formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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August 26, 2008 Okie Derby

The Liberty Gazette
August 26, 2008

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

We've just returned from the 30th annual Okie Derby. This precision flying event is sponsored by the Ninety-Nines Oklahoma Chapter (women pilot organization) as a scholarship fundraiser. It’s a fun event with lots of good-hearted competitive spirit among participants. For us, getting there was half the adventure.

Linda: Wednesday evening we were advised of a minor mechanical problem requiring repairs to our airplane after landing (by another commercial student) at Galveston. The parts would be over-nighted but might affect our planned departure to OK City. The mechanic in Galveston is Grumman-knowledgeable because several astronauts own them and keep them there. He had it ready by late afternoon but by then the nasty weather between us and OK City meant we’d better wait. We drove home, took a nap and got up just past midnight to check the weather. 2:45 a.m. we lifted off Hobby’s Runway 30 Left into a sky filled with puffy clouds reflecting the light of a near full moon.

With the help of the moon and Houston and later Fort Worth Center controllers, we avoided bad weather along the 3.5 hour flight to Wiley Post Airport. However, as we approached OK City, fog rolled in and all airports in the area closed. Backtracking to Ardmore, OK, we landed at 6:30 a.m., found a bench in the terminal building and took another nap. About 45 minutes later the FBO opened up and the friendly lineman offered the use of comfy recliners and fresh coffee in the pilot lounge. Ardmore has a really nice terminal building professionally managed by an FBO, fully equipped with weather and Internet access for flight planning.

Mike: The weather started to improve but wasn't clear yet. However, with a full tank of gas and less than a hundred miles to our destination we decided to go, lifting off about 8:00 a.m. The derby was grounded by the same fog that blocked us from getting in and we had been in contact with the organizers so they knew we were coming. As we reached OK City, Approach gave us an IFR descent through the clouds to the minimum vectoring altitude. Once we saw the ground, we were able to get into Wiley Post.

The race route became VFR about noon and we took off as Racer # 7, rounding the 183 mile, four-leg semi-rectangular course in about an hour and 20 minutes. But this is a proficiency race and scores come from time and fuel estimates. You estimate ground speed at registration, before race day. Just before the flagman signals each airplane to engine start, someone comes over and takes the fuel estimate – to the tenth of a gallon. We take off and fly over each of the airports looking for a signifier on the ground. We write down what we see, and go on to the next one.
Linda: Some folks are really good at this. The OK University team was spot-on their fuel estimate. We overestimated fuel and underestimated ground speed, and ended up circling about 14 minutes trying to cross the time line at exactly our estimated time. We came within 10 seconds and I think we'd have done better but we misunderstood where the timing line was. That'd account for our 10 seconds off.

The winners were two seconds from their estimated time, and 2/10ths of a gallon on fuel. This year’s scholarship recipient is a very deserving woman with an inspirational story. We can’t wait to tell you.

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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