The Conception of the Virtual Nav Challenge

Conference cancelled, plans changed! The collective hearts of lady aviators all over Australia broke in March this year, as COVID-19 hit us where it really hurt – our much anticipated and beloved Annual Conference falling victim to scrambled lockdowns and isolation regulations as they rolled out across the country. Our valiant National Committee, and NSW president Judy Shaw, held on for as long as possible, but were finally forced to withdraw, regretfully postponing the Broken Hill-based event to April 2021.

Woe is we! But, as is the theme of the last few months, we adapt. Margie Hawke had the bright thought of holding online ‘Welcome Drinks’ in place of the Welcome Dinner, traditionally hosted on the first evening of the five-day annual gathering. It sparked an idea in Nicole Collins’ mind – ‘If it were possible to virtualise other social aspects of the event, would it be possible to design an online Nav Challenge, too?’

April began and Nicole contacted Peta Denham-Harvey (Victorian branch President), who replied with, “A wonderful idea!” Always helpful, Peta shared some ways of creating clues and structuring the piece. Nicole set to work planning, assembling an impressive repertoire of general knowledge and aviation-related questions and clues. She says, “The first important point was ‘Please stay at home!’ However, in a case such as this, endurance wasn’t going to be an issue so…” She thought, “why not!?” and gleefully threw in some long legs not normally be achievable for private pilots, for entertainment’s sake.

Where to start? Well, poor Tassie suffered a bit with the pushback of the conference, too. They’d done so much planning and preparation for what was supposed to be a proudly Hobart-hosted AGM next year, so let’s pay them a friendly visit and start there. Clues included cryptics such as ‘a town named after a flightless bird on the white continent that Felicity has visited’, towns and airports named after explorers, ‘Big things’, wacky geography features and the song ‘Raining on the _ _ _ _’. There were bonus questions about the AWPA, and the hardest question – ‘How many terminals does Sydney airport have?’ – thus determined by the fact that everyone forgot about freight.

Teams got to trip all ‘round the country, plotting their course without leaving home. All teams and individuals did very well, and the incentive to find and provide photos from quests in the past was a fantastic way to reminisce on fun times. The final clue was accompanied by the request that arrival be delayed 382 days – can you guess? That’s right – the plan is still to meet in Broken Hill in 2021. We’re not giving that party away easily!

Congratulations to Team Awesome for completing this challenge in the shortest time, and IsolAmy and Social Kristencing for completing the task on Nav Trial date. Team Lost was acknowledged for including the most photos – highly entertaining, and Annie Stay-at-home-on-the-Range for filling in an afternoon and having the most correct answer for ‘why Forrest airport is where it is’. 

But Nicole wasn’t done yet! Keen to give it another go, round two was a special event for the Victorian branch – time to explore our own backyard! Our inbox ‘dings!’ with the arrival of a new Welcome Pack, and – ‘The Stump Hotel has good refreshments, if not at the cricket club. Chat at 3 pm. Kind regards, Nicole Collins.’ 

How mysterious! Pity we still can’t visit said hotel. Anyway, off we go!

This time the event was held on a specific Sunday afternoon and we all received the clues at the same moment. We had just 1.5 hrs to complete the challenge, so this made things a little more spicy! But goodness didn’t it feel great to dust off the navigation skills, and what a pleasure it was to cast an eye over the ol’ ERSA again.

We followed a coast dotted with lighthouses and emissaries, by Moonlight – but not so low as to disturb rocks or helis, subconsciously broadcasting our positions on 127.1. Were we looking for pirates, or a cricket club, or animals you’d otherwise only find in a zoo? These were the kind of questions we asked ourselves during that hour and a half.

Scribbled answers and the ‘Send’ button pressed, members assembled on-screen for the essential post-nav-challenge-drinks-by-video-conference, where Peta, Tasha and Kristen were declared the best team; best solo going to the curious Don’t Practice Solo BIF.

All in all, a genuine and resounding CHEERS to the legendary Nicole Collins for entertaining us during dreaded ‘time inside’, motivating us to get together, stick together and socialise, and, most importantly, teaching us how to look outside the box and turn what we do have into a major positive – whatever it may be at the time.

Written and published in the Winter edition of Airnews Magazine no. 268, August 2020, brought to you by Coronavirus. To receive your copy of Airnews Magazine, become a member of the Australian Women Pilots’ Association – visit their website for details.

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