Flying Challenge Cup Winners Emerge at Oshkosh

Three fliers take top spots in sim challenge.

Flying Challenge Cup Winners

Flying Challenge Cup Winners

Flying Challenge Cup winners with Mike Goulian and Robert Goyer.

The 12 finalists of the inaugural Flying Challenge Cup took the stage at Oshkosh AirVenture show-center Wednesday morning to compete for the three top spots in the stick-and-rudder skills competition.

The Cup, which kicked off at Sun 'n Fun earlier this year, put aviation enthusiasts around the world to the test as they flew demanding scenarios on a Redbird Trace simulator that evaluated their pilot prowess and scored them accordingly. Participants from several countries and 32 different states took part in the Challenge, and the top four performers from each of the categories — licensed pilots, student pilots and non-pilots — won a free trip to Oshkosh to compete for first place in their respective groups.

The finalists come from a wide range of backgrounds, some with decades of aviation experience and others with just a couple of hours in the sim. They each took their turn in the Redbird sim in front of the crowds at EAA AirVenture's Boeing Plaza Wednesday morning to perform the final simulation challenge — which included a short-field takeoff, a steep turn and a spot landing — that would determine the three winners. AirVenture attendees got the chance to watch the pilot's sim session live on the big screen as aerobatic pilot Mike Goulian (who will also be featured in an upcoming Flying Is… video) and EAA's Hal Bryan moderated their progress on stage.

Participants could earn a score of up to 10,000 points during the final challenge, and the competition remained tight throughout the event, with several contestants scoring within just a few dozen points of one another. Nonetheless three clear winners emerged. Patrick Webb took home the Cup in the pilot category thanks to his score of 9,660; Kevin Sandoval won the Cup in the student pilot category with a score of 9,645; and Matthew Smith claimed the Cup in the non-pilot category with a score of 9,452.

Webb, a private pilot with 120 hours, made a few dozen attempts at the original sim challenges to win his spot as a finalist. He told Flying he has wanted to go to Oshkosh for years, and after seeing the Cup featured in the magazine decided to take his shot. He says the Challenge provided him with his first experience in spin training, and that he plans to continue sim training as he works on achieving his next goal in aviation, obtaining his instrument rating.

Sandoval qualified as a finalist for the Cup in the student pilot category but went on to achieve his license before attending today's final competition. The 22-year-old from Charleston, South Carolina, says he plans to enter the military and hopes to fly cargo planes for the Air Force.

Smith, 19, will enter Western Michigan University this fall and plans on majoring in aviation flight science to prepare for a career as a corporate or airline pilot. He credits his win today to his focus on sticking the landing, and says that he practiced the sim scenario so much that by the time he took the seat behind the controls today it was all muscle memory.

In addition to the Flying Challenge Cup trophy, the three winners are taking home a Lightspeed headset and will get the opportunity to fly with the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team here at Oshkosh. All of the finalists were awarded the new D2 pilot watch from Garmin.

Look out for news in Flying on next year's challenge, which will kick off in April 2015.

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