Monday, June 29, 2015

Air Race 1 in Tunisia - and PRS News

I've heard the question a hundred times, why is International Formula One Air Racing called International? Well, Jeff Zaltman and his team have put the International back into IF1.

Last year, in their inaugural season, Air Race 1 put together a great race in Spain. This year, they have a 3 Race Series – starting in Tunisia and finishing in Reno, NV. They are revisiting their roots in Spain in the middle of the season. In fact, the teams are heading to Spain as we go to press.

First thing you’ll notice is a bunch of familiar names from the IF1 Class at Reno. Only 2 competitors are not Reno Air Races veterans. And the planes are very familiar as well!

This is the first Air Race to be hosted on the African continent. The crowds were treated to a series of great races and a few tricks here and there. Apparently, the rules in Tunisia are a little bit more lax than here in the USA.

Caption: Thom Richard, Jay Jones and Michael Mundell in the Gold
Credit: Used with permission from Air Race 1

Thom Richard, you know – Precious Metal Thom – ended up winning the Gold on Sunday with his new IF1 plane, Hot Stuff. You may remember this aircraft being built and flown by Brian Reberry several years ago. Now, it will be making the rounds in the IF1 Circuit. Congrats to Thom and the rest of the teams! I loved hearing the stories and receiving picture from everyone. I wish I could have been there!

Results - Class: Air Race 1 World Cup Monastir 2015
Round: Gold Final
Time: 16:00 Date: Sun, Jun 07 2015  
Plane Name
Thom Richard
Hot Stuff
Jay (Jaybird) Jones
Quadnickel Racer
Michael Mundell
Cassutt IIIM
Second Wind
Kent Cassels
Cassutt IIIM
Margaret June
Philip Goforth
Justin Phillipson
Steve Temple *
Boyd GR-7 Panther

Results - Class: Air Race 1 World Cup Monastir 2015
Round: Silver Final
Time: 14:00 Date: Sun, Jun 07 2015
Plane Name
Philip Goforth
Justin Phillipson
Des Hart
Cassutt IIIM
Hart Attack
Trevor Jarvis
Silver Bullet
Dave (Homey) Holmgren
Cassutt IIIM
Last Lap Player

Caption: Thom Richard in Hot Stuff

Credit: Used with permission from Air Race 1

Pylon Racing Seminar – 2015
For the third year in a row, PRS had record breaking attendance. The increase in Air Racing Students is a serious sign of faith for the upcoming event in September.

The breakdown was 3 Biplanes, 8 IF1, 10 Jets, 12 Sport Class, 2 T6 and just 2 Unlimited Students. In fact, the 2 included Dan Martin who has been racing at Reno off and on for years. He will be sharing the flying duties with Sal Rubino on Grim Reaper.

Mike Brown, a former National Champion Unlimited Racer in 232, was unable to attend with his aircraft. He recently purchased Risky Business and some changes are still being made and the racer wasn’t available. We are hoping to still see Mike and Risky in September.

Other interesting notes include 2 new types of Jets – one is the L139, which is a one off aircraft, bridging the gap between the L39 and the L59. Vicky Benzing will be flying this beautiful Jet in September. The other is a Soko G-2, which is a Yugoslavian Trainer – looks a bit like the T-33 – but definitely Eastern European. Rookie, Peter Ireland will likely be flying her.

See you in September?
Entries were due June 26th – which means we should hear what the preliminary numbers are soon. Full packages are due towards the end of July – so we have a few more minutes to get our paperwork together.

We certainly hope you have scheduled your vacation, purchased your tickets, reserved your hotel rooms and made your flight arrangements. We are racing in September – and we hope to see you there!

If you are looking to sponsor a Biplane Racing Team, check out our website. There is a Donate button on the left side. Also we’d love to talk with you about other opportunities.

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

Caption: Goforth and Philipson going for the Silver
Credit: Jane Jarvis - used with permission from Air Race 1

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Pursuit of Speed

In September 2010, R.G. “Smokey” Young established a Closed Course World Speed Record of 242.7 MPH for propeller driven aircraft weighing less than 1100 lbs. What set this record apart was that the fuel used was the first in a series of Experimental Aviation Gasoline’s developed by Swift Fuels of West Lafayette, IN that are designed to provide a lead free, clean burning alternative to the leaded aviation gasoline currently used by General Aviation aircraft.
Swift Fuel is one of several manufacturers who are working with the FAA to address the Aviation Gasoline (AvGas) issue. AvGas or 100LL (100 Octane Low Lead) is the only leaded fuel used in the United States.  Although it accounts for a very small percentage, AvGas is under continuous pressure from environmental groups who would like to completely ban its use.
The problem however is largely economic.  Piston engine airplanes built over the course of the past 70 years were, and continue to be, certified to burn leaded fuel in order to generate the power required for flight. Automotive fuels, particularly those containing high levels of ethanol are incompatible with our engines, hoses and fuel line fittings. An outright ban on 100LL would render thousands of aircraft useless.
And while airplanes are considered by the public to be play things of the wealthy, the reality is that the majority of these airplanes are used by independent flight schools to train future pilots and for other small independent aviation businesses such as air taxis, sightseeing, and banner towing. Grounding these aircraft would force small businesses to close and would have a severe impact on the nation’s ability to train the next generation of airline pilots.  Thus, before it can be eliminated, there must be a replacement for leaded aviation gasoline.
Record Setting
Young, a former US Air Force F-111 pilot and veteran Air Racer, along with sponsor, a non-profit organization located in Costa Mesa, CA are focused on the advancement of aerospace education and innovation. To this end, they have partnered with Andy Chiavetta of Aerochia in Santa Paula, CA to build the next generation of Nemesis NXT aircraft. This aircraft will be the platform to establish a series of speed records for piston driven aircraft weighing between 1100 lbs and 3858 Lbs. Their plan is to use Swift’s latest iteration of fuel, 102SF to set these records helping to prove the legitimacy and performance characteristics of the fuel.
Young is no stranger to these types of projects or this type of flying. He earned his piloting credentials in the US Air Force flying high speed, low altitude strike aircraft. Like many former military pilots he eventually moved on to the world of airliners and big airplanes but never lost his appetite for the adrenaline rush of flying low and fast.
He began competing in the National Championship Air Races held annually in Reno, NV in 2003. Young started out in what he describes as “a fairly stock Cassutt racer” a model of experimental aircraft that meets the rules of Formula 1 (F1) Air Racing. F1 airplanes, like Formula 1 race cars, must meet strict rules as to size and engine displacement.
By 2006, Smokey had caught the attention of a sponsor and was soon racing a highly refined, one of a kind airplane called a Western Air Race Special. The new ride moved him from the back of the pack to the front where he was a dominant presence in F1 Air Racing for the next three years.
Then in 2008, Young became a member of a select group of pilots who raced principally in Europe and the Middle East in an event, called Aero GP (AGP). AGP was the brainchild of aviation promoter Jeff Zaltmann. It combined a closed course, low altitude pylon race with air to air combat and either a solo freestyle aerobatic or target bombing competition.
Pilots would compete in each discipline and be assigned points based on where they placed in each event. At the end of the competition the pilot with the most accrued points would be named the winner of the “Grand Prix” event.

Aero GP Dog Fighting

 Explains Young, “I was hanging out in my pit at Reno in 2007 when I was approached by Jeff [Zaltmann] I had left the airline in 2005 and was focusing primarily on Air Racing and General Aviation.  I started working at a civilian dog fighting experience center in the LA basin called Air Combat USA flying Extra 300’s and SF-260. We took people up for aerobatic flights and dog fighting.  Jeff was looking for someone with real racing experience to join his stable of pilots. His initial group were all aerobatic guys and while they are good at what they do, they tend to not be real used to sharing their air with anyone else. They had a mid air collision during a race in Malta and one of the pilots was killed. I was unique. I had the experience of racing at Reno coupled with aerobatic flying and dog fighting in the Extra 300 at Air Combat. He asked me to come participate in a race being held in Constanta, Romania in early 2008 and I accepted.”

Aero GP Pylon Racing

Young travelled to Romania in the Spring 2008 competing in a borrowed Harmon Rocket II, an airplane he describes as “a grossly overrated dog and totally unsuitable for AGP”.   Returning to the US, Young’s team assessed which would be more beneficial from a business perspective; AGP or expansion into another race class at Reno. “We thought about buying a Super Sport racer but really thought AGP had a future so we went with an airplane suited for that event.”  But rather than purchase an airplane solely for the purpose of winning AGP, Young and his team made a calculated gamble. Competitive AGP airplanes are purpose designed aerobatic machines capable of unlimited maneuvers. Rather than buy a single seat airplane which would be lighter and more competitive, Young’s team purchased an Extra300L, a less competitive two seat aerobatic plane with an eye towards providing press, sponsor and incentive flights during competitions.
“The idea was not to win. The idea was to get press exposure and expand the income generating potential of the airplane with an eye toward a more competitive machine 3-5 years down the road” says Young.  Things went well until late 2009 when the world economy began to shrivel. The last AGP event was held in 2010 and Young’s team sold the Extra 300L in early 2011 followed by the Western Air Race Special later in the year.
During their 4 years of active racing they had placed in the Reno Gold Class in 9 races, competed in Aero GP events in Constanta, Romania; Turweston, Silverstone and Blackpool England; and Al Ain, United Arab Emirates as well as establishing a 100KM Closed Course World Speed Record.
With his racing sponsorships terminated and airplanes sold Young settled down to a life of teaching aviation courses at a local community college, doing aerobatic and spin recovery training in his Skybolt biplane and towing banners along the southern California beaches. But in the spring of 2014 all of this changed with the approach of a new sponsor and a new challenge; Sweep all seven closed course speed records for F.A.I. Class C1b using clean burning fuel while exposing community college students to aerospace technology.

Chiavetta and Young working together

As the project germinated it was deemed desirable to actually attempt the longer distance records in the heavier C1c class. The project, nicknamed “Raven NXT” began in earnest in June 2014 when Young travelled to San Luis Obispo, CA and purchased an NXT airframe kit from Kevin Eldridge of SLO Air. The NXT (Neoteric eXperimental Technology) is a high performance, carbon fiber kit airplane designed to compete in the Reno Air Race Sport Class. Originally designed by veteran Air Racer, Jon Sharp, and first raced in 2004, over the next 5 years Sharp’s airplane “Nemesis” followed shortly by Eldridge’s “Relentless” dominated the class. “I couldn't think of a better airplane to use to establish these types of records” said Young. But the airplane was in kit form. It needed to be assembled and engineered to do the work Young and his sponsor envisioned.

Andy Chiavetta is well known within the cloistered world of high performance racing airplanes as a master in carbon fiber construction. Chiavetta’s formal education is in Aviation Science through a community college in Southern California. But it is his informal education that has made him a master at his craft. He got his start in the world of high performance carbon fiber construction by working for a company that built masts for racing sail boats. An avid skim boarder, Andy applied his new found knowledge of carbon fiber construction to the construction of skim boards for himself and friends. This morphed into a company that now supplies high quality skim boards to competitors around the world. Andy also became interested in the burgeoning world of high performance kit aircraft and was a pioneer in the world of kit airplane construction for discerning, high end customers.  His reputation for high quality work began to be noticed within the racing world and he soon found himself building an airplane for legendary Air Racer, Darryl Greenamyer. Greenamyer’s Lancair Super Legacy was built to compete in the emerging Reno Sport Class. The airplane went on to win the Sport Class Gold and continues to be a dominant aircraft to this day.


NXT at the Aerochia facility awaiting engine installation

“When I was looking for someone to oversee construction of the airplane, Andy was the first person I thought of” says Young.  Young and Chiavetta were acquainted both through their connection at Reno as well as Young’s previous speed record. According to Young, “We needed someone to build some parts for the Western Air Race Special and so my crew chief approached Andy.  Andy built the parts and proved to be a great guy to work with.  I really wish I had gone to him back in 2007 when we were doing a lot of composite work on the racer. I was kind of scared of Andy because he was such a presence in the Sport Class and was racing with Darryl who to me is a deity in the sport. I just didn't think Andy would want to fool with a Formula guy.”
Responds Chiavetta, “Yeah, sometimes I am a victim of my own reputation.”  The two are now teamed up however and are building a one of a kind, high performance airplane that promises to be one of the fastest propeller driven aircraft ever produced.
Young in the Western Air Racing Special at Reno

Aviation records are certified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, a worldwide governing body for air sports. Young and Team Raven will be seeking to break or establish what are known as “closed course” records for absolute speed. This means that the airplane is flown on a series of consecutive runs over an established distance with each run flown in an opposite direction.  The speed is then averaged across the runs. 
The most demanding of the record flights will be for speed over a 3 km Course. This is the run that will establish the highest speeds and will demand the most from both airplane and pilot. Young will enter the course at an altitude of less than 300 feet above the ground and must maintain this altitude during the entire flight.  He will enter the course at what is termed a “defined approach point” which is established 1000 meters prior to the actual 3 kilometer run. At the approach point he must be level and at the altitude he will fly the run at. At the end of 3 km he will execute a 180 degree turn, fly across another defined approach point and begin the 3 kilometer run in the opposite direction. This process is repeated and the established speed determined based on the average of all four runs. Young must strictly maintain a level altitude. Diving onto the course to increase speed is not allowed.
In addition to the 3 kilometer record, Young will also seek to establish low altitude records of 15 km and 100 km. Aircraft compete for records based on their weight at takeoff. Team Raven will operate their NXT in two different weight classes; C1b and the heavier C1c.   According to Young, “We are working within these weight classes because they are representative of most General Aviation airplanes and our powerplant is the same used in quite a few high performance sport aircraft. Of course we are pushing our engine at the limits of its design capability.” In addition to the short, high speed dashes Young and his team will also seek to establish longer distance records over closed courses of 500, 1000 and 2000 km respectively. 

Pylon Racing at Reno

In an airplane built for all out speed over a short distance these records will also present a formidable challenge. Chiavetta designed an aircraft modification that incorporates fuel tanks in the wings of the aircraft.  The additional fuel will allow the airplane to cover longer distances.
This type of flying is not without its risks. Veteran race pilot Lee Behel, current holder of the 3 kilometer record was killed at Reno last fall when his modified GP-5 race plane suffered structural failure in flight. Young himself was severely injured two years ago in the crash of an experimental aircraft. However the quest for higher speeds and innovation continues to drive these competitors.
As Young states, “This type of flying is high risk but we try to mitigate the risk through extensive planning, testing, and preparation.  This airplane will go through hours of formal flight test before we even begin to make it go fast.  Its performance characteristics will be well known before we attempt records and the speeds we are looking for will be approached incrementally. The whole idea is to prove the fuel can make the airplane go fast and operate reliably. This isn’t some yee-haw effort.”  
And so, sometime in the Summer of 2015 a very unique and fast airplane will take to the skies over Southern California in an attempt to claim the title of World’s Fastest for two men who, through different directions, one through piloting and the other through engineering have dedicated themselves to the advancement of aviation and the pursuit of speed.

Good Luck, Smokey!