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 8, 2008 Air Race Classic, part 1

The Liberty Gazette
July 8, 2008

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

Mike:
Linda’s back in Liberty, now a veteran of air racing. Another Air Race Classic in the history books, Linda has the fresh perspective of a new racer.

Linda: Transcontinental air racing requires endurance and patience. Waiting out bad weather (we had plenty of that), choosing the time of day and altitude to fly each leg of the race to find the optimal atmospheric conditions, i.e., best tailwinds or least head winds, trying to stay on course with not even a degree of change in the heading, presented challenges to staying focused while encouraging that part of me that is persistent and competitive. My teammate, Caroline Baldwin, and I placed 18th in her airplane, a Piper Cherokee 180. Not what we hoped for, but we incurred no penalties, did not have to deviate for weather, had a positive score on each leg, and finished the race without being disqualified. I learned how to do a fly-by for a timer and how to build a race strategy. I’ve met some incredible women, some who fly professionally, or are retired professional pilots, others who do this for fun; a song-writer, a few engineers, a retired federal judge, a farmer, a few teachers, and many other interesting backgrounds. And every racer was treated to the most hospitable, friendly folks in every town where the race touched down.

Beginning in Bozeman, Montana, we had a few days of briefings, banquets and festivities, an aviation badge course for area Girl Scouts, and answered questions for the media and general public. The mayor of Bozeman attended a barbeque and on Race Morning was at the start, a huge grin on her face as she ceremoniously waved a green flag while the airplanes taxied past, awaiting word from the Control Tower, “Classic 1, cleared for take-off.” One poor fellow accustomed to the 8-10 a.m. lull in air traffic expected a straight-in landing to Bozeman and was surprised to hear the Tower reply, “Negative. Call two miles out, downwind, there’s an air race about to start here and I have 33 airplanes ready to take off!” With but a few interruptions for non-race take-offs and landings (accompanied by well-wishes radioed from departing Delta Connection airline pilots), racers were taking off less than a minute apart.

We were Classic #14 and Caroline flew the first leg over snow-capped mountains, skimming the ridges as we climbed looking for that sweet spot in the air where we could catch a good tailwind, eastward, on to Miles City, Montana, our first stop. All along the way we were asking, “Are we going fast enough?”

Not every plane had to land in Miles City for fuel. Some flew past the timer and went on to Aberdeen, South Dakota. Many of us though, did need fuel, and the long line for the lone fuel truck brought on anxiety about changing weather conditions. There’s more to tell more about this great race, so see you next week for more on the 2008 Air Race Classic. Till then, blue skies!

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

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