Thursday, July 07, 2011

IAC Michigan Aerobatic Open Diary: Setting the Box Markers

I’m in Jackson for the IAC Michigan Aerobatic Open. Competition is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday and the aerobatic box is open for practice today and Friday. It’s being held at Jackson County Reynolds Field (KJXN).

That is, once the box gets marked.

I spent the morning driving around the airport and environs with the IAC crew setting up box markers. Basically, three-foot-wide rolls of Tyvek about 30 feet long. You stake out these sheets of Tyvek at the corners of the box, at the midpoints, and at the center.

The box is 3,000 feet by 3,000 feet and it goes 3,000 feet vertically from 1,500 AGL (about 2,500 MSL here) up to 4,500 AGL (5,500 MSL). The box sits to the west of the airport proper and it’s parallel with Runway 6/24. Because it’s aligned with a runway and not with any section lines or other intuitive landmarks, the box marking is particularly important here at Jackson.

Grab a couple of vehicles and a couple of airband radios, get clearance from the tower, and head out onto the airport nailing down Tyvek at all of the important points. We used GPS to precisely locate the points and then aligned them using a sighting device with a whiskey compass.

Not all of the places we needed to reach were accessible from the airport grounds themselves. At one point, we drove behind the local Sam’s Club and hopped the fence to lay out a marker in a little meadow just on the other side of the fence.

Although I’ve always known that something like this must necessarily precede an aerobatic contest or similar event, this is the first time that I’ve actually gone out and helped. A lot goes into the process.

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