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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July 29, 2008 Air Race Classic, part 4

The Liberty Gazette
July 29, 2008

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

Most air races are open to many different makes and models of airplanes, with some limitations. Air Race Classic, Inc. rules allow for stock, single engine piston airplanes, with some speed modifications on an approved list. The horsepower allowed ranges from 150 to 590, meaning the speed of competing airplanes may range from 100 mph to 300 mph. For such a wide variety of speeds to compete, a handicap is assigned each airplane, depending not only on its year, make and model, but adding to it for the approved speed modifications. Our handicap was 112.4 mph. That means that at full power and no wind we should expect to get that speed out of Caroline’s Cherokee 180. We averaged 130.8 for the whole race, giving us a +18.4 final score. But our last leg was our best. “Leg prizes” are awarded for the four fastest speeds of each leg and we earned a third-place finish on that last leg into Mansfield.

What could we have done differently to place higher? Well I see a few things. There are areas in the atmosphere where one may find the optimum tailwind, and knowing how to find that takes some practice. I think I was finally getting it toward the end of the race. Flying straight is important too. Drifting off course by just one degree means you will have to adjust later to get back on course and just one degree can cost valuable seconds. It takes a lot of concentration to fly a consistent heading, and when the wind isn’t a perfect tailwind, when it’s a quartering tailwind, coming from an angle behind us right or left, a certain amount of it is a crosswind, keeping a heading is difficult while we’re being blown in the direction of the wind. Another factor was that the cowling on Caroline’s airplane didn’t rest exactly aerodynamically symmetrical atop the engine, undoubtedly, that cost us airspeed by creating more drag on the airframe. However we did do a few things right. We trimmed the airplane upward and used downward pressure on the yoke, trying to add a knot or two to the speed. We used some trim on each leg but often had to rest our arms from the constant pressure against the yoke.

Just knowing this air race is something not many people, even those with extensive aviation backgrounds, have done, and the challenge that it offers, is enticing. And thanks, Mom, for the t-shirts. I hope to return next year. But one drawback for me was missing Mike. Two weeks is a long time, especially for newlyweds. I earned some teasing, which was brought to Mike’s attention when my fellow racers met him in Mansfield.

A couple of long-time racers told us of other air races open to any pilot, meaning Mike and I can compete together. I think we’ll try that!

Mike: I was in Mansfield to witness Linda and Caroline’s timing-line fly-by and all the celebration and activities over the next two days. It was great fun. Another aviation event takes place from July 28 - August 3, 2008, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture at Oshkosh, WI. It’s become the largest annual event in the U.S. and we’ll be writing about it next week.

‘Til then, Blue Skies

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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