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Classic Wings Magazine Luftwaffe Resource Center WWII Naval Aviation Research Pacific
Final Cut-The Post War B-17 Flying Fortress and Survivors - 5th Edition


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 2:06 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:39 am
Posts: 4468
Location: Midland, TX Yee-haw.
Well, for those of you who'd read my previous report on the Pylon Racing Seminar ( http://warbirdinformationexchange.org/p ... hp?t=13895 ), known as "Rookie School," you'd know that it was now time for all of that anxiousness to come to a head and get ready for the real thing...The National Championship Air Races, at Stead Field in Reno, NV.

Preparation for the races began for me at the beginning of August, as I was finally able to take some time away from work. Unfortunately, just after I got the airplane scattered all over the hangar in preparation for some cool racing tricks and mods, I became quite ill and spent some time in the hospital. Once in the hosptial, I really got sick! They tried to kill me, but I'm just too hard headed I reckon. A couple of weeks later (with only one week to go before the date to leave for Reno), I was finally well enough to put the airplane back together. The only problem was that it was exactly as I'd taken it apart. No tricks, no mods, just a bone stock 1,500 hour engine on a 1,050 hour airframe Cassutt. I was still a bit under the weather as all of this work took place, but there was no way in heck that I was going to miss out on the dream I've had of racing at Reno since I was a kid. I simply had to get this ol' airplane back in the air. Finally, on Wednesday night, September, 5th, Maybee's Baby was ready to go race for the first time in 36 years!

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Thursday, September 6...

Before any racing took place, I had to actually get the airplane and myself to Reno. Now, on my first trip to Reno in the little Cassutt (for Rookie School), I made it all the way there in one day. I knew that I was nowhere near healthy enough for that kind of abuse this time, so I planned on stopping halfway, in Prescott, AZ, then continuing on the rest of the way on Friday. Unfortunately, all of the pictures I took on the trip up to Reno somehow disappeared from my camera, so y'all will just have to use your imagination until later in this report.

The first leg from Midland to Las Cruces, NM didn't go exactly as planned, as rain showers made me alter my course. I knew there might be a chance for me to have to fly through some light showers (according to the weather guessers), but I didn't plan on the amount that I ended up getting in to. Fortunately, several months before, I had listened to my mentor with this little airplane, Dusty Dowd. Dusty told me that many years ago, when he raced a Cassutt or two, he'd put clear, plastic tape on the leading edges of these wooden propellers to keep them from getting ruined by the raindrops beating on them. I decided to try this little trick before departing Midland. I ended up landing in Sierra Blanca, NM, due to the worsening weather, and was pleasantly surprised to see that not only was the prop in great shape, but the tape as well. Dusty's trick worked great and it made me confident that a little rain wouldn't hurt a thing now.

I made the stop in Sierra Blanca a speedy one, as I was still not quite out of the woods with the weather. If I stuck around, I'd end up in some nasty stuff, but if I got going right away, it shouldn't be anything more than light showers (again, according to the weather guessers). So, confident that the prop would be okay in light showers, I hurriedly departed. The next planned stop was Safford, AZ. However, once again, I ended up getting into some less than desireable weather. This time it was moderate rain outside, light rain inside. The little vent hole in the front, center of my windshield is great for ventilation, but horrible when flying through rain. It felt like little needles were hitting me right in the face during the heavier showers. The worse part was that I was now in some pretty nasty terrain with ceilings that were getting lower and lower. I was reminded of the old "Far Side" cartoon where two airline pilots were looking out their windsheild, only to see a goat. The pilot said to the copilot, "Hey, what's that goat doing up here in the clouds like this?!?" Well, I was starting to wonder if I was going to see any of those goats myself, so after exceeding my comfort level of flying around low clouds and rough terrain, I turned around and got the heck out of there. That meant flying through some more supposed "light" showers...ugh! But eventually, the ceilings got better to the North and I made my way up to Springerville, AZ, where the weather was fine...not a cloud in the sky. I had finally gotten ahead of the unfavorable weather and was quite relieved. However, when I got out of the airplane, I noticed right away that the tape on the prop hadn't weathered the storm, so to speak, and the very tips of both prop blades were erroded from the beating the rain gave them. Now don't get me wrong, the damage wasn't astronomical, but I'm glad I got out of the weather when I did, or I'd have ruined the prop completely. As it turns out, I was able to dress it out with some sandpaper, in about five minutes. As I've said many times before, it's better to be lucky than good.

The last leg of the day was to Prescott, AZ. This went quite uneventfully, as the weather was great. I must say though, even though I technically had several more hours of daylight to fly in, I was glad I made myself stop here. I simply didn't feel well enough to continue and the rest was much needed.

Friday, September 7...

Today was working out pretty well so far. I was all rested up and not feeling too poorly. So I blasted off from Prescott, headed towards Jean, NV (just outside of Las Vegas). Jean is an interesting place in the fact that there's literally nothing around it except for a highway and a single hotel/casino. It has a nice, clean facility at the airport though and the fuel stops here typically go pretty quickly. Here are a couple photos of the Jean airport to give you an idea of how desolate it is there......

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From Jean, I headed Northwest, to Bishop, CA. This is another fairly desolate place, but the main thing you notice about it is the surrounding mountains that you have to climb over to get out of there. Again, here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what I was looking at. Remember, this little Cassutt goes pretty fast for an old jalopy, but it sure doesn't climb well. Sometimes the ol' "pucker factor" gets pretty high in situations like this, and naturally, the engine goes into "auto rough" and makes you think you're hearing problems that aren't really there. :) .......

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Now, something else that I do at dang near every fuel stop, is to take some Tylenol. I don't go anywhere in this airplane without something that'll attack the headaches before they start and make me completely miserable (It also helps with the sore legs, feet, and butt) :wink: ......

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Once out of Bishop, I was off to Reno...Stead Field to be exact. This part of the flight was completely uneventful, other than my aching...everything. A quick side note about that...These little Cassutts were designed to go fast, not go places. They are incredibly fun airplanes to fly...15 minutes at a time. This cross country stuff is for the birds. But when Dusty Dowd chose me to fly Maybee's Baby at Reno, he wanted me to share the experience that he, Steve Whitman, and his Uncle Willy (Bill Falck), used to have while flying their racers from one end of the country to the other just to fly around a few pylons. I gotta say, as much as I whine about how uncomfortable I am while sitting in this thing for hours and hours, I can't thank Dusty enough for "making me" do it this way. It's an experience I'll never forget and I appreciate him for that.

Okay, so once at Stead, everything just fell into place. All of a sudden, I wasn't nervous or apprehensive about anything. It just felt right. It was as though I belonged there. Remember, this is something I've been wanting to do since I was six years old, at the 1976 Reno Air Races. I know my Grandfather, who would hold my hand while explaining the different airplanes to me, was watching me from above and was proud of me for finally making it.

The next order of business was to get the clerical stuff out of the way. For any of you who know me, you realize how bad I am at anything that requires paperwork. However, I know I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Reno Air Race Association staff is incredibly friendly and patient with people like me who are complete nincompoops when it comes to pilot registrations and so on. Dana Weikel and her associates greet everyone with a smile (which seem genuine, by the way) and makes them feel like they are part of an extended family. As a rookie, I was naturally nervous about what to do, where to go, and how to do it, but once I got to the pilot registration booth, everything went smoothly and painlessly. Thanks to everyone at RARA that makes that possible!

After getting all registered and whatnot, I started feeling rather ill again (still not fully recovered from that stinkin' hospital stay at this point), so I just called it a day and made my way to the hotel for another good night's rest.

Saturday, September 8...

Feeling much better this morning...it's the afternoons when I start deteriorating. Anyway, I started taking the airplane apart for the IF1 (International Formula One) Tech Committee to start teching the airplane. This was an interesting process indeed. They have three teams of tech guys that make their way to each airplane to do three different tasks.

One team checks the volume of a randomly picked cylinder on your engine. These guys essentially get the cylinder up to top dead center and pour a measured amount of Marvel's Mystery Oil in the top spark plug. If your cylinder doesn't hold 135 cc's of fluid, you're not legal (this is to keep people from putting higher compression pistons in their engines). I was lucky on this test. My engine is as stock as it gets, but it's got so much stinkin' carbon in the combustion chamber, that it takes up extra space. The test showed that my cylinder held exactly 135 cc's. Whew! I sure didn't want to have to pull cylinders off just to clean carbon out of them.

The second team of tech guys came by to measure the cam profile. They basically take a dial indicator and put it on top of a valve on that randomly selected cylinder. They then rotate the prop and take measurements every twenty degrees or so. This insures that each racer has a cam that hasn't been modified or fabricated in any way that they could produce an unequal amount of horsepower.

And lastly, the third team checks the weight and balance of each airplane, along with checking visibility from the cockpit and insuring you have the proper wing area, according to IF1 rules. They actually weigh the airplane while empty and then with my fat butt in it, to insure that the weight and balance is within limits. The minimum empty weight for the IF1 racers is 500 pounds. Maybee's Baby came in at a portly 618 pounds. Now, add fuel and an equally portly pilot, and the racing weight of the airplane was in the 830 range or so (I don't have the exact numbers in front of me right now). No wonder this thing is slow, huh?

Anyhow, I managed to squeak by the tech inspection and put the airplane back together. However, we weren't quite done. They wanted to insure that I wasn't cheating by installing a tiny fuel tank in that giant 17 gallon tank that's currently installed. You see, IF1 requires that you carry a minumum of 5 gallons at the start of a race. I reckon there have been folks in the past that have tried to cheat a bit and have done all kinds of things to put as little fuel (pronounced "weight") as possible in their airplanes for each race. This is obviously a dangerous thing if done incorrectly, so IF1 correctly insures that everyone has that minimum 5 gallon capacity. Once they saw 5 gallons go in, they were happy.

One thing that I feel really needs to be mentioned is that the Formula One racers are likely the most evenly and fairly teched and inspected airplanes at the races. I've been fortunate enough to be on the crew of both the T-6 racers and the Unlimiteds, and I can promise you that they go through nothing like what we do. Sure, the Unlimiteds are just that...unlimited. However, the T-6's have (or at least, "had") a tech program that was as corrupt as most Washington D.C. Senators. One team (us) would get teched out the whazoo, while the "faster, more popular" folks would just get the ol' sign off. But not in Formula Ones. I got teched the same as the Gold Racers, and it felt good. I was VERY impressed with how professional the IF1 tech committee was and how everyone, no matter how popular you are, gets the same scrutiny as everyone else. If you cheat, you don't race...period.

Sunday, September 9...

Today was practice day. It was our first chance to get out on the course and fly around in circles. The Formulas are typically the first to go out each day (although we switch up with the Biplane Class on occassion), and I was the first in line to get out there. There were a couple of pilots that had to get certified to race, so I had to wait for them to take off first. But almost right away, I was given the go ahead and I launched from Runway 8. So here I go, screaming down the runway at the speed of smell, just waiting to catch a glimpse of Pylon 1 so I can start easing towards it and start making a nice, predictable line for all of the fast guys behind me to feel comfortable with. But wait......I know the sun is directly in my eyes, but where the heck is the pylon?!? I picked out a big, white one (ours our typically red and white), but I thought that one was for the Unlimited course. Hmmm...well, I've screwed that up, but no biggie, I'll just find Pylon 2 and get back into the swing of things. What??? No Pylon 2?!? Geez, I feel about as dumb as a box of rocks! I know those dang pylons were here in June, but I can't find 'em for the life of me. Hey, wait...there's a pylon...I'll go to it. Man, this doesn't look right. How come I seem like I'm about a mile away from where I should be? Did they change the course and not tell me? Am I that stupid that I don't know where the Formula course is? Crap. I'll just find the course next time around. Wrong.

Well, as it turns out, they hadn't gotten Pylons 1 & 2 up by the time the Formulas were scheduled to practice. The only way I knew where the course was was when Smokey Young came blowin' past me (about 40 miles per hour faster) in his hot rod racer (Sly Dog, race 3). I followed him, at an increasing distance, until I saw where they had the cranes in location where the pylons were supposed to be. I apologized profusely to Smokey for having him out in the boonies when he passed me, but I just didn't know where to go when the first two pylons weren't there. He was very friendly about it and didn't seem bothered at all. In the debrief, everyone pretty much agreed that it was normal for the pylons not to be up when they were supposed to for the Formulas. They were indeed up for the remainder of the races though.

Monday, September 10...

Today and tomorrow are qualifying days for us. I've already decided that ol' Maybee's Baby will be as fast today as it will be tomorrow, so I was first in line, first to get on the course, and first to call for the clock. I figured I'd set the standard kind of low for all of the other guys to feel better about themselves. :wink: I qualified at a paint-peeling 193.2 mph. Interestingly, when Maybee's Baby raced at Cleveland, Ft. Lauderdale, and St. Louis from 1969 until 1971, it's speeds ranged between 190-198 mph, so I was right about where it's always been. I ended up third from the slowest in the Formula Ones as far as qualifying went, but it still felt awesome to be in the show!

Tuesday, September 11...

Further qualifying was taking place for the Formulas, so I decided to stand down in order to insure that everyone had their time on the course. I dang sure didn't want to be a "pylon hog" and make it to where a faster airplane couldn't make it on the course because of me.

Wednesday, September 12...

Today's the day. I get to race a real race at Reno for the first time! Not only that, but I get the honor of racing Maybee's Baby for the first time in 36 years!!! The last time this airplane went around pylons competitively was at the 1971 Cleveland Air Races. Man, I'm tingling just thinking about it. It may sound hokie to some, but in my little world, this was a HUGE moment.

For those who aren't familiar with how we start these races in the Formula One Class, we basically line up on the runway and haul bootie when they drop the green flag. Fun, but not something sane people would normally do. Anyway, for this race, they had us in three rows. The first row had two airplanes, the second row had three, and the third row had two again. I was in the second row, outside. The runway is quite wide, which allows each row to be staggered in such a way that we have a clear path in front of us should something go wrong with anyone in a row ahead of you. That's the theory anyway.

So the five minute mark is upon us. The starter has his red flag up and flapping in the breeze. I'm in the airplane, with the engine running. Mags have been checked, seatbelts are tight, goggles are down. I'm ready to go! At the one minute mark, the starter lowers the red flag and prepares the green flag. He raises it slowly. My tired little engine is at full throttle now, and my legs are cramping from holding the brakes. The green flag drops and the brakes are released. I wish I could tell you that the force from the acceleration snapped my head back and the G forces pushed my fat little cheeks back to my ears, but that simply isn't the case. I started seeing dang near everyone out accelerating me, as poor ol' Maybee's Baby was just chugging along, wishing now that it had gone on that weight loss program it so desperately needed (pilot too). But wait......what's this??? I'm actually catching up with the guy in front of me on the first row. Woo-Hoo! I can't believe I'm out accelerating someone on the runway. Okay, I've now gritted my teeth and I've got him in sight. He started to ease a bit to the left, but then started towards the right......where I am! No big deal, when we both get in the air, I'll just ease off to the right of him and pass him on the outside (the only place you're allowed to pass). As he's easing over to the right, I'm ruddering Maybee's Baby over as well. Eventually, I see the big white stripe that's on the edge of the runway in my peripheral vision just to the right side of my cowling. Not good. That's also where my right wheel is. The dirt is just to the right of that. Just then, I see his prop arc through mine (he's still about 50 yards or so ahead of me) and it starts going the other direction. Crap! This means that he's pulled the power back on his engine and is aborting his takeoff. I'm really going to be out accelerating him now! I had managed to get plenty of flying speed by this time and just eased the airplane off the ground. I typically keep it within a foot or so off the ground to help with acceleration, which worked well in this case, as I was "haulin' the mail" at this point. I reckon I was about twenty to thirty feet above him when I went past him, but there was some wing overlap. I had managed to keep from hitting him or running off the side of the runway, but I should've ruddered it a touch more off to the right to have kept completely clear of him. It was a dumb Rookie mistake on my part, but in the debrief, we discussed everything and everyone was happy with the end result.

The rest of the race was pretty uneventful and I only got lapped once, finishing second to last, in 5th place (since there was that one that didn't start the race). The only thing that stinks about being lapped (other than the shame and embarrassment) is that the RARA timers really hose you when they post your race speed. You see, we have 8 lap races and when the checkered flag is waved, the race is over, period, and you leave the course. So, when you get lapped, like I do, your speed is still based on 8 laps, even though you only flew 7. So, even though I flew the standard speed for Maybee's Baby, 193-195 mph, I'm listed as flying at 180.9. Heck, grass grows faster than that! I understand that it would be an extra step for the timers to have to calculate the speed for an airplane that didn't fly the same amount of laps as everyone else, but it's like us slower airplanes are being penalized for it. Does that make sense, or am I just being a whiney baby?

Anyway, I now have officially completed a race at Reno! I felt happy, proud, honored, and happy (c'mon, I'm not happy as much as I'd like, give me a break :wink: ). This day has truly been one of the most important of my life. I know I have lots of friends that are proud of me, but it's knowing that my Grandfather would've been the most proud and would be shaking everyone's hand he came in contact with, that's got me feeling the best right now.

Thursday, September 13...

My second heat race was the only one of the week that I didn't get lapped in. It was a pretty uneventful race, as it basically turned into a single file line (at least from my vantage point) and just turned into a good practice session for me. I wanted to take advantage of all the time I could while on the pylons. I tried to fly a nice, consistent line, and be predictable to those who are flying around me. As it turned out, ol' Maybee's Baby got an average speed of 195.6 mph over an 8 lap race. I wish I'd have flown that well during qualifying.

Friday, September 14...

Well, today was a scheduled day off for me, racing wise. The slower Bronze racers weren't scheduled, as the faster guys needed to have a heat race. Unfortunately, as most of you already know, there was a tragic mishap as two of the Formula One Gold Racers started to enter Pylon 1. The resulting midair collision forever changed Formula One Air Racing by taking the life of a true hero of the sport. We lost Gary Hubler while he was doing what he loved to do. Our friend Jason Sommes was injured in the mishap, but will recover and will thankfully fly again another day. As you can imagine, the atmosphere in the Formula pits was somber at best. We all tried to maintain strength and pull together, but there wasn't a person there that didn't feel complete sorrow about what had happened.

Famous air race photographer, Victor Archer, did a wonderful job of making this tribute to Gary. It was just too good not to share it with y'all. We miss you Gary.....

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Saturday, September 15...

After Friday's tragedy, we were still in kind of a haze and were faced with many questions...What do we do now? Do we continue? What would Gary want us to do? Well, as a group, we decided to keep racing. We felt that any one of us in that room, should this happen to us, would want everyone to just get out there and do what we love, so that's what we did. There were a couple of racers who decided to stand down nonetheless, and everyone completely understood and supported their decisions. In no way was anyone "forced" to get out there and race. Everyone was quite supportive of one another and it felt great to be a part of that comradery.

So with the two airplanes from the mishap gone and the two that stood down, it made the job of making the pairings for the remaining races a real challenge for the IF1 Operations Officer, Bob Bement. I didn't envy him at this point. There were also some DNF's (Did Not Finish), DNS's (Did Not Start), and some DQ's (Disqualification) from previous heat races that he had to throw in the works as well. So what happened, is that some of the slow airplanes, such as Maybee's Baby, got bumped up into the Silver Race on Sunday, while some of the faster airplanes, like Brian Reberry's, N-A-Rush, and John Hall's, What's Up Doc, were slated for the Bronze Race. John had a DNS in a previous race, and Brian...well, he likes to look UP at the checkered flag when he goes by at the end of a race, so the officials didn't take too kindly to his low flying and penalized him for it. (Sorry Brian, I couldn't resist. :lol: )

What this left for Saturday's Bronze race then was only three airplanes fighting for the win. Well, in order to make it look like a full field of airplanes, they asked for volunteers to fly as "fill ins". Naturally, I volunteered right away! Heck, they were giving me another chance to fly around the pylons and even pay me for it, so there was no way I was going to pass that up. One thing that was kind of funny was that they were telling me that, as a fill in, I was not allowed to pass any of the guys that were actually racing. Well, considering that all of the guys that were racing were at least 20 mph faster than me, I told 'em that I guaranteed them I wouldn't pass. Oh, and the other fill in airplane was Steve Senegal's, Miss Demeanor, which is a Gold Racer, and is roughly 30-35 mph faster than me.

Other than Carl Swenson not being able to get his airplane, Miss Annie, running well enough to start the race, it went pretty much as expected. Steve Senegal just kind of loafed around behind me for a few laps to make it look like a race, before blowing by me like he had a Wright R-3350 in that thing! Brian Reberry was kind enough not to lap me....well, at least until we came down to the Checkered Flag. He, too, blew by me like I was just sitting there. Brian's little Cassutt is a neat story in itself. Three years ago, he was a rookie, qualifying at somewhere around 183 mph or so. Now, he's showing us current rookies how it's done by proving that hard work and dedication to this sport will improve your standing greatly. He qualified just over 222 mph this year...after being here only three years! Amazing.

Sunday, September 16...

Well, it's come down to this. The last race of the week (for me) and I'm still trying to figure out how I ended up in the Silver Race. I mean, I'm a 193 mph airplane and there's guys in this race with me that are normally Gold racers and are flying in the 235 mph range. My gameplan for this race was to do two things...not to finish in last place (I'm just too competitive for that), and to fly as nice a line as possible. I don't want any of the faster guys who will be lapping me to be nervous about flying around me. I want to be smooth and predictable, which I think I was through most of the race. Around the seventh lap or so, the top two racers came around me on the back stretch. No biggie, I'm a pro at getting lapped now. I focused on keeping my line tight and low around the pylons, without climbing in the turns. As I entered pylon five, the two faster planes were well ahead of me and I focused on pylon six, which is the last one before the home pylon. Right as I rounded pylon six, I ran through some nasty wake turbulence from the two faster planes and it rocked me pretty hard...twice! During these two giant "wing wags" I was just focused on keeping the airplane level and relatively on course. It was violent enough that my helmet hit the canopy and cracked the fiberglass (barely) where the plexiglass and canopy frame meet. As I leveled out on the home stretch, the next two faster planes came zooming by me, just above and outside of me. I was worried sick that I'd spooked them with my wake turbulence antics just moments prior. However, in the debrief, Jay Jones (the first of that second group of airplanes to pass), said that he thought it was cool, because I was "telegraphing to him where all of that nasty air was so that he could stay out of it." Great...my airplane is soooo slow it uses a telegraph machine, huh? Boy, that Jay Jones really knows how to hurt a guy's feelings. :lol:

The race ended with nobody else lapping me. The embarrassment was finally over (remember, I told you I was competitive). So, once I passed the Checkered Flag, I followed Steve Senegal up into the cool down area. My little airplane's engine is so worn out and the internal clearances are so loose, that overheating really isn't an issue for me, but I just follow whoever is ahead of me so that I don't screw up the landing sequence. After making one full circle well above the field, everyone was working their way into the downwind for landing on runway 8. I was getting my spacing right between me and Steve, right about midfield downwind, when it got quiet. My engine had quit running! It's possible I said an explative or two at this point, but who knows? Now since the cylinders on my engine have lower compression than your typical racer, the propeller didn't just stop...it was just windmilling at around 2000 rpm. I tried to revive the engine with some slight throttle movements to no avail. I then pushed the mixture knob in all the way (rich) and gave the throttle much larger movements, but still nothing. I figured it was time to call a Mayday over the radio, which I did. "Mayday, Mayday. Race 64, engine out." I was going to go ahead and land on runway 8, but there were four planes ahead of me that were already in the pattern. If I'd have gone in there, I would've scattered them like quail, which would've potentially put them in a dangerous position. So, with me being about 1,500 ft. above the airport, and my choice of three large runways, I decided to turn right and land on runway 14. It's the longest runway at Stead and there wasn't anyone using it. Race Control asked me to repeat my radio message and I said, "Race 64 is a Mayday. Engine quit. Landing on 14." I remembered from PRS and each morning's pilot briefings that it's a good idea to say which runway you're planning on using so that the fire crews can meet you there and that your fellow racers know what to expect. I started down towards runway 14 and it was really a non-event (I hate to say it, but I'm getting used to dead stick landings now...see my PRS report). Once I was on a long, high final approach and knew I had the runway made, I went ahead and turned the magnetos off so that the still windmilling propeller wouldn't somehow come back to life and screw me up with added power that I didn't need at this point. The prop finally stopped spinning about two feet off the ground, at roughly 90 mph. It may sound strange, but it's at that point that I said to myself..."Self, you've actually gotten into yet another emergency situation, haven't you?" The landing went well and I was able to coast off the runway and onto the parallel taxiway. The firetrucks were only feet behind me as I coasted to a stop. There's not an airshow or aviation event in this country that has the quality of emergency crews and procedures that Reno has! I've now got two seperate Maydays under my belt and both times, they were there before I could get my canopy open. Even though I thankfully didn't need them, it's a great piece of mind knowing that you've got those folks there to help you.

Once everyone saw that I was okay, we eventually pulled the airplane back towards civilization. I have no idea what possessed me to take this picture, but this was taken while on the taxiway to runway 14, heading back to the pits...

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Anyway, I ended up officially placing 4th in the Bronze Race and 7th in the Silver. What's interesting is that the way the timers do the race speeds (see previous rant), my Bronze race is listed as a faster speed than my Silver race, since Silver racers lapped me in the Bronze race and Gold racers lapped me in the Silver race. Make sense? Yeah, I don't get it either. But no matter what speeds they say I went, I had one helluva time and was going as fast as ol' Maybee's Baby would take me while having it!

Monday, September 17...

I was originally planning on heading back East today, but with the engine on Maybee's Baby unhappy, I needed to figure out what happened before I made my way back across the mountains. I was only able to do some basic troubleshooting on Sunday, as RARA kicks the Formula Ones and Biplanes out of the hangar at about 1 p.m. so that they can get set up for the Sunday night awards banquet. So, the first thing I did was to see if it would even run at all. I got in the cockpit and Brian Reberry propped then engine. It ran like a sewing machine. I tried everything to make it do what it did the day before, but nothing. Without boring y'all with everything we did to troubleshoot this, the best we could figure is that the seat in the carburetor got plugged with some tiny trash particles (which we found while draining the carburetor bowl during the troubleshooting process). If this tiny amount of trash got stuck in the seat, it would've kept the engine from getting any fuel, much like running out of gas. However, when I landed or when we were pulling the airplane back to the pits, the trash must've become dislodged and made it's way to the back of the float bowl, which is where we discovered it. Basically, it was just dumb luck...much like getting a stinkin' wasp lodged in your fuel vent. :roll:

So anyhow, I went ahead and serviced the airplane up (fuel and oil) and flew it over Stead field for a while. I dang sure didn't want any surprises while flying back to Midland, and Stead is a great place to test this type of thing. As it turns out, the little airplane was quite happy now and ready to go. However, I wasn't going to head home until Tuesday morning, as I didn't want to make any dumb mistakes because I was in some kind of a rush.

Tuesday, September 18...

Well, the time had sadly come to leave Reno. So I saddled up in Maybee's Baby and headed out. My first stop was going to be Bishop, CA, but Mother Nature had other plans for me. I'm not sure if it was something I ate the previous night, or something this morning, but just a few minutes into the flight, the ol' tummy started rumbling. Oh, come on...y'all can't tell me that this has never happened to you! :lol: I never would've figured the "Nearest Airport" feature on my GPS would've been used for this type of emergency, but it sure worked great. I was just dang near on top of the Yerrington, NV airport when all of this took place, so a quick stop there took care of any "unpleasantness" that my tummy had been having. It didn't take long before I was back in the airplane and headed towards Bishop. There were no other surprises here and after a quick fuel stop, I was headed towards Jean, NV.

Now, I know I've whined and whined about how uncomfortable this little Cassutt can be while on a long cross country flight like this, but I don't think I've ever relayed how much discomfort there is when flying East, early in the morning, like I was doing. You see, I don't wear sunglasses, because they affect the way my hearing aids work (yes, I'm as deaf as a door knob). So, I thought I'd share with y'all a picture of what I see during this time of day, flying this direction......

Image


There's not much room for anything in the cockpit of this little airplane (particularly the pilot), but I did manage to find a rag I stuffed in some crevasse and used it as a sun shade. How did I do this? Well, when those goggles of mine aren't covering up my eyes, I put 'em to use in other ways.........

Image

The rest of the flight to Jean went completely uneventfully. For that matter, so did the next leg to Prescott, AZ. Again, this is where I called it a day, as I know my limits and just didn't wish to put myself through the agony of trying to fly any further today.

Wednesday, September 19...

The early morning flight out of Prescott was great. Again, the sun was an issue, but nothing I couldn't handle. If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough...right? But one other aspect of cross country flying I hate is that I get bored to tears. Just flying straight ahead for long periods of time just doesn't do it for me. Sooooo, I gotta do a few rolls every now and then to get my gyros tumblin'. ;-).......

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Now, I'm going to share with y'all something that will likely get me in trouble with any pilot out there that does aerobatics. Sure, to the general public, we're all debonair and dashing, never frightened and always fearless. But in reality, here's what we all look like while doing acro (I'm sorry y'all...you know it's true :lol: ).......

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Okay, so back to the story...The rest of the day was about as boring as this article I've written (my apologies). I stopped in Safford, AZ, followed by Las Cruces, NM for fuel and some leg stretching. The last leg to Midland was the longest, just shy of two hours. By the time I got here, I dang near needed a crane to lift my butt out of the airplane. But I made it and everything was fine.

So, in summary, my experience as a Rookie at the Reno Air Races was something that is tattooed into my brain forever. I will never forget the tragidies that took place with the loss of three pilots in three different classes, but I will also never forget some of the great friendships that I've acquired in the process of being at Reno. Folks like Gary Davis and his crew were nothing but nice and helpful as they pitted next to me. David Roelofs, Kirk Murphy, and the rest of the Prescott Gang were always accomodating and friendly. And obtaining new friendships that you just know will last a lifetime, like the one I've now got with Brian Reberry and his family/crew, does nothing but make me feel good inside.

There was one other simply amazing thing that affected me greatly while at Reno this year. I was fortunate enough to be named Rookie of the Year in the Formula One Class! This award showed me that my peers have accepted me as one of them and that they felt as good about racing with me as I did with them. It's difficult for me to express how proud I am of this award. It is truly special to me. As a matter of fact, the first thing I did when I finally made it back into the comfort of my own home, was to hang up the plaque that was given to me so that everyone who walked in my door could see what I'm so proud of........

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One last person that I must mention again is the guy that made this dream of mine to race at Reno possible. Dusty Dowd is one of the most generous people I know. He called me up at the beginning of the year and said, "Come up here, get my airplane, take it to Rookie School, then take it back in September. Kick some butt, and bring my airplane back when you're done." He's been quietly coaching me from the sidelines and has given me advice that some of the older racing veterans probably wish they could have. There wasn't a single person whom I met in the Formula One Class this year that knows Dusty that didn't have the utmost respect for him and his racing values. I hope to get to spend more time under Dusty's watch. If so, y'all watch out! I'll be moving towards the front soon. Oh, and save me a seat on that ol' red firetruck that parades the winners in front of the crowd. ;-)

Gary Austin


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 2:36 pm 
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Wow, what a great read. Thanks for taking the time to post that Gary!

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 2:58 pm 
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Congratulations Gary! The award is awesome.

Thanks for the great story. I wish I could have been there to cheer you on in person, but all of us WIX'ers were definitely doing it from home.

I'm hoping I get a chance to see you there next year.

Steve :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 3:17 pm 
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:D Awesome job Mr Austin! Congrats on the award!! I was watching the Reno web site and yes, the scoring is fairly confusing. Thanks for the post.
Dave


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Gary, That is GREAT! I am happy for you, that you accomplished your dream & on top of that got the Rookie Of The Year 2007 award. You done good son.
Congratulations
Robbie :D

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 3:19 pm 
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Thank you, Gary, for sharing your Reno experience with us!!! I'm sure your Grandad is smiling!!! Congrats on making your dream come true (and again on ROTY)! Well done!


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 3:32 pm 
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That's an amazing story and I loved reading it. My trip out there sort of fell apart at the last moment, but I would've been so thrilled to watch you race! That's fantastic! I am sure that your grandfather is SO proud of you! Unreal. I am so so so so so glad you went and raced, that's wonderful!

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 Post subject: Nice Article
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 4:35 pm 
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I don't know why you keep saying you are lost when it comes to paperwork; your story telling is on the professional level and this particular one made my eyes tear more than once!
It is a blessing to work next door to someone who is as good working on and flying airplanes as you are.

Cheers my friend

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Great Job Gary........................Guess WIX members should step up and get that 1,000 hr engine OVH'd for Next year!!!!

Hows that sound ALL????

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Great goin' Gary!! :D

I agree on the "polishing and publishing" part. Add a few more pics (I'm sure some of the other race folks have a few of ya), and Presto! We have "A Rookie's Year at Reno" .... :wink:

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 6:53 pm 
That's what I look like doing aerobatics. :D


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Gary,
Congrats on your accomplishment and what a great read you gave us all. Looking forward to my first visit to Reno next year, just as a spectator though.
David


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Gary:

Much as it pains me agree with "Bobs yer Uncle", he's absolutely correct. Your writing *IS* on the professional level, and you've got the rare gift of making the reader feel that they are right there with you throughout the story. Well done writing!

So far as the "Rookie of the Year", the RedHead and I both sya "Yay, Congrats, couldn't have been given to a nicer or more deserving guy, etc etc".

Seriously, ALL of us here on WIX are proud of you, and I would bet that your Grandad is as well. I'm proud to know ya, man.

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Gary,
This was a beautiful depiction of your adventure. I have been on the edge of my seat since your first post of racing school. Wonderful, and good on ya for a great job. It amazes me what a small world thing aviation is: I grew up in SoCal and learned to fly from Harry Aberle, who's son Tom flies in the Sport Biplane class (for years, doing a great job) so I've always been connected to Reno. My dad was also friends with and a co-worker of Lloyd Hamilton (Pan Am). But when I moved out East, my flying circle changed to different people, some I'd read about (Bill Falck) and some I 'd never heard about. I fly an old Super Cub towing gliders that the founders of my club bought from a crop duster named John Dowd, father of Dusty. John used most of it up by the way. My friend and mechanic Richard MacVicar is friends with Dusty, and I've had the privilege of meeting him a couple of times. I've heard countless stories about him over the years. Today I was talking to 'Mac', before reading your story and we started talking about Reno - I knew Dusty had several warbirds, but didn't know his connection to F1 or to Bill Falck (although he is legend in this area). Mac began telling me all kinds of stories, but I had no idea of your connection to him, or Maybees Baby. I feel somehow we all in this world are connected (aviation, whatever) and I'm thrilled to know you, if only through your posts here.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 6:47 pm 
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Great job Gary.. Here are a few pics for you.

Chris

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