Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two Different Futures 

Last month we talked about what will happen next with the Air Races and the Racers. I mentioned that one of the Race Planes was rumored to be for sale. Well, it has been confirmed that Bob Button has decided to sell Voodoo and move on.

I've known Bob for many years and have seen his passion for Air Racing peak, and then start to wane.  At one time, he was racing his L39 in the Jet Class and Voodoo in the Unlimited. He had the world’s biggest smile on his face and was driven to win.

Since he purchased the plane, she has been raced by many pilots including Bob Hannah, Sherman Smoot, Matt Jackson, and Button himself. She was plagued by jumped starts, deadline cuts, blown engines and the infamous Bob Hannah trim tab incident of 1998.

Will Whiteside and Voodoo
Credit: Anthony Taylor 

In 2008, he took off his helmet and handed the job to Will Whiteside. Will campaigned Voodoo in 2008 to a First Place Bronze finish after the engine had to be changed mid week. In 2009, Will qualified fifth and ended up with a DNF in the Sunday Gold Race. At this point Bob was ready to win, he wanted that one last chance to take it all.  

The winds of 2010 cancelled the Unlimited Gold race, Voodoo was stuck with the 8th place finished based on a DNF on Saturday. Bob said, okay – one more year. Although, I believe if we raced that Sunday, he would have made the decision one year earlier.

2011 was to be the year for Voodoo. He had the team, he had the engine program and he had the pilot. The story had it this way: it would be Strega vs. Voodoo – Merlin vs. Merlin – Young Gun vs. Young Gun. But, with the events of Friday’s race which cancelled the rest of the season, Bob finally decided that this was it.

The bottom line is this - there is a wonderful aircraft, with a great pedigree which has been plagued by bad luck, wind, timing, etc., over the years. But, it has a great crew and it’s ready to go. If there was ever a “Turnkey Air Racing Operation” – this is it. If you have a couple million dollars lying around and want to be in the Unlimited Gold, I have a team to show you!

The Taj-Ma-Tent can be part of the sale!
Credit: Bruce Croft

I would like to wish Bob Button the best of luck with whatever he chooses to do in the future. He has been an entertaining character and a faithful participant in the races for many years. He has put together a loyal team and fan base. The Purple Princess should race again.

Will Whiteside and Steadfast

And while we are talking about Will Whiteside, he has decided to focus on watching other records fall during our off-season.

In October, Will took his YAK 3U, “Steadfast” to Wendover, UT – near the Bonneville Salt Flats to attempt a new 3km speed record. The previous record was set in 2002 by the Howard Hughes designed H1 replica Racer. And prior to that, was “unofficially” held by Howard Hughes himself in the original H1. This is for C-1e, Landplanes with takeoff weight between 5,000 – 5,600 pounds.

Howard Hughes set the record in September 1935 on a course near Santa Ana, CA. His speed of 352.322 mph was an aviation marvel for the time. If you have ever seen the movie, The Aviator, you saw the Hollywood version of the record attempt. Unfortunately, Hughes checked the wrong weight category for his plane, and the time was never “official”.  Hughes went on to set additional records, actually filling the paperwork in correctly.

Steadfast's record breaking flight
Used with permission from Team Steadfast

Jim Wright built the replica H-1 in Cottage Grove, OR. It was so close to the original the FAA actually gave it Serial #2. You may have seen Wright and his H-1 at airshows around the country in 2002-2003. On September 13, 2002, he flew to a new speed record (in type), of 304 mph. Sadly, Jim and the replica H-1 were lost in a crash over Wyoming in August of 2003.

Will destroyed the record by over 100 mph. On the first day, his time was 407 mph. The following day they went 416 mph. Many of the Steadfast team were on hand to lend their assistance and to celebrate the record. Jason Schillereff was there to provide cockpit video.

The amazing power to weight ratio of Steadfast may lead to additional records being broken in the coming months. Look for additional news in the future.

Personally, I’m impressed with Team Steadfast and with Will for not sitting around and asking about the future for Air Racing. Will has decided to write his own future. Good luck and congrats!

Team Steadfast
Used with permission from Team Steadfast

For more information on Team Steadfast, go to

Aviation Calendars 

Don't forget your favorite Aviators this Holiday Season. The Team Ruby Aviation Calendar is for sale, as well as other Ruby Gear.

Until next time, 
Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing