Aircraft Preflight (PRE)
Contestants are given 15 minutes and a flashlight in a pitch black hangar with an airplane that is 'bugged' with at least 30 discrepancies. Points are awarded for each correctly identified discrepancy and style points are given for a constant pace and smooth pattern flow. Highest score wins and shortest time breaks the tie. PRE requires an eye for detail and familiarity with the preflight process.
Aircraft Recognition (REC)
Contestants are shown a picture of an aircraft for 3 seconds and given 15 seconds to answer the manufacturer, model, and NATO callsign in multiple choice format. There are also usually 10 write-in questions that the contestant must answer, but they are given 30 seconds to answer instead of 15. All tests must have at least 30 aircraft shown, but most have a total of 60. Highest score wins, tie-breakers are in a sudden death write-in format. REC almost requires a photographic memory as thousands of aircraft are fair game for the test, including all foreign aircraft!
Computer Accuracy (COMPACC)
Contestants use a manual flight computer (CR-3 or E6B) to complete a test of around 40 questions of both multiple choice and write-in problems. Questions range from basic multiplication and division to Radius of Action, %MAC, and Mach speeds. The test is timed (usually between 40 and 60 minutes) and once the contestant is finished, the time remaining is recorded on the test and used as a tie-breaker if necessary. COMPACC is great for those that have mathematic minds and are able to process 'mental math' fairly quickly.
Ground Trainer (SIM)
Contestants are given a visual 'pattern' that includes legs of straight and level flight, level turns, climbs, descents, climbing turns, and descending turns, all of which must be completed at specific banks, airspeeds, altitudes, and rates of climb and descent. The pattern is then flown in a Flight Training Device (FTD) simulator solely using the flight instruments for reference. For each second the competitor is off 2 knots of airspeed, 10 feet of altitude, or 3 degrees of heading, a one point penalty is added. The pattern usually only takes about 5 minutes to complete and lowest total score wins. SIM is for those that are nearly obsessed with flying as exact as possible and it is recommended that contestants have their INST rating.
Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft Navigation (SCAN)
Contestants are given a sectional chart, weather data, A/FD entries, aircraft weight and balance and performance data, and background information that are used to plan a multi-leg cross country flight and answer around 40 questions in an hour or less. The test includes questions about the flight including time enroute, fuel burn, top of climbs and descents, weight and balance, weather, and all aeronautical knowledge covered in numerous publications. Scoring and tiebreakers are conducted in the same manner as COMPACC. SCAN is a major test of your flight planning speed and precision, as well as all of your aeronautical knowledge.
Message Drop (MD)
A pilot and a drop master fly 200 feet over a target and toss a small message container out the window of the aircraft in hopes of hitting the target. It is really that simple. Two messages are dropped over two targets and the team with the closest average distance to the target wins. MD requires a pilot with at least a PPL and a drop master that tells the pilot to correct left or right as necessary. The drop master is not required to be a pilot of any kind, but must have a good understanding of how aircraft speed, wind, and drag on the message container all affect the behavior of the drop.
A team of two (Navigator and Observer) fly a multi-leg flight of around 100nm crossing specific points at specific times while aiming for an exact fuel burn. The Navigator is given 30 minutes to plan the flight to certain checkpoints given in a latitude and longitude format. Using winds aloft, the Navigator calculates what time they will reach each checkpoint (accurate to the second) and how much fuel they will burn on the trip (accurate to a tenth of a gallon). After planning, the team of two gets in the airplane and flies the route, looking for hidden symbols set up on the ground by the judges. GPS trackers evaluate the time accuracy to each point and topping off the fuel tanks indicates the total fuel burn for the flight. The most accurate team wins. The Navigator must have at least a PPL and familiarity with flight planning, sectional charts, performance calculations, and experience with the airplane. Contestants should also have a good eye for spotting secret symbols from the air.
Power-off Landings (LDGS)
Pilots must fly near perfect traffic patterns and simulate an engine failure by reducing the power to idle once abeam the landing point. While maintaining a nice square pattern, the pilot makes small adjustments in airspeed to maintain a proper glidepath and attempts to land on a designated line on the runway. Closest to the line wins. Contestants must have at least a PPL, a good grasp of aerodynamic principles related to gliding, and a familiarity of how the airplane 'feels' and reacts in a power-off situation.
Short Field Approach and Landing (LDGS)
Similar to the Power-off Landings, the pilot must fly a precise pattern, but he/she is not required to reduce the power to idle abeam the landing point. Instead, the pilot can continue to use power and slowly reduce it while keeping a nice pattern and setting up for the approach. The only catch is that once power is reduced, it cannot be increased. The pilot aims for a designated line and the one that lands closest to the line wins. This event requires at least a PPL, a familiarity with the airplane, and good throttle management skills.