The Liberty GazetteThe View From Up Here
July 7, 2009
July 7, 2009
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: Thank you Patrick Griffitts for covering for us during an intensely busy time. The evening of Thursday, June 18th, I flew with Linda up to Burnet where she joined race partner Jodie Perry for the all-women Air Race Classic. Jodie and Linda, Team 27, spent much of the next day in Jodie’s Piper Archer picking around nasty weather on their way to Denver, the race’s starting point.
Tuesday morning, June 23, the race began; I stayed behind due to my work schedule. Putting in an extra long day on Wednesday and half a day on Thursday, I was eager to get to the Terminus city, Atlantic, Iowa. Flying helps me decompress. The Cheetah and I were wheels-up about 2:30 that afternoon, stopping for the night in Topeka, Kansas. A tasty breakfast at the airport café provided the energy to complete the last hour and 20 minute flight to Atlantic. Within two hours Team 27 flew their low, high speed pass across the timing line, and I was their biggest fan.
Following three days of festivities Linda and I returned, almost at a leisurely pace. Four stops, Topeka for breakfast, Fort Smith for lunch and weather check, Tyler for a water stop, and skirting thunder-boomers into Houston. Round trip flight time recorded on the Cheetah: 14 hours. I don’t know how long it would have taken us to make the trip by car or airline, but I do know our little single engine airplane is faster than a mule.
Linda: This year's race saw 34 teams compete. The good news for us was that we earned two "Leg Prizes" - 2nd place on Legs 3 and 5. Unfortunately though, that was not enough to get us better than 17th out of 34 competitors. A few months prior to the race I met Jodie in Brenham and we timed both airplanes on a course, then compared them to the assigned handicaps. Her 180-hp Archer flew about the same as our 150-hp Cheetah, but the ARC organization gives her particular type airplane a lower handicap by three knots. That made choosing our race plane an easy decision. Handicapping the airplanes makes the race about pilot skill: weather, altitude, strategy, and some luck. And, since we're chicks, how many shoes to pack.
The FAA issues waivers allowing us to fly time lines 200' above the ground. Official Notices to Airmen for those airports on those days are published by the FAA; their chosen language: "High speed aircraft flying low approaches." Cessna 172s made up a large part of the field; not exactly what I’d call “high speed.”
Cities picked for the stops, and especially for the Start and Terminus must meet certain criteria. They must have adequate hotels and rental cars, fuel, and friendly FBOs. And important for Start and Terminus are that the cities themselves be pro-aviation because there are banquets, host home dinners, youth presentations, media coverage, special tours and sometimes parades and festivals built around the race.
Photos and articles from around the country are posted on the ARC web site: www.airraceclassic.org, along with next year’s route: Fort Meyers, Florida to Frederick, Maryland. Several pilots flew for charity this year, raising funds from donations and also donating their winnings. That’s one of four changes I plan for next year, racing for charity, along with real-time tracking on a web site, finding a faster race plane, and winning.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.