Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 3 of the AirRace Classic

(Today 1400Z, just passing KFOA at 2500ft) The alarm jolted me out of sleep this morning at 4:00am. I was sleeping pretty restlessly, so I guess that's ok. We went to bed just after 8pm last night, so that was nearly a good 8hrs sleep in Sparta, TN. Heather, Penelope and I were ready to go flying!

The Holiday Inn Express already had breakfast out at 5am, even though they advertised 6, so we were able to get some food before Eric, one of the FBO employees, swung by and picked us up on his way to work. I like to have my breakfast before I start the day, but I have not been lacking any sources of food on this trip. The organizers of the AirRace Classic told us not to count on food being provided along the route, but as you could see from yesterday's post - this is not the case; we are being so well cared for! It is a wonderful feeling to have such support of the folks on this route. I guarantee that I will be paying a LOT more attention the Air Race Classic from now on. The guys at the FBO even let us use their Simple Green cleanser for aircraft (I'm serious, that's what the spray bottle said), so Heather and I cleaned bug carcasses off the paint. PETA would be very upset about the number of insects we have splattered over the past few days.

We wanted to get to the FBO early to give us the most options for the flight today. We are expecting thunderstorms to build on our route to Jacksonville, IL, later today but we couldn't leave before the low clouds and fog lifted (so we can stay VFR). They have, and its been a smooth flight this morning even though we are low to the ground to have the least headwind. Heather and I were introduced to, and I love this site. It doesn't substitute for an official weather briefing, but it has some GREAT info (and pictures. I like pictures.). The picture to the right is one taken at the end of the day and was not the one we were looking at that morning.

Enroute we did have some stubborn weather being "painted," or displayed, on the Nexrad weather radar in the airplane, but it had dissipated before we reached it. The picture to the left is showing us the type of winds we are going to encounter displayed by strength and direction. This is a service we don't have in my Citation X (though we do have a Stormscope, which throws a radar beam out in front of the airplane to shown the return from actual precipitation). I made the mistake of pointing out this deficiency to Heather, who has decided this Cessna182 must be more technologically advanced then my airplane.

Or maybe it's just my skills she has doubts about. She went to "the back" to grab some snacks during this leg and before she transferred the responsibility of the controls to me reminded me that pushing forward on the yoke made houses get bigger, pulling made them smaller! I'm going to have to get her a ride in the X to reestablish my credibility. I'm not complaining mind you, I'm happy to be able to look out of the window and see these amazing views! Seriously, the landscape doesn't look the same from your car window as it does at 2000ft in the air.

(Today 1500Z, just passed 9I0 at 2500ft) We just executed our flyby at IJX, and turned right to continue on to RAC. As we were climbing out, someone on the ground at IJX wished us a good flight. Both Heather and I feel bad now that we didn't stop and meet the folks here too. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I wish now I was flying something slower or with a shorter range - this race is going to be over too soon! The picture of the airport to the left is not IJX, but is representative of the types of airports we're flying into. They have to be somewhat small (less traffic) and no tower, so we can do our "unusual" maneuvers - high speed, low altitude flybys.

We've got the true test coming up, transitioning near the crazy busy complicated Chicago airspace! This is a little tricky. See the blue lines in the bottom right of this map? This designates "Class B" airspace. To operate within its vertical and lateral limits, you need a clearance. The only way to get that clearance is to contact the controlling ATC agency and have them identify you by call sign and to give you permission. We were actually told to "remain clear" of the Class B airspace, which was fine with us, because we were below the floor of it. We did, for fear of the implications (FAA violation anyone?), confirm with a radio call that we would remain clear of the airspace at our current altitude and heading. *Whew.*

We continued to Racine, or Batten Airport, calling Kenosha tower to get clearance over their airport enroute. An aircraft on missed approach from there set off our TCAS alert (Traffic Collision Alert System), but we were able to pick them up visually. When you get a voice announcing, "Traffic, Traffic," it tends to get your attention. When you see how truly far you're missing them by, it doesn't seem like so much of an issue. I am used to traveling at higher speeds where closure rates are faster. So I think I am going to remain super sensitive to those announcements! The picture to the left is another AirRace classic airplane that was pointed out to us by the Air Traffic Controller we were getting flight following from. We passed them on the way from IJX to RAC.

When we approached Racine airport, there was already an Air Race aircraft in the traffic pattern, but they landed before we got there. We did our flyby (which you don't want to have to delay because you're being timed), and started to come back around to land. The aircraft in the picture above, though, had caught up to us and were ready for their flyby. So we extended our downwind (you make a box pattern - over the runway, turn left for crosswind, left for downwind, left for base leg, and then left for final, get it?), so they would not be impeded on the way to their flyby. We came in and landed, followed shortly by the other airplane. The second crew had family in the area (see in the above picture), so they had quite a welcome!

All the crews were welcomed, with more food, of course, and a wonderful older lady who had read about the AirRace and was inspired to come by and truly visit the airport for the first time. She was so surprised when the FBO let her right up to the ramp and let her talk to the pilots. Although she has no aspirations of flying at this late date (She was in her 70s), she wanted to meet all of the women who were. I invited her back tomorrow morning, early, about 6am, telling her the ladies in the AirRace were friendly and would love to talk with her. It was really touching to see her enthusiasm!

Last night I got a couple of posts from twitter:

Doug Hindman Jr.
dhindmanjr@GirlsWithWings Good nite and sleep well, Faith and I are just now checking the blog post.

Faith was wondering - What do you do if the weather gets bad on the last day of the race, and you r not at the finish line?

According to the rules, if the majority of the airplanes will not cross the finish line by the deadline, the officials can either extend the deadline or stop the racers where they were last able to land.

and: how much fuel will you use for the whole race? btw, Faith kindly reminded me that she is 11 not 10. Silly Dad.

We have planned conservatively needing 400 gallons for the trip. At about $4 per gallon, that's about $1600 just in fuel! We were conservative because, as the AirRace website says:

This is an “it depends” answer. The competitive spirit emerges in a big way when the starting flag drops. Airplanes flying the Air Race Classic must be rated for continuous maximum power – for a reason. Winning depends on maximum power. Maximum power gobbles fuel. The altitude and temperature have some impact on how much. Practicing this kind of flying is a good idea. To be safe, expect your airplane to use as much as 50% more fuel while racing. This is another area where your Mother Bird can offer advice.
Additionally, there are the following expenses from the AirRace Classic FAQ page.

Airplane and Team preparation: How much money this costs will vary with each team and airplane. Read the Rules, carefully fill out the Airplane Entry Form, and outfit your team and airplane. Ideally, you want to fly with your Race partner enough to have a good working relationship. Some of the other items needing attention are: ordering charts, making motel reservations, changing oil, checking sparkplugs and washing and waxing the plane. Understanding the rules and carefully preparing will mean your airplane and your team will pass Start Inspection and Registration with flying colors.

One more thing about team preparation – there is a long tradition of teams wearing matching outfits, from Start through the Terminus Banquet. It is not a requirement, but it’s a wonderful way to spot your partner across a crowded room. This is an area where Mother Birds can help.[This is where Heather and I had hoped for the pink flight suits - they were in the hands of her original co-pilot, Soph, shown to right, though, who had to return back to Australia for a pacemaker, so they will not meet up with us after all. We wish her a speedy recovery.]

Race Registration: The Race Registration Kit, which costs $30, includes the paperwork for your race application. The $425 you send in with the Race application goes toward Air Race Classic operation costs and Race Awards.

Start Registration: Start events are sponsored, planned and carried out by volunteers at the Start city. Teams are required to attend some, but not all, of the events planned. Required events are a welcome reception, the safety briefing, a Start Banquet and Start Breakfast. You will be required to send money to the Start to pay for the required events, for any optional events you have scheduled and for (optional) shirts, caps or other commemorative items you ordered. The registration fee typically ranges between $75 and $140.
You must make hotel reservations for your team in the Start city. This cost is not included in the Start Registration. Both the Start and Terminus cities do their best to negotiate a reduced rate at the hotel of choice. The hotel will have enough rooms for all teams and provides space for additional Race events.

Terminus Registration: Like the Start, the Terminus has volunteers who plan events for Race teams and handle money for required and optional costs. Required events usually include a welcome reception, a breakfast or luncheon and the Awards Banquet. Again, the registration fee typically ranges between $75 and $140. Also, as at the Start, you will make hotel reservations for your team at the Terminus. These reservations are not included with the Terminus Registration.

Transportation to and from the Race: This cost will vary for each, depending on where each team member lives, where the Start and Terminus cities are, whether you come in the same airplane and so on. Racers should budget for normal airplane costs (rental, fuel, etc,) and for the time you need to fly your airplane from your base to the Start and from the Terminus back home.

Four days of Race Expenses: Four days are set aside for the Race. You may finish the Race in fewer days. Nevertheless, you should plan for feeding you and your airplane, plus your motel costs, for all time between Start and Terminus.

It isn’t cheap, but neither was getting that pilot’s license in the first place, right? Sharing the Race experience with a number of other female pilots is priceless. Talk with a pilot who has flown the Air Race Classic, and you will hear why it is one of the most exhilarating learning experiences a pilot can have. Mother Birds can be really helpful with calculating Race expenses.

And then Doug, the twitter guy, says: Faith and I checked all the racers websites, and we decided was the best :D

Aw, shucks!

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