This is intended to be a brief review of my personal experience with the five California contests. I will try to be as objective as possible and give pertinent details that a competition pilot may want to know. This is not meant to criticize any contest, nor pass judgment on facilities or contest officials. I'll touch on the airfield, the box situation / alignment, and any other seemingly relevant details like food, hotels, and hanger space.
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Victorville (George AFB), early May - Chapter 49
The LAAC's contest has been held at Victorville for a few years now. VCV is unique in several ways, from the density altitude (field elevation is 2875 feet), to the heat of the high desert, to the massive ramp that you could land in any direction if you had to. The box is well situated with the few section lines around, but can be confusing if looking at both runways. The normal x-axis is perpendicular to runway 35, and the upwind side is slightly inside the runway. There has never been any lack of hanger space, as we usually have two massive Air Force hangers at our disposal. Randy Chestnut has done an outstanding job the last few years as CD. The winds can be mighty at times, as was the case on the Thursday practice day of the 1997 contest. The 1997 contest was smaller than 1996 mainly because of the high winds. Seems the winds lessened each day, and there was never any problem with crosswinds. There is a fuel truck that cruises the ramp at appropriate times, and my experience is it wasn't hard to get gas when I needed it. Hotels are ten to fifteen minutes' drive away, so you need to either rent a car or arrange to catch rides. There is usually ample room in cars going to and from hotels. Victorville a great season opener that I wouldn't miss!!
Paso Robles, early June - Chapter 38
Hard to be impartial about a contest so near and dear to my heart! Paso is our Chapter's focus throughout the year, and we have enjoyed great success for a long while. My personal experience only spans six years, and I have seen the contest grow quite a bit in that time! The box is not aligned with either of the runways, which can be VERY confusing in the middle of a rolling turn or vertical roll. There is a very long taxiway that spans the ends of the two runways that IS aligned with the box, and the downwind markers are situated right on that taxiway. The ramp in front of the FBO is basically parallel to the box, so another good reference there. Due to the time of year the contest is held, it is usually very hot!! Some years stand out in everyone's memory, like the 118 degree temps from 1996, so everyone must pay careful attention to hydration. Alan Cima has expertly managed three contests, and assisted Graham Bird in learning the ropes for the 1999 contest. Roger Oxborrow, the super-nice airport manager, loves us and goes well out of his way to take care of us from initial phone calls in February all the way through cleanup on Sunday. There is a new self-serve fuel pump that makes getting gas very easy and convenient. Hotels are about five to ten minutes away.
Willows, mid-July, Chapter 85
Traditionally a smaller contest (which is the way those Schelville boys like it!), Willows has been great fun. The box is a little crooked due to available marker space on the ground, but no one seems to mind - I know I don't. There are two runways at Willows, and the box lines up with one of them, which makes for a nice reference. Interstate 5 clips the northeast corner of the box a little, but again not a problem. On one day, the 1996 contest saw a 15 knot 90 degree wind! It was almost comical. Luckily, most everyone had the same conditions, so no unfair advantage was realized. The fuel pumps are closer to the hangers than the starting line, so you may need to push your airplane back and forth a couple of times. There's a nice little restaurant next to the fuel and across from the hangers. Because of its smaller size, the contest usually ends mid-day Saturday, and naturally a wild pool party follows!! Ask Marta Myer how she manages to swim while still seated in her chair! Harry could probably tell you. You could walk to several hotels, but it's much easier to drive to hitch a ride. Our pals in Chapter 85 do an outstanding job at making a fun contest!
Delano, Labor Day weekend, Chapter 26
DLO is probably best known for its excellent box, marked very well and lined up with the many, many section lines nearby. One difference with DLO's box, though, is that is does not have a buffer zone. Typically, the actual box extends 164 feet outside the markers, but at Delano, the markers include the buffer zone, so if you look down, and you're behind the line, you're out of the box!! Last year, I was struck by how smoothly the large turnout was handled. There were 65+ pilots, and we still finished on time Saturday afternoon! Good job, Guys. Aldos is right next door, and they serve great Mexican food and have hosted the banquet many times. There is one big hanger and a couple of smaller ones privately available, and usually everyone that wants an indoor spot gets one. The self-serve fuel pump is right there in front, which couldn't be more convenient. There is one hotel close to the airport that is very walkable, and several more in town five minutes away. This is one of my personal favorites!
Borrego, mid/late October, Chapter 36
Ah, Borrego. Without a doubt the most scenic locale of all the California contests. Surrounded on three sides by huge mountains, Borrego Springs is a desert resort community with top-notch resorts and golf courses. Even though this is the farthest I travel to a contest (about a 4 hour flight from LVK), it is well worth it. The box lines up perfectly with the single runway, and the end of runway 25 marks the (usual) upwind side of the box. On rare occasions, they have switched the direction of flight, which really poses no difficulties because of the section lines and the runway. The past two years, the flying had to be ceased for a bit due to high winds and "dirt devils". The Crosswinds Restaurant bar faces the runway and the box, plus there are tables and shades on top of the building, which provides a neat perspective. There is no self-serve fuel, but the FBO is always right there to get you the four drops of 100LL you need before a competition flight. Hanger space is a little limited, but I have always managed to find a spot. You do have to ask for hanger space when you first get there. A couple of motels are about ten minutes away, as well as the few resorts to choose from. Borrego makes for a nice season-closer for those who don't stray outside the state to contests (they give out nice trophies too!).
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Last updated: Sat 4/7/2001 08:30 PDTCopyright © 1999-2003 Cris Flint