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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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

July 15, 2008 Air Race Classic, part 2

The Liberty Gazette
July 15, 2008

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

Mike:
Welcome to Part Two of Linda’s Air Race Classic adventures!

Linda: Last week I reported on the beginning of the race from Bozeman, into the first stop, Miles City, Montana. Refueled, we set out to line up again for the timing line to start the clock for the second leg, into Aberdeen, South Dakota. This was my first leg to fly and my adrenaline was pumping!

A timing line was set up at each airport. Since we were fueling at every stop, we flew past the timer first, to stop our time that began at the previous airport, then came back around to land while off the clock. To start the next leg time we took off, flew out a couple of miles to gain altitude and speed, and then dove for the timing line to start the clock again, and on to the next stop. These fly-bys required waivers from the FAA because they are lower than the usual traffic pattern altitude. Most of the fly-bys were 200 feet above the ground. Now that’s a thrill, diving from 500’-800’ as fast as the airplane will safely go, to reach that low level for the high-speed fly-by.

Day Three, out of Aberdeen, was our longest day because the weather was cooperative enough to get in three legs before sundown, and the forecast was telling us we had to get moving or risk getting stuck at one of the stops. We stopped in Mason City, Iowa and then on to Decatur, Illinois, with the final stop in Frankfort, Kentucky. Decatur was the only airport along the route with an air traffic control tower and the controller impressed us. He was smooth, handled all the incoming traffic for both the fly-bys and the planes coming back around to land, and we could tell he was having a ball. Unfortunately for us though, he had to have us (and a few others at times) do a 360 for traffic separation. That cost us time because it was just as we announced, “Classic 14 approaching fly-by to land.” But that happens and we have to obey the controller, who is watching out for our safety. We made the circle as requested and then dove for the timer to stop the clock and land. Quick fueling and back up for the fly-by to start the timer again. We flew over southern Indiana so I waived to Mom from a distance and enjoyed the familiar, serene farmland below.

We received a warm welcome over the radio in Frankfort, Kentucky, even before parking the airplane. As with the other stops, there were sandwiches, snacks, and drinks, and no shortage of friendly folks. Judging from the many well-wishers hanging around the airport I think the whole town of Frankfort was into the Air Race.

The rest of the race would be the most intense for weather strategy. The convective activity along our route of flight threatened the race with storms, hail, and turbulence. In a very narrow window of time, we were able to lift off for Franklin, Pennsylvania where we sat most of the day before leaving to make the leg to Saratoga Springs, NY, during another narrow escape. Caroline and I were the last ones in to Saratoga for the night, making it in with about 40 minutes to spare before official sunset. We only had one leg to go, and the weather was playing havoc with everyone’s flying. The rules require this race to be flown only during daylight hours and only in visual flight conditions. With fog, haze, mist, and sometimes low clouds, visibility wasn’t great, but our best shot at getting to Mansfield, Massachusetts would be first thing in the morning.

Mike: Linda called me when she could. Her attention was focused on the weather and planning for the race and I think she learned a great deal in her first race. Next week we will have more in this series and I hope you will join us.

Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.

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