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Thread: RTW Planning Concepts

  1. #1

    RTW Planning Concepts

    This was posted by Easy Ed on the KISS thread

    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.
    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.

    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?
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC] Reggie Fields, KADS, Addison, Texas, USA

  2. #2
    Thanks, Reggie. Good stuff here.

    Some random thoughts:

    1 and 2. I liked the bonus reduction, for the reasons you stated. I also like the idea of challenging airports for the bonuses. That’s what makes them “bonus” after all. I understand your feeling that the darkened airport in the middle of the night is unrealistic. If that’s all it has going for it to make it a bonus, then I would agree. But if a famous airport that is difficult to land at (Lukla?) also happens to be unlit, oh well. In the past there have been AFCAD packs to add lights to some of these fields. That could be done too.

    3. I don’t mind corridors. They serve a purpose. Lets just have one kind… No air bridges and corridors, for example. Wildcards do offer the teams more options (this can be good and bad, as it should be.)

    4 and 5. I like jets at some point in the race. The big jets are challenging to land. That makes it fun. Allowing long range jets for wildcards and corridors would be cool. Allowing jets over specific continents or other regions is easer to manage and track that going by number of legs, because now somebody has to keep track of them. Tracking progress has become an “issue” of late. Anything that simplifies tracking is gooder!

    6 and 7. Leg time and distance limits: Good. Agree to keep the time limits simple, to make record keeping easer. Same with distance limits. Having them is good, having three different ones is not necessarily better…

    8. Interesting stuff there. The only time very precise measurement of leg distance would be important is on those legs that are very close to the limit. Is it worth the effort for coming up with a complicated method? I know duenna measures the distance from gear up to gear down and duenna-stop, which can result in the baton carrier and wingman posting different leg distances, but if it’s well within the leg length limit, do we care? It’s the baton time that matters anyway. As far as encouraging or discouraging flying max leg length into marginal airports, I think that should be left to the teams. If the winning team flew shorter legs in order to hit bigger well lit airports, and suffered no crashes because of it, and won the race, well, it sounds like they’re onto to something, and we should start thinking that way too.
    - Paul



    Win7 x64 | GIGABYTE X79-UP4 | Intel Core i7-3820 Quad-Core 3.60 GHz | 16GB DDR3/1600MHz Quad Channel Memory | NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB 16X PCIe 3.0

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by PRB View Post
    8. Interesting stuff there. The only time very precise measurement of leg distance would be important is on those legs that are very close to the limit. Is it worth the effort for coming up with a complicated method? I know duenna measures the distance from gear up to gear down and duenna-stop, which can result in the baton carrier and wingman posting different leg distances, but if it’s well within the leg length limit, do we care?
    You are correct it is only those legs which are close to the limit which matter.

    Unfortunately using Duenna as the 'official' distance gives us the same problem as iFly had with Great Circle Mapper. If the external source which Duenna uses to calculate distance changes their methodology, then we can have different numbers. Some over the limit, some under the limit.

    Great Circle Mapper shows ZYCC-UHSS as 739nm - clearly under the 750nm limit by about 1.5%. I did some testing a couple years ago and have the notes. At that time GCM showed ZYCC-UHSS as 759 nm - so some change at GCM makes a 20 nm difference.

    The Duenna recorded distance was 758.1 nm, but when we check the distance between airport reference points it is 757.6 in FS2004 and FSX

    We have had legs in past races and in events we have flown here where the Duenna has recorded as over the legal distance and FS shows under the legal distance. We have several instances where FSNav shows a leg to be legal, and FS and Duenna show it to not be legal.

    The method isn't 'complicated' as much as precise. You cannot just create an FS flight plan between the two airports - by choosing the correct start point of the FP, I can reduce the ZYCC-UHSS distance to 752.1 nm.

    I can also fly the route and use Duenna to get the distance to display as 749.7 nm - by being very careful about where I start and stop Duenna.

    So if we are going to penalize someone for an over distance flight - we need to make our method of validation of the distance clear and clearly available.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC] Reggie Fields, KADS, Addison, Texas, USA

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by PRB View Post
    But if a famous airport that is difficult to land at (Lukla?) also happens to be unlit, oh well.
    We are not completely decided on unlit airports yet. We need feedback from the teams.

    We can do some AFCADs if necessary.

    One proposal is that landings at unlit airports not be allowed after local sunset in FS, or 30 minutes after sunset when FS ends dusk and goes to night. Though we will see variations between computers. Depending on the default timezones or updated realistic time zones - the time of sunset / dusk can vary by an hour and a half UTC on the individual computer.

    One problem we have with the real challenging airports is the different versions of FS. We had to do a bit of work to make Courchevel workable because the default airport and detailed mesh don't work well together.

    Lukla is a mess and near unlandable in the default FSX, and another of my favorites - Milford Sound in New Zealand is even worse. KTEX requires a download fix if we want to use it in FS2004 - NDB in the middle of the runway will cause a crash.

    We work very hard to make sure all required, corridor and bonus airports are at least free of major FS coding issues in both FS2004 and FSX - and we check them in FS2002.

    Fixing the gross issues and making the airport workable is a relatively simple task as long as water polygons are not involved in FSX. They require at least four different programs and resultant files in FS2004 to fix what can be done with one program and two 'afcad' type files in FSX.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC] Reggie Fields, KADS, Addison, Texas, USA

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by RFields View Post
    We are not completely decided on unlit airports yet. We need feedback from the teams.

    We can do some AFCADs if necessary.

    One proposal is that landings at unlit airports not be allowed after local sunset in FS, or 30 minutes after sunset when FS ends dusk and goes to night. Though we will see variations between computers. Depending on the default timezones or updated realistic time zones - the time of sunset / dusk can vary by an hour and a half UTC on the individual computer.
    In addition, there is a vast difference between a team choosing to land at a difficult airport and the rules "requiring" the same. It's one thing to make an ad hoc decision and another to program in a difficult airport fairly. If there is a choice of routes then it is possible or likely that teams will find that segment at different times of day ( or a couple of days later) and weather has changed for the worst, or darkness raises the bar to the point where only the most experienced pilots should attempt it. With the choices we had in 2010 it was fairly even because there WERE choices. Certainly those could be made more challenging if they are optional. Remember that at 2 am most pilots aren't at the top of their game either. The 'required' airports have to be fair (not easy) for all pilots under all conditions. Sure, we are a daring bunch and probably could handle some greater adversity,but we also have to bear in mind that a multiple attempt/failure location does none of us much good.

    At the same time, it's worth reminding RTWR pilots and recruits that there are 11 months in which we can raise skill levels. Every race points out to some that a primary level of pilot skill works most of the time, but there are always a few challenges that require superlative performance and planning by the individual. We can "dish it out" if you wish, but how much can you take before it becomes a crash-fest.

    Rob

    "To some the sky is the limit. To others it is home" anon.
    “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein


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