ZLA Alphabet Challenge- a 5 Star Review

ZLA Alphabet Challenge- a 5 Star Review

Postby Kevin_atc » Wed Jan 22, 2020 4:58 pm

I'm intentionally posting this in the "Pilots" forum rather than the "Alphabet Challenge" sub forum (located here: viewforum.php?f=46) in hopes of bringing more attention to the Alphabet Challenge.

For those who aren't familiar, the Alphabet Challenge is not an official PE rating series (such as the CAT, I or SKY ratings), but it is still 100% worth your time...especially if you're not looking to work on anything specific and more just maintain proficiency, or just have some fun in your sim while still working toward an objective.

Today I became the 51st pilot on PE to complete the ZLA Alphabet Challenge. The challenge tours you through ZLA in an alphabetical fashion. The first leg is from kApv-kBfl, then from kBfl-kCma, and so on. Once you get through the letters A-Z, they go through the numbers 0-9 as well. In all, there are 35 legs and I'm writing this to share my experience in hopes of more pilots attempting/finishing the challenge.

I spent 3 months completing all 35 legs. Some of which are as short as 5-20 miles, others as long as 200-300 miles. The 35 legs take you all over ZLA to airports that you'd never think of going to, so for that reason alone it makes for a fun tour of the airspace. The challenge is truly what you make of it. For me, I used it to practice old-fashion dead reckoning (turned off the GPS and moving map, turned off NAV radios and just used skyvector and my eyeballs to navigate). I followed freeways, lakes, dry lakes, mountain tops, etc...it was a lot of fun and very rewarding when I actually found a small airport in the middle of nowhere without any help from modern technology. This made for a few times where I followed the wrong road, but I never found myself so lost that I had to give up. A few of my flight logs/tracks were pretty entertaining to look at once I landed where I could figure out where I went wrong and what wrong turn I made (see below).

The flights are all tracked on http://www.myflightroute.com (http://myflightroute.com/atoz.php?) where you can see the leg itinerary and submit your flight logs once you land.
The challenge rules are posted here: viewtopic.php?f=46&t=4806

Since the inception of the challenge 5 years ago, 240 pilots have attempted at least leg #1, but only 51 have finished. So whether you are one of the 189 who need to complete the full challenge, or one of the thousands who have never tried it, I highly recommend it if you have completed at least the CAT ratings. Keep in mind the alphabet challenge may be flown VFR or IFR which is why it is so versatile in accomplishing whatever you wish to get out of the flying.

Several things to note:
- Many of the airports are small non-towered fields, so I wouldn't recommend anything larger than the Cirrus VIsion Jet, although there are a handful of 200+ mile legs so you may want something faster than the C172 (I did most of my legs in the BE58).
- Don't gear yourself up for a dramatic ending. The last leg ending at L90 was, hands down, the worst airport of the whole challenge so that was mildly disappointing
- Read the rules on the link I posted above, but the biggest thing to remember is to file your flight plan (VFR or IFR) before taking off and to ensure it has you "arrived" when you land. Otherwise, you won't get credit when you submit your flight.

Have fun!

Image Image Image
Last edited by Kevin_atc on Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Retired PilotEdge Air Traffic Controller / Instructor
Posts: 1787
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:01 pm

Re: ZLA Alphabet Challenge- a 5 Star Review

Postby dhplane » Wed Jan 22, 2020 5:43 pm

Thx Kevin,

I just finished my I-11 this afternoon and was looking at the Alphabet Challenge as my next Pilotedge project... I just needed a little push to get started and you just provided that... thx again!... Joey
Posts: 58
Joined: Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:06 am

Re: ZLA Alphabet Challenge- a 5 Star Review

Postby Kevin_atc » Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:27 pm

P.S. Starting the WUS Edition soon! http://www.myflightroute.com/atozwus.php
Retired PilotEdge Air Traffic Controller / Instructor
Posts: 1787
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:01 pm

Re: ZLA Alphabet Challenge- a 5 Star Review

Postby Medtner » Fri Jan 24, 2020 4:36 pm

I agree that this concept is fantastic. It's wonderful for having a purpose of flying, also a varied landscape and very very importantly - varied airspace and airports to contend with. I think flying the Alphabet Challenges will leave the pilot armed with knowledge and experience to fly in and around any kind of airspace in the NAS, and thereby completing the "goal" of PilotEdge. This is, I am sure, why Keith Smith always says that people shouldn't need PE to have everybodys home airport in the coverage area, as ZLA contains "it all" (and in particular WUS). If you've flown into a few Bravos/Charlies/Deltas/uncontrolled, you've done them all after a while.
It's really enjoyable to learn the geography in ZLA so well too. I feel at home there now.

Just before christmas I was the 15th pilot to complete the Alphabet Challenge WUS, and I started in late April, flying the challenge basically uninterrupted. It's a big undertaking, but I learn so incredibly much, and have so much fun. IFR around Colorado in a GA-plane without oxygen can be all kinds of challenges, btw, so be prepared to fly long detours, or be hypoxic.

I recommend flying these as if on a real life tour:
- Fly VFR if the weather allows it and the route is particularly scenic and need the flexibility
- Fly IFR if its operationally beneficial, and/or the weather calls for it
- Don't fly if the weather calls for it. Let the plane sit if the weather is so bad. It's like the missed approach - it's part of the flight plan. Not flying is part of flying.
- Don't only use the magenta line with autopilot - handfly the plane; use VORs; plan for exciting approaches (arcs, NDBs, procedure turns).
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Dec 07, 2017 4:47 pm
Location: Arendal, Norway. Home airports: ENCN and ENGK.

Return to Pilots

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: MSN [Bot] and 1 guest