This was posted by Easy Ed on the KISS thread
In response to Ed - the overwhelming feedback we received after the 2009 race and early in 2010 was that most team members did not want strategic planning to play so heavily in the race outcome.I'd love to see fewer rules than we had this year as that would bring the planning back in - bigtime! What took the planning out this year was the unknown as you didn't know where to go until you got the "envelope" for your next continent. Any race in which you can plan your whole route will bring planning back - that is all there is to it as the other teams know how critical planning is.
Several people wanted the routing requirements to be announced at least one week in advance, so the route and all race airports could be scouted and locked down in advance.
Many more were very much against being able to plan out the entire race. The concensus we saw was that pilots did not want the 'entire route' figured out in advance. That the individual pilot have some input as to route and airports.
Quite a few people hated the reality that planning could lose the race before the first aircraft took off.
We know some people are excellent planners, and we also know that a larger group really does not have the interest in such detailed work, nor the practical understanding of how to do a full world route planning. They just want to fly.
After the first couple years the race was run, it became clear that team members did not want to fly the same route and the same airports year after year. Maybe it is time to revisit that concept.
Because we all know there is one shortest distance route around the world. The only question about the route is G-I-UK Gap or Brazil-Africa. That is without a 'corridor' across the South Pacific, so everyone has to fly the Aleutians.
We chose to make a few changes this year.
1) We eliminated the possibility to 'out bonus' the other teams. We limited the max bonus amount, and created bonus airports near the possible routes. We have noted a tendancy in the past for teams to chase every available bonus. This can work well, but it can also lead to a much longer than necessary race. Was setting a bonus cap good or bad?
2) Bonus Airports - We focused on airports with at least some level of skill required to make the landing - no ILS if possible, moderate terrain issues if possible. It is getting hard to find challenging airports we have not visited in the past. We purposely excluded airports without lighting. Frankly the 'amazing' landings on challenging airports at night with no lights, or under 0/0 visibility conditions with no navaids is completely bogus in my opinion. It also flies against the limited concept of reality we seek to achieve. Good or bad idea?
3) Corridors - This year we eliminated corridors. We gave teams two wild card flights which could be used either across the oceans or otherwise. The first two races had no corridors. They were introduced in the third race and we have used them every year since. We have gone overboard on corridors trying to offer route variations in the past. Was wild cards instead of pre-defined corridors good or bad?
4) Jets - Time is a factor. The first two races ran longer than teams appear to be willing to participate. The third race ran about 106 hours, the fourth race about 128 hours. We aim for 96 hours when we do the planning. We cannot do that without using jets at some point. The open ocean legs are always a question. I've enjoyed flying those 10-13 hour flights - a couple times. Do we push the jets for those crossings? Many of us love the big old recips. Is the time necessary too disruptive to the teams? Our feedback from the teams is that spending 18-20 hours on two long piston aircraft crossings is very damaging to race team continuity. Opinions?
5) Jets over land - in the past we've had specific legs, we've allowed jets on specific continents. This year we went with a specific number of legs. Yes it complicates the race and record keeping. Is the complexity tradeoff worth the tactical advantages of picking jets for distance/time challenged legs?
6) Leg time limits - Leg limits both time and distance are in-place to avoid 'baton hogging'. Without them we would have people claim the baton for six or seven hour long flights. That the race could boil down to as few as 20 or 25 legs. We assume almost everyone is in favor of the two hour time limit - right? We have considered making alternate time limits available for certain legs - but have chosen to not do so to avoid confusion and extra record keeping.
7) Leg distance limits - We limit distance to try to balance the field of various aircraft. The longer distance we allow - the greater advantage for the faster aircraft. The limit is UHSS-UHPP which is about 715nm distance. Anything shorter and it becomes impossible to fly around the world without forcing teams to use corridors. 750 nm also allows BGSF-BIKF to be valid, not forcing teams to use BGBW. Distance limits also eliminate about 98% of the advantage of using the very fastest jets versus just fast jets for those legs. Are leg distance limits a good idea or a bad idea?
Several years ago the FlightSim Team tested and proved they could do 847.7 nm in two hours VCCW-WITT. And the math actually worked out that up to 9 minutes over 2 hours was still a tactical advantage. Do we want that kind of leg choice to be possible?
8) Measuring leg distance - Several years ago the committee worked out a very precise method to measure leg distance from airport reference point to airport reference point. That was shared with all the teams, but of course iFly/FS-MP was not part of the race them. It requires using only the default flight planner. Any addon planner is not acceptable for official distances - FSNav and others are not exact enough. It appears that Plan-G might be closest to the default FS flight planner, but we don't have enough experience with Plan-G to be sure. Many people and teams have used the Great Circle Mapper web site for years for routing and planning.
We were shocked and surprised to see that Great Circle Mapper has apparently changed their calculation methods and now many of their distances are quite different from the distances calculated in FS. This is a shame because the GCM web site is the easiest and quickest way to plan routes and share them with other team members.
I guess we are going to have to mandate the very precise but complicated route planning with the default FS flight planner.
Airport choices - this is something I've been preaching for years.
One thing which stands out about the FS route this year is their airport choices. Every airport they hit was a good airport with a decent length runway and good enough lighting for night landings. No crazy terrain issues.
FlightSim did not have a single crash on landing this year by the baton. They lost one leg due to a computer crash and the illegal aircraft leg.
By my count five FS pilots did a go around when their first approach was a big shakey - taking the time to go around rather than push a landing and possible crash. Some were wingmen such as my go around at NTTX. Some were the baton pilot.
There is the temptation to push for the maximum distance per leg and go into a marginal airport. Should a team encourage or discourage that behavior?