The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Flight Team returned from the Service Academy Flight Competition held at Stewart International Airport from April 14-16. While the Coast Guard is the smallest of the service academies, the Flight Team brought ten cadet pilots and three ground crew to this year’s competition against the Naval Academy and the Military Academy. “We flew well, and our pilots won multiple events and all three teams came very close on points,” said Team Captain, Second Class Cadet (2/c) Alex Smigal. “Although we are there to fly and compete, it is always fun to interact with other cadets/midshipmen from West Point and Navy and compare what is similar and different about our academies and services.” To prepare, the Team practiced at the local Groton/New London airport. After a cadet-led safety briefing, Team members flew in pairs practicing for events in a Piper Archer owned by one of the coaches, and a Piper Cherokee owned by Coastal Air. “To prepare we diligently practiced on weekends for the competition, using the simulator when the weather prevented us from flying,” said 3/c Laird Strand, Flight Team member. The competition featured four different flight skill events.
- Short Field Landing – The objective of the Short Field event is to test the pilot’s skill at maneuvering and manipulating the aircraft.
- Power-Off Landing – The pilot keeps the power reduced and at idle to manage the aircraft’s energy while gliding in for a landing and touchdown, preferably on the target line.
- Message Drop – The pilot and dropmaster fly at 200 feet above the ground over two targets and drop a “message block” to hit a fixed target on the ground.
- Navigation – Teams plan and fly a cross country flight over a three to five leg course between 70-120 nautical miles. Pre-flight calculations for estimated time for each leg, total time and fuel consumption are judged against actual flight data.