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Guest Lucas Kaelin

2015 Colorado VFR Challenge

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Guest Lucas Kaelin



Break out the sectionals, crank over those old pistons, and get ready for the 2015 Colorado VFR Challenge!


For those of you who aren't familiar, the VFR Challenge events are a great way to remind yourself of some basic pilot skills. The event has a few rules in order to enact the challenge. We encourage everyone to buddy up with a wingman or several, and fly together for more fun. If you have questions please don't be afraid to ask, the goal of these is to have fun smashing bugs and looking out the window instead of at the instrument panel. So here's the rules:


  • Standard VFR Challenge Rules:
  • General aviation aircraft are preferred, and no time may any aircraft exceed 150 KIAS.
  • Navigation is to be by pilotage and dead reckoning only. NO radio or GPS navigation is permitted.
  • All published airspace boundaries and special use airspace must be avoided unless special permission has been received from ATC.
  • Proper use of published UNICOM frequencies is required for non-controlled airports. Communication with ATC is required at staffed airports.
    Additional rules for this event:
  • Grass/Gravel/Turf/Dirt strips are to be used at ALL airports which have them.


Date: Sunday January 11 2015. 1600 Eastern (4pm)

Airports: KAPA-5V4-1V6-07V-KRCV

Route: Pilots are encouraged to plan their own routes with the spirit of the event

ATC Services available: (KAPA) Centennial Ground, (KAPA) Centennial Tower

As required by the rules pilots shall not violate the Denver Class B, Colorado Springs Class C, or R-2601.


This year's challenge will differ from the previous Colorado Challenges as we focus less on canyon and pass navigation and more on just finding the runway, or more appropriately what's left of the runway. I hope you're all current and up to date on soft field landings! Check out some of the informational NOTAMs in the event airport list:







Sadly FSX won't simulate these NOTAMs, however, that won't stop us from trying to run over those prairie dogs!

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Guest Lucas Kaelin

This year will be an experiment for me in sorts. I've flight checked the route already using my default setup with the "Holy Trinity" of FSX: UTX, GEX, REX as well as my ActiveSky Evolution. However, my FSX drive is failing, and I've just ordered a replacement. Since I'm going to have to reinstall everything I thought I'd take the chance at the holiday sales and pick up some upgrades I've wanted for a while. So when I actually fly the event I'll be testing ActiveSky Next, along with ORBX's FTX Global BASE + Vector.

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So when I actually fly the event I'll be testing ActiveSky Next, along with ORBX's FTX Global BASE + Vector.

You'll love ActiveSky Next. Big improvement over previous versions of ActiveSky, and night and day when compared to REX weather or just the default FSX "real-world" weather.


I'd be curious to know your thoughts on Vector as compared to UTX. I currently run FTX Global + UTX, but was thinking about upgrading to Vector.



Evan Reiter

Community Director
Administration Team

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Guest Lucas Kaelin

The countdown is on. This is the next Challenge event, and only 10 more days!

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This sounds like a blast and after the VFR Alaska challenge last year, I am looking forward to this one even more. Especially with the great elevation.

What kind of weather are y'al planning for the event? Custom, I assume? High pressure system with CAVU? :)

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Guest Lucas Kaelin

A reminder that the VFR Challenge is this Sunday from 4-7p Eastern time.

The event page says you can use the event route and links to SkyVector. Please note this route is simply the direct between all the airports and will result in several airspace violations. Please evaluate the route, and what changes you need to make to avoid the airspace and terrain properly. (Hint: West Pueblo)


The weather channel forecast shows partly cloudy and 35-40 degrees just about everywhere along our route of flight. Of course that doesn't predict cloud height, but the general idea was conditions clearing as the day progressed. I'll keep an eye on the weather as the short range forecasts become available, but I don't foresee a weather issue except possibly in the La Veta Pass.

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That sounds great, looking forward to it.

Hoping for our local forecast to come true and see some bad weather on Sunday. Otherwise I wouldn't make this event and most likely wind up getting "high" (a few thousand feet, that is).

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Guest John Girard

I wonder if dealing with the airport name and ICAO change might be part of the challenge...

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KAPA: 4 Local- 37F, 5% chance of precipitation. 7 Local-33F, Snow Showers

KRCV: 7 Local- 26F, 15% chance of precipitation


Doesn't look too bad. Just might want to turn the anti-ice on

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Guest Lucas Kaelin

I've been keeping an eye on the weather and forecasts. We may have some cloud dodging getting out of Centennial (BKN025), although conditions along the route until La Veta pass are forecast to be easy with little to no issues and improving as the event continues south (SCT030-050 BKN060-080). La Veta Pass and the basin beyond it seem a completely different issue. The only forecast available for this area is at KALS, SCT005 BKN060 for our time frame with conditions quickly deteriorating after sunset. The rundown says the event is possible, but as always, part of being a pilot is making your own go/no-go decision. Unless there's a drastic change in forecast, I encourage pilots to participate in the event as planned until they no longer feel operation of their aircraft is safe. For those who aren't comfortable testing their limits, please don't let this dissuade you from flying. I'm sure the controllers kind enough to staff APA for us would love to have some pattern traffic to mix with all the departures. Don't forget you can always find a wingman or ask questions in the Teamspeak server. The VFR Challenge is every bit of a community flight to be enjoyed together and not a race to the finish. The idea of the event is to refresh some of your flying skills, and take away the magenta line! Remember tonight to aim for those dirt, gravel, and turf runways to really bring about the challenge. Those required soft field landings will also make good practice for the upcoming Landing Competition.


Personally I plan on flying the event at least to La Veta, and re-evaluating conditions from that point in time. From there if I'm not able to continue as planned, other fun options exist like trying to make GUC, or going back up to COS or PUB. After the event I plan on trying some of the more challenging approaches in the area in IMC! I look forward to seeing you all in the server in a few hours.

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How are the winds today, westerly? I yet have to check out the weather (so far only on my first up of coffee) but definitely looking fwd to flying with the crowd, watching the gorgeous scenery and dodging clouds.

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Guest Lucas Kaelin

We had a rather interesting Challenge tonight. The weather at Centennial started deteriorating only 30 minutes after the event started. A few frontrunners actually completed the whole event before RCV went IMC. By the time I even made it as far as Le Veta pass it had already degraded to IMC, meaning most of the pilots had to stop upon reaching La Veta. There were a few poor souls who went scud running in the mountains trying to make RCV anyway. Overall there were just shy of 30 pilots who participated in the event, and surely more who flew it early, or will fly it again later this week.



And now for the fun stuff. Here's some of the screenshots I took along the flight. This was my first daytime flight using ActiveSky Next and ORBX's FTX Global Base and Vector. Mind you I also have all the other North American software packs that ORBX has released, which do a stellar job when flying around Colorado. You will notice in these screenshots, a decided lack of my usual wingman, SoloWingDemon. Sadly he had to work and missed out on the fun.




















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What an awesome challenge! As detailed above the weather quickly deteriorated and there was serious scud running and one heart stopping moment at the top of La Veta pass for us at the back. High terrain on either side and a race between finding the notch on the left and the rising terrain pressing you into the clouds. Wish I had a screenshot, perhaps I can recreate with the historical function of ASN (awesome program by the way). Fortunately I had put in a few waypoints through the pass and so had some headings to fly and then the train track below gave me the confidence that I was in the right canyon (Thanks FTX Vector, though I had issues with airport elevations and auto generated trees that need sorting out). On the other side the flat valley floor gave a false sense of security as the clouds got lower and lower as the terrain rose toward RCV, so ended up following the Rio Grande up to the lights of Del Norte. Amazingly there was one other foolhardy soul out there with me and we were on a converging course about 4 miles out so a 360 over Del Norte was necessary for spacing. Landing on 24 (26 in FSX) would have been fairly straightforward but circling to 21 was a bit white knuckle with the rising terrain again providing the squeeze and no runway lights to help in the fading light. Kudos to the organizer above and I'm looking forward to going back and doing some previous challenges. Found some links in the forums but an archive page would be really nice.

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Guest Lucas Kaelin

A vfr challenge archive page sounds like a great idea. I just sent an email to a friend the other day with them, I'll dig it up and post it in the next couple days. Hopefully we can get it made a sticky as well.

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Fantastic. I'm looking forward to the Challenge(s). While I'm at it I have an idea for a future one. Orbx has released a completely free demo section of the Pacific Northwest scenery which is just amazing and convinced me to buy heaps of their stuff. It's big enough and challenging enough for a great course and would probably have the side effect of boosting their sales if we can get 30 pilots out there flying around on it. (Hopefully they'll be releasing the Northeast and/or American OLC sometime soonish as well.)

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Guest John Girard

I have questions about some things I saw at KAPA as the event started:

1. I saw a C172 taxi sideways. He traveled from parking all the way to the active while facing 90-deg to direction of travel.

2. I saw another Cessna 172 sitting on the taxiway blocking taxiing a/c that were attempting to reach the active.

3. Several a/c appeared to taxi and take off from the grass parallel to the runway.

Are these just anomalies, something wrong on my end, wrong scenery loaded, or what? I seldom participate in thes event so I don't see too many a/c up close. Is this typical? (I realize that the type a/c I saw may be incorrect because of how FSX substitutes) Thanks!

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Guest Lucas Kaelin

Good questions John.

1- This is an aircraft substitution issue, you didn't have the same aircraft as that user, and for some reason FSX decided the best substitution was the default 172. As for why it moved sideways, I have no idea, although saw the same thing.

2/3- That was me at the A11 intersection departure, but since I had the ORBX Northern Rockies scenery package all of my taxiways and runways were slightly offset from the default scenery. Apparently I wasn't the only one with this scenery, and I didn't realize Centennial was included in the package.

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Guest John Girard

Thanks. That explains it. Great event. I flew it the day before but couldn't fly the actual event so just watched departures. Next time, for sure.

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