10 AM

Redbird Simulations is challenging pilots and anyone who wants to practice flying with the Flying Cup Challenge, a set of three interactive simulation-based flying skills trials hosted on Redbird simulators. Anyone can participate in the Flying Cup Challenge, and the top 12 finishers get a free trip to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., where they will participate in a fly-off to determine the overall winner.

Here’s how the challenge works: participating Redbird simulator operators sign up to offer the challenge flights to whoever would like to participate. More than 70 have indicated interest in participating, although some have already been beta testing the challenge. Anyone who would like to try the challenge—pilot or nonpilot, all are welcome—can sign up on the website, and all the information needed will be provided, including location of the nearest participating Redbird operator and a coupon good for 30 minutes of simulator time for $15, although a special rate of $5 will be available to “deserving youth organizations.”

Each participant is assigned a five-digit PIN that is used to track his flying. The challenge events include an instructional video (viewable on the simulator and also at the Flying Cup Challenge website), practice versions of the challenges and then scoring-only versions. Participants can spend as much time practicing as they like, but after the 30 minutes of specially priced flight time will have to arrange to buy additional simulator time.

Launching the Flying Cup Challenge is done by plugging in a special USB headset then entering the PIN. The practice and scoring flying is intended to be done solo without any instructor assistance, and the user must fly the practice version for each challenge at least once. The three challenges, which are intended to exercise the participant’s stick-and-rudder skills, are precision landings, steep turns and lazy eights.

During a trial of the precision landing challenge before Sun ’n’ Fun, I was able to see how the Flying Cup Challenge works and attempt to improve my scores. The video explains how the maneuver needs to be flown, and the practice version walked me through each step, including when to set flaps, recommended speeds and how to manage the attitude during touchdown to hit the right spot on the runway. The challenge visuals include green gates to fly through, and labels on certain gates show when to add flaps and the recommended airspeed. The scoring version provides no guidance to the pilot.

The visuals on the challenge are of a high caliber, and the simulated airplane, a Cessna 172, handles and performs a lot like the real airplane, including when making fine adjustments during the flare just before landing. The Redbird designers have done a great job making the challenge not only realistic but an excellent training tool as well, which is its primary purpose, to highlight interactive training that Redbird plans to continue developing for its simulators.

Each challenge takes about 25 minutes to watch the video, fly a training version then one scoring version. The score is based on Practical Test Standards and other criteria. In the precision landing challenge, for example, criteria include distance from the landing target and the centerline, the g force on touchdown, lateral drift, vertical speed, correct attitude, airspeed and more.

Users can view their scores on the Redbird Landing website, and if they are in the top 20 nationwide, their standing will be shown alongside the other top scorers. The contest runs through July 6 for those vying to win the trip to Oshkosh, which includes airfare, hotel and some meals. Then at the EAA AirVenture show, the top 12 will vie for the grand prize on July 30, but this contest will involve a challenge different than the three original skills. Redbird will announce the nature of the final challenge on July 7, and the top 12 will be provided free simulator time to practice.

The Flying Cup Challenge is limited to anyone age 14 and above, and participants must sign up in one of three categories: pilots, student pilots and aviation enthusiasts. Anyone caught signing up for the wrong category will be disqualified for the Oshkosh activities.

During Sun ’n’ Fun, attendees can try out the three challenges at the Redbird booth (No. MD-028B).