Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Records and Racing

Progress is being made, say officials for the Reno National Championship Air Races (RARA). Last month, RARA met with the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority (RTAA) to discuss obtaining the permits needed to hold the event at the Reno-Stead Airport in September.

RTAA is the owner and operator of the Reno-Tahoe International and Reno-Stead Airports. It is governed by a nine member Board of Trustees.
In this meeting, Mike Houghton, president of RARA told the airport officials that he is "totally satisfied" with the direction the board is taking in considering the permits.

Only two people spoke up against RARA at the RTAA meeting, both have had previous anti-RARA episodes. One of their stated concerns was the NTSB will not complete its probable cause report before the planned September 12th start of the 2012 event. This is quite standard; the NTSB generally takes up to 3 years to investigate such an accident.

The permits from RTAA is just one of the hurdles RARA needs to manage before the Pylon Racing Seminar in June and the Races in September can be held.

The next hurdle is the Air Racing Waiver from the FAA. This allows us to create the airspace necessary to hold such an event. Waivered airspace allows us to exceed the normal speed limits, fly in “close proximity” to other aircraft, etc. These two key items are essential to holding the event. But, they are not the only things on the task list.

In March, the annual Presidents’ Meeting will be held to share the “State of the Races” with each of the racing classes. This meeting should shed additional light on the issues being faced. As news becomes available, I will share what I can.

Speeding and Climbing

In the meantime, Rare Bear has joined Steadfast in trying to break FAI records. We mentioned earlier that Will Whiteside in Steadfast set the 3km record in their weight class, previously held by the Hughes H-1 Racer.

Now, Rare Bear will also go for the 3km record in their weight class sometime this summer. Lyle Shelton set the record in Las Vegas on August of 1989. It currently sits at 528 mph/850 km/h. Lyle also set the “Time to Climb” record - standing start to 3,000 meters (approximately 10,000 feet) - in 91.9 seconds. We do not have word yet if this is part of the plan, but I bet it is. Having Rare Bear break its own record would be a terrific boost for the team. We wish them luck. 

Rare Bear out to break their own FAI Records 

But, Steadfast shall not be outdone. Will Whiteside will also be going for the “Time to Climb” record in Steadfast. He just set the “Speed over straight 3KM course – internal combustion engine, class C-1d at 669.53. Now, he is looking to topple the “standing start to 3,000 meters. The current record was set by Russell Hancock in a Piper Navajo Piper at 3:33 in 1978. The record has to be broken by 1%. 

Will Whiteside in Steadfast also breaking records

Keep in mind that Steadfast is much smaller than Rare Bear and that is why there are two completely different records to be broken. Both are under the Class C, for Internal Combustion Engine, but have different payloads.

Knowing the competitive nature of the Unlimited Teams, we’re wondering if Strega will come out of the hangar to see if she can snag the record away from Rare Bear. Or, maybe Czech Mate sees a future in record breaking. Only time will tell.

Other news

The Trailer for Air Racers -3D is now available. You can see it on You Tube and the trailer will likely be playing at local IMAX theaters to gather some momentum. The last word we received was an April 5th release date in the USA. I know we are putting together a viewing party the minute it hits my area. I will keep everyone posted about details like when you can see this movie and where to get more information about seeing it in your area. It should be amazing, flying with Steve Hinton in Strega in 3D!

Also, Pete Law will be speaking at this year’s NAG (National AirRacing Group) Banquet. Pete has a long history with air racing and aviation. He started in the business with Lockheed in 1959 to work on the F-104. He was then recruited to Skunk Works to work on such famous aircraft as the SR-71, U-2 and the F-117. Darryl Greenamyer recruited Pete to join air racing and we are sure glad he did. Pete is a fixture in the Pits each year helping nearly all the teams with their ADI systems. 

Pete Law meeting with Tiger and Bob Button

As always, we look for good news from RARA and in the meantime, we’ll keep and eye on the records and events coming up.

Until then, Fly low, Fly fast and Turn left.

Marilyn Dash

Tim Adams - Photographer

Advanced Warbird Training

The last few months, we’ve been talking about hat Air Racers are doing in our off-season.  I mentioned how Will Whiteside and Steadfast are working to own several speed and time to climb records. We talked about Team Ruby looking to get into some fun Auto Racing activities.  And this month, we’re going to talk about Dan Vance and Rob Gordon – and their new venture.

Dan Vance is the son of long time Reno Racer and Warbird Owner/Pilot, Art Vance. Art acquired Speedball Alice in 1976. He rebuilt it in 1982 and named it Million Dollar Baby (at least!), and changed the name in 2000 to Speedball Alice in honor of Captain Don H. Bochkay from the 357th. The artwork with the “winged ace” is from Bochkay’s aircraft.

Art raced Speedball as well as two Sea Furies, Baby Gorilla and Furias. He was the Check Pilot and President of the Unlimited Division at the Air Races for many years. He also flew cover during qualifying practice sessions. He had a way of teaching with humor and boldness that resonated well with our community. At the time of his death, he had well over 11,000 hours and was a mentor to many of us.

You would think growing up with Art has your father would be an enormous challenge, but Dan Vance took to flying like his father’s son. Art and Dan both flew for the airlines, both enjoyed restoring and flying warbirds, and then Dan started flying at Reno. He has flown both P-51s and Sea Furys, most notably #911, September Pops, owned at the time by Mike Brown. Since then, he has taken his father’s place as one of the Check Pilots for the Unlimited Division. I have watched Dan mature over the years from a young man to a highly qualified, distinguished warbird pilot.

Rob Gordon took a different path. He learned to fly when he was quite young, but decided to follow a career in Law Enforcement instead. However, his love of all things aviation continued, causing him to buy a T6 and a Stearman over the years. He would work with Dan and Art over the years, learning the art of restoring and maintaining warbirds as well as continuing to progress as a pilot.

Rob started flying Lady Jo, a very famous TF-51 in our area, owned by Daryl Bond. The reason Lady Jo is so popular, is most people who have had “dual” time in a Mustang on the West Coast did that time in Lady Jo.  The TF- is a Dual Control Mustang theoretically designated for training. Originally, only ten were built during 1941-1945. After WWII, several more were converted.  They are still very rare and very highly coveted. Lady Jo was a rebuild made into a TF around 1989.

So, Rob is hanging around the airport, flying his T-6 and then gets the chance to fly Lady Jo. But, he still hasn’t made the jump to Reno yet. His luck changed when one year, Robbie Patterson – who usually races Lady Jo, was unable to make the races. Daryl turned to his new “Young Gun” and that year, Rob Gordon attended PRS. He then gets the opportunity to Lady Jo in 2007, and Speedball Alice each year after that.

Lady Jo and Speedball Alice at Reno
Gordon Edwards – Photographer

Now, these two Air Racing Veterans have decided to take the knowledge they have gained over the years and have joined forces with Dragonfly Aviation out of Santa Rosa, CA to provide Advanced Instruction in their Warbirds. Specifically flight training in their PT-17 Stearman and their AT-6 Texan. For the average pilot, this is an opportunity to get some advanced training which will challenge you and make you a better pilot – not matter what your daily flyer is.

I have signed myself up to be one of their first students. I can’t wait to put on my helmet and get some oil in my hair behind a round P&W Engine.

Other News

Unfortunately, our French competitors with Big Frog suffered an engine failure at the end of January. Their pilot, Christophe Delbos, was able to bring their NXT to a successful off-field landing. “Bobos” is okay, but the aircraft is a total loss.

The Big Frog Program was a testing ground for a prototype SMA engine, a 230 horsepower turbocharged diesel. The idea was that this engine would be “greener” and provide better reliability. They are back to the drawing board tonight.

Big Frog, the French NXT
Tim Adams - Photographer

It is the place of Air Racing and especially the Sport Class to become a proving ground for new technology. We grow by pushing the envelope and learning where the edges are.

We wish them well and look forward to seeing them again at Reno.