Santa Barbara “Out and Back”

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Santa Barbara “Out and Back”

Postby bb_secretary » Tue Dec 14, 2021 7:30 pm

Discussion and Proposal
3/2021 / Updated 12/2021

I’ve done some research on Out and Back records, and experimented with various scoring options over the past couple of years.

This discussion and proposal was initially posted to the SBSA General Discussion Forum in March 2021, but in July we had a spam attack and 10 years of the General Discussion Forum was accidentally deleted in the process of cleaning up the spam so we are re-posting now with a current review an update.

attached for reference and example are:
Marty DeVietti's 6/10/2020 KMZ
(459.75 KiB) Downloaded 148 times

Jeff Longcor’s 2/21/2021 KMZ
(393.47 KiB) Downloaded 146 times

Carter Crowe’s 3/28/2021 KMZ
(427.64 KiB) Downloaded 133 times

and Carter’s recent 12/11/2021 KMZ (updated 12/16/2021)
(362.44 KiB) Downloaded 145 times

and possibly our new Santa Barbara Foot Launched Out and Back Distance Record?
if and when Carter post a reasonably descriptive narrative about his Saturday Flight

Carter’s 12/11/2021 KMZ uses the simpler line measurement methodology described below. The scoring is in a KMZ folder that needs to be clicked on to view. Also note that parallax is an issue when measuring in Google Earth. One method of avoiding parallax measurement errors is to flatten the terrain (uncheck the terrain box located at the bottom of the layers tree) and reference placemark altitudes to ground rather than absolute altitude (in various item properties).

I was previously under what I think was an incorrect perception that XContest had a category for Out and Back. XContest does calculate more points in their scoring method for various triangles, but I don’t see a category for Out and Back? The XContest triangle scoring is a bit complicated and appears to offer different bonus multipliers for various degrees of alignment with the FAI triangle requirements.

One of the philosophical concepts of the XContest rules is that you don’t need to declare your intent prior to the flight. You can do the flight and the xcontest algorithm will calculate a score based on your GPS track file. This simplifies the admin overhead and the documentation simplicity increases participation.

The international sanctioning organization for various sport aviation records is the
FAI / Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
Various FAI “Commissions” sanction competitions (HGs and PGs are part of the CIVL Commission) and they also sanction “Records and Badges”. For an “official” record to be accepted by the FAI, you need to complete at least some pre-flight requirements like obtaining a Sporting License.

Hang Gliding and Paragliding Record requirements are specified in the
FAI Sporting Code Section 7D - Class O Records and Badges
2020 Edition Effective 1st May 2020
Note that Paragliders are listed as Class 3 Hang Gliders

Flights can be either “Declared” or “Free”. In the “Declared” category, location points are declared prior to the flight, but in the “Free” category location points may be declared post flight. There is a distinction between “Turnpoints” [section 1.5.8] and “Checkpoints” (1.5.11). where Turnpoints are declared prior to the start and Checkpoints are optional and can be identified post (after) the flight competition. For simplicity, when referring to a Free Checkpoint, I will use the term Turnpoint. Section list the record categories for “Free” flights including “Free Out and Return Distance”.

Section and 3.2.1 also list other “Free” categories like flights around multiple checkpoints (up to 3 turnpoints in addition to the start and end points) and triangles. You can apply for any of the records you choose, but in the discussion below I will focus on the Free Out and Return Distance Record.

Various points (start points, check points etc.) are coordinates surrounded by a cylinder.400 meters in radius, or 800 meters in diameter.
There is discussion and illustration in the documentation about measuring to the edge of the cylinder, not the center (5.2.5)
For “Free” or undeclared Out and Return, we can declare the “points” after the flight, so for the downrange turnpoint we can simply use the actual turn-point coordinates and ignore the cylinder because we could adjust the cylinder after the fact to match the same scoring result as simply use the turnpoint.

For the Start/Finish cylinder, we measure to the edge of the cylinder (not the center) so there may be some geometric penalty that increases as the distance between the actual start and end points increases.

I think we also want to consider the arbitrary FAI cylinder radius of 400 meters and our local objectives. Locally, we are trying to get out and back, so we are striving to define what “back” means. Locally, that often means getting back to Parma or East Beach? We could follow the FAI 400-meter radius requirements, but that complicates the flight. As start/finish cylinder size increase the geometry will also result in an increasing penalty.

I would argue that a 400-meter radius doesn’t reflect what we often do in SB, which often entails getting on course up higher and returning lower? We could permit a cylinder of a larger size (up to 4 KM radius ~ 2.5 miles), but as your cylinder gets bigger you will also have a larger penalty because geometrically, we are measuring from the edge of the cylinder and not the center. I suggest limiting the max cylinder radius to 4000 Meters because that is half the distance from the ridgeline to East Beach. We need to have some limit on the cylinder size, or an open distance flight could be scored as an out and return at half the leg distance x2 legs so the total would equal the straight-line open distance. Out and Return flights can be more difficult than open distance (but not always) because open distance can sometimes have a tailwind advantage, however, if a course is obstacle limited (like east wind in the Santa Clara River?), then an out and return might have a local advantage over open distance and be able to score more miles.

One might argue that if you get back over Casitas Pass and out to Bates then you did an out and return, but the geometric penalty would subtract the diameter of a 10 mile radius circle from the total score so it wouldn’t be competitive anyway. We could use a max cylinder size that connects the Painted Cave Windmill to East Beach, but that would require about an 8 KM cylinder and would only yield a scoring advantage of less than 400 meters compared to using a smaller 4K meter cylinder limit. 4K is also intuitively comparable to 400 so it seems like a natural choice for Santa Barbara’s scenario that will yield a penalty of up to about 2.5 miles (x2) compared to flights that terminate on point.

To permit larger cylinders (larger than 400 meters) up to 4 KM we should add one minor requirement for the cylinders greater than 400 meters. The center of the cylinder must bisect a line (the diameter line of the cylinder) that touches both the outbound and inbound ground tracks, otherwise everyone would use the max cylinder size and place it back to minimize the geometric penalty.

When evaluating the geometry related to cylinder scoring (measuring from the edge of the cylinder), the penalty equates to the radius of the cylinder x2, or the diameter of the cylinder. The measurement procedure is simpler if we simply draw a line from the start point and the end point and measure from the center of that line and subtract the length of the line. This gives the same results as using a cylinder and measuring from the edge of the cylinder.

The Start Point and End Point are not takeoff and landing points, but rather the points that result in the shortest line drawn between a point on the outbound leg and a point on the inbound leg that maximizes the score.

The FAI measures accuracy to 1/100 but I think that degree of accuracy is cumbersome, I recommend we round our measurements to a tenth of a mile. In calculating a score there might be some trial and error in determining the actual cylinder placement to achieve the maximum score.

The FAI documentation also addresses subtraction for Altitude Loss, but the calculations yield results that are not relevant to our local Out and Return scenario as per 3.4.3

The FAI also requires that new records must break the old record by 1 KM ( Since we locally tend to calculate in miles, I think we should require 1 mile rather than 1 KM? I suggest that a pilot can claim they “tied” the old record, but to claim a new outright record a pilot should exceed the old record by something like 1 mile, or if they exceed the prior distance by less than one mile than perhaps they could claim an outright record if their new flight was faster than the prior record flight by at least 1 mph average speed?

The FAI requires an applicant to submit various documentation items to support their record claim. I propose that a pilot claiming a local out and back record post a reasonably descriptive narrative of their flight. To have a record we need to actually create a record we can reference. We all know that Scotty flew from SB to somewhere in Ojai and back, but we don’t have the details archived for comparison.

Two Turn Points?
Then we have the concept that you can “close a course” somewhere in between the end points? Sort of like a "flat triangle” where all the legs are co-linear. I don’t see an actual FAI record category for this concept? But it appears applicable to our local Santa Barbara Scenario where most long distance out and back flights are somewhat co-linear along our front range? A typical example would be a flight from the Skyport to westbound to Painted Cave then eastbound to a turn point and back to the vicinity of the Skyport.

For scoring we could use a similar concept as using a cylinder to connect the start and end points, then using the long leg distance x2 minus the diameter of the cylinder (the diameter of the cylinder equals the length of a line connecting the start point and end point). This method will yield the same score as measuring all 3 legs if all legs are co-linear but will yield a lower score than he sum of the 3 legs as the legs become progressively less co-linear and more triangle shaped. One of the main advantages of this scoring method is simplicity. The penalty for non-collinearity is a justification for scoring a “triangle” as an “out and back”

I propose that we (the SBSA) adopt the FAI methodology for calculating “Free” Out and Return flight distances without the requirement for a Sporting License and permit a larger size start/finish cylinder up to 4 KM in radius. I also propose that we permit 3 legs, “closing the course” somewhere between the end points.

For clarification, I am proposing that:
Anyone can claim a Santa Barbara Free Out and Return Distance Record without prior declaration or organization membership requirements.

The Start/Finish cylinder must be located somewhere along the front range between Gaviola and White Ledge Peak. (other sites like Ojai, Pine, or Fillmore could have their own local records).

For the downrange turn points, use the actual turnpoint coordinates without regard to a cylinder.

If we want to calculate an “FAI compatible score”, we use the FAI “rules” which only uses 2 legs and permits adjusting a 400-meter Start/Finish cylinder to fit the track and then measuring from the edge of the cylinder to the turnpoint along a line that is colinear with a course line drawn from the turnpoint to the cylinder center.

For the local Santa Barbara “Rules”, we permit 3 legs and closing the course somewhere between the end points. The start and end point must be closed by a Start/Finish cylinder of up to 4 KM in radius where the center of the cylinder must bisect a line (the diameter line of the cylinder) that touches both the outbound and inbound ground tracks. In effect, we simply draw a line between the start point and end point that is no more than 8 Kilometers in length. If we are only using 1 turnpoint (2 legs), then we measure from the center of the line to the turnpoint, multiply that distance x2, and subtract connecting start/end line length for a total distance score. If we are using 2 turnpoints (2 legs) and “closing the course” somewhere between the 2 distant turnpoints, then we multiply the longest leg by 2 and subtract the length of the “closing line” from that value. The actual route of the “middle leg” is not relevant.

Altitude loss allowed is not relevant to our local scenario.

We round the leg distance (up or down) to the nearest 1/10th of a mile and multiply by 2, then subtract the that the length of the “course closing line” from that value to get the final score.

A new record should exceed the prior record by at least 1 mile or exceed the prior record by less than a mile and record an average speed that is at least 1 mph faster than the prior record speed.

The pilot claiming a local record must post a reasonably descriptive narrative of their flight and their IGC file. (records are not automatic) there is no record unless a record is compiled and published).

Additional Discussion

I don’t have any authority to make “rules”. I am not suggesting that we can’t individually make up our own objectives, but the closed course flight scoring is more complicated compared to simpler open course scoring. I think there is merit to “Carter Rules” that indicate you need to land within “x” distance of launch? Also, the FAI has categories for other flights like distance around multiple turnpoints and closed triangles.

Some pilots think we should simplify by some criteria like if you get back to Parma it “counts”, but there are countless variations that might be left out, so some method of assigning a number (mile) score to flights offers more inclusive objectivity? Personally, I rarely land at Parma and prefer to land near the bus stops along the coast.

There is an argument that we could or should have separate “records” for 3 leg closed course flights and 2 leg out and back records, but I would argue that it is simpler and more cost effective from an administrative and archiving perspective to limit the number of categories we track.

Google Earth’s drawing and measurement tools are somewhat limited. There are likely other programs that might yield faster and more accurate results, but the Desktop version of Google Earth is free and utilized my most pilots.

Google Earth Measurement Method
For my own reference the methods I use to create the geometry in Google Earth are:

When creating geometry like circles I untick the “terrain” checkbox in the layer tree to flatten the terrain, otherwise the circles and ground track lines are distorted

For points, I use altitude references to both ground and absolute altitude depending on the use. Sometimes I need both. For differentiation, I use white color for measurement points referenced to absolute altitude, and green color for measurement points referenced to ground. For the Out and Back downrange turnpoint I typically assign the turnpoint placemark an absolute altitude value but draw a “line” in Google Earth to the actual ground location, then I can use the end of the line as a reference if I want to zoom in. Lines in Google earth have their length built in so once a line is drawn you an get the length from the line properties rather than having to manually measure.

For lines, I use the measure tool. You could also use the “path tool” but using the line option in the measure tool also creates a path with the added ability to see the distance as you drag.

As of this posting in December 2021, Carter Crowe’s flight on 12/11/2021 from the Skyport westbound 6.7 miles to just short of the Painted Cave Windmill then eastbound 40.0 miles to the Topa Bluffs then westbound 34.1 miles to the Holly Hills, (closing the course with a closing line of 0.6 miles) then southbound 4.1 miles to East Beach for a total SLOFD (Straight Line Over-Flown Distance) around 3 turnpoints (4 legs) of 84.9 miles, could be our new out and return distance record for Santa Barbara with a total distance score of (40.0 miles x2) – 0.6 = 79.4 miles / if and when Carter post a reasonably descriptive narrative about his flight?
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Re: True “Out and Back”

Postby bb_secretary » Wed Dec 15, 2021 10:10 am

Reply posted on behalf of Ajay Rajamani, who submitted his comment via Telegram DM on 12/14/2021 at 8:36 PM

Wouldn't it make the most sense that an out and back requires you to tag the same exact point twice? I get the argument for cylinder based measurement but it doesn't seem like a true out and back. Though it would probably make it a lot harder as you can't get back super high...
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Re: True “Out and Back” vs what we do...

Postby sd » Wed Dec 15, 2021 10:29 am

Ajay Rajamani wrote:Wouldn't it make the most sense that an out and back requires you to tag the same exact point twice?

In response to Ajay’s comments above where his intuition suggests that a true out and back would require that you to “tag the same exact point twice”

Ajay, the concept of “Tag” is a little vague while the concept of “Exact” is perhaps excessive and more aligned with “Carter Rules”? Do we need to touchdown on a top landing at the exact same point of departure?

The FAI rules require you to tag a small (400 meter radius) cylinder on both departure (start) and return (end). They have categories for “declared” and “free”. In the “free” category you can choose your cylinder after your flight to maximize your score.

My proposal referenced the cylinder concept, but in actuality, since you measure from the edge of the cylinder, you are subtracting the radius twice, or simply the diameter, so we can discard the cylinder stuff and just draw a line between our chosen start point and end point, then measure from the mid-point of that line to the turnpoint, multiple that value by 2 (there are 2 equal legs on an out back) and subtract the length of the “closing line”.

The FAI cylinder is quite small, so you pretty much need to overfly your chosen start point, but not exactly. What pilots do that are attempting FAI records is fly out front at the beginning of a flight because it is often hard to get back to a point high on the range late in the day. In the Owens Valley, Willy will get has high as he can, then fly out into the valley as far as he can, then back into to the mountains before getting on course.

I am proposing that we expand the start cylinder diameter, permitting up to a 4000-meter radius (10 time the FAI 400 meters). I chose that number because it permits someone to limp back to East Beach and still score a flight, but with a penalty of up to 5 miles (the maximum diameter of a start/end cylinder). I think that method is more in alignment with what we do locally, which is to launch high, do a westbound leg, then go east and maybe opt to turn and return, often limping into East Beach late in the day.

I don’t think we need to adhere to the FAI Out and Back rules. No one is going to set a world record out and back flight from Santa Barbara? Most of our flying is recreationally oriented where pilots will make choices based on their perception of how the day is evolving. It is pretty rare for local pilots to fly out front at the beginning of a flight for the purpose of establishing a possible return point they may or may not use.

There are a bunch of different ways you can do it. I joke about “Cater Rules” where you need to top land at your takeoff (start) point. As noted in my ramble, some people say if you get back to Parma or East Beach, it counts? I’m not a big fan of using Parma for anything other than students or as a bailout if you can’t get up.

My proposal is just a suggestion to motivate some discussion with the objective of the SBSA “sanctioning” some methodology. I don’t think we need to match the FAI. We can make “rules” that are more in alignment with our local scenario. Currently there is no agreed upon method of measuring. In the past it was if we use this method his flight wins or if we use that method her flight wins? I do a lot of the archiving, so I’m looking for some clarity to simplify and streamline my task.

Regardless of which method we use, I think Carter’s 12/11/2021 flight will be our new Santa Barbara local out and return record (assuming he submits a reasonably descriptive narrative about his flight, or was Scotty's flight longer?), but the number we attach to Carter's 12/11 flight will vary depending on how we choose to measure it.
Last edited by sd on Thu Dec 16, 2021 8:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Santa Barbara “Out and Back”

Postby LNW » Thu Dec 16, 2021 7:50 am

Hey Tom,
This is a great discussion and one to clarify for future attempts.

There are many ways people do out and back recording and I love the idea of taking the track putting it on google earth measuring a start to point to finish and setting the record. The issue I see here is the requirement of someone taking the time to do those steps when we already have a very simple way to upload and score out and backs. The XContest web page is free to upload and accomplishes a simple points and measuring system with very little work. I expect people will be using this system for longer than you or anyone else will be around.

With this system the pilot must "close" their return flight based on percentage of KMs flown. But can earn more distance by closing all the way. The flight will be listed as a flat triangle though it is a clear out and back.

This also allows for pilots to first fly an out and back to the west which is added onto the total distance, which seems only fair considering they fly out and back. This is based off of five points as opposed to three.

I like the idea of including the entire front range vs. the distance record which must be started in the Santa Barbara section of the range.

So in this case Carters most recent flight would mean a 128km out and back...
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Re: Comparison / Manual GE vs Auto XContest

Postby sd » Thu Dec 16, 2021 1:55 pm

LNW wrote:This is a great discussion and one to clarify for future attempts.

There are many ways people do out and back recording... The XContest web page... accomplishes a simple points and measuring system with very little work... With this system the pilot must "close" their return flight based on percentage of KMs flown. But can earn more distance by closing all the way. The flight will be listed as a flat triangle though it is a clear out and back.

Based on Logan’s comments, I did a deeper dive into the XContest rabbit hole:

Out and Back Comparison / Google Earth (manual) vs XContest (auto)

Using Carter Crowe’s 12/11/2021 flight for comparison
Both the XContest and my proposal use the exact same points for Start, End, and the 2 distant Turn Points for the “Out and Back” calculation, but XContest includes a 4th leg and an additional turn point (for a 4-leg flat triangle?).

The KMZ file I posted previously for Carter’s 12/1 flight did not actually contain the "Out and Back" start and end point placemarks, but it did include the data as the end points of a “course closing line segment”. I have subsequently included “placemarks” for the end points of the "course closing line segment" to facilitate comparison with the points listed in XContest. I also added a calculation folder for Carter’s FAI compatible 1 turnpoint out and back score of 68.0 miles).
I swapped out Carter’s KMZ file attachment (but the 2 files have the same name).
Carter’s flight on XContest is posted at:

The exact same points were arrived at independently (XContest and my manual GE selections), which infers some validity?

The Start Point
XContest uses the same “start point” as the GE end point of the “course closing line segment”
GE Point: 962 M / 34.480470, -119.695570 at 10:01:10 PST
XC Point: 960 M / 34.48047, -119.69557 at 10:01:10 PST

XContest and GE both use the same turn points
TP1 at 10:40:14 PST /
TP2 at 1:02:32 PST

XContest uses the same “end point” as the GE end point of the “course closing line segment” tt 3:21:00 PST

The altitudes are off by a couple of meters because as part of my workflow I initially validate the data. For Carter’s 12/1 flight, his altitude was close, but some instruments are off by a considerable amount. The IGC file records 2 altitudes, the pressure altitude and the GPS altitude. XContest appears to use the GPS altitude. I also prefer the GPS altitude but will occasionally use the pressure altitude (corrected for the local barometer) when the GPS altitude is excessively “dirty” on non-sensical.

So, if my GE manual measurement and XContest use the exact same points, why are the final scores off by a small amount?

XContest list 4 legs for a “flat triangle”, which add up to
9.70 + 64.16 + 53.51 + 1.47 = 128.84 Km
However, the summary “route” is scored at 128.26 Km
I don’t know why the XContest sum of the leg lengths for a “flat triangle is ½ of a Km (about a half of a percent) longer than the value shown in the XContest summary box for a “flat triangle”? Perhaps XContest is calculating the summary based on 3 legs instead of the 4 legs listed in the route detail (but if so, I can’t find the points or leg references)? Or maybe as Logan suggested, there is some percentage subtraction based on a yet to be discovered factor like the non-closing course open length compared to a longer course metric?

Carter’s 12/1 flight was fairly co-linear. Not sure how XContest will score a semi-flat triangle? Or a flight where the course is less closed? Perhaps I’ll dig a little deeper into the rabbit hole and experiment with a couple of other flights to see how the numbers play out…

The method I am proposing
The longest leg x2 minus the length of the “course closing line segment” (up to a maximum closing gap of 8 Km)
I use the GE values rounded to 1 decimal place (which is the default for the GE measure tool)
I mostly work in statue miles and feet (the USA airspace system mostly uses miles and feet, but sometimes FAA publications use nautical miles and sometimes statute miles).
To compare apples to apples, we can toggle GE to use various units, so I’ll compare in metric to 2 decimal places (same as XContest).
64.30 Km x2 = 128.60 Km - 1.02 Km (1017 meters, the course closing line segment drawn between the out and back (or 4 leg flat triangle) start point and end point)
= 127.58 Km (note, 79.4 miles = 127.8 Km, not 127.6, but I think the 200-meter difference is a rounding error because I was only working in miles to 1 decimal place?)

For Carter’s 12/11/2021 flight, the XContest calculator yields a very similar result to my proposed algorithm, 128.26 Km for XContest vs 127.58 Km in Google Earth. The difference is about 0.68 Km or about half a percent. I think the XContest calculator is great for a quick check, but a problem I have is that I don’t know how they do the actual calculation, so how to you export to other formats and documentation.
I would argue that my proposal may be slower, but is methodologically simple, repeatable, exportable, and more in alignment with the legacy FAI methodology.

Note that the FAI rules require a 400 meter radius “Start/End” cylinder, or 800 meters in diameter. If we strictly adhere to the FAI rules. Then Carter’s flight will score shorter, 68.0 miles (FAI rules) vs 79.4 miles (proposed SBSA rules) or the 79.7 mile XContest “flat triangle”

Like the FAI, we could choose to archive a bunch of categories, including triangles. I haven’t been able to find anything in my limited review (rabbit hole dive) of XContest that calculates “Out and Back”. A triangle does approach the same numerical value as 2 identical legs of an out and back as a tringle approaches “flat”, but I think XContest is simply adding the legs of a multi-leg route (triangle) together, then at some point declaring the triangle to be “flat”?

I think that XContest is a great tool and resource, likely the best currently available for archiving your flights and calculating numbers, but I haven’t reviewed any other on-line logs other than Leonardo. I think XContest is much better than Leonardo?

Still waiting on Carter’s narrative. Carter previously did writing assignments as part of his job description, so I know writing a few paragraphs about his mindset, options, and decisions is within his capability? One of the basic FAI philosophies is that to have a “record” accepted and recognized, an applicant must submit documentation for the archive that describes and supports their “record”.

I suspect Carter will extend our current Santa Barbara “out and back record” soon? His 5-1/2-hour 12/11 flight was on one of the shortest days of the year. He is clearly faster this year (compared to last year) and will likely be even faster this spring?

Perhaps nomenclature is an issue? Rather than “Out and Back”, or “Out and Return”, or “Flat Triangle”, maybe we should refer to the concept as the “Santa Barbara Lap” distance record (aka SBL or SBLR) where you measure from your two furthest points and close the course in the middle?

Thanks to all who have contributed or will contribute their thoughts to the discussion. We are striving to build a foundation by committee and consensus, which has its drawbacks (slow and clunky?) but also its merits…
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