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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June 29, 2010 Photo Finish for Fast Flyers

The Liberty Gazette
June 29, 2010
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Mike raced our Cheetah in the West Texas 100 air race in Plainview–his first air race–and won our class, Factory 5. But the big excitement was in the super fast planes: Bob Axsom, #71 in an RV-6A, and Jason Rovey, #391, an RV-8. Get a load of this:

Bob: I made up a detailed race checklist and programmed the course into the GPS. The actual start was at the far end of the departure runway so I stayed low, accelerated until the end, then turned left on course and climbed a few hundred feet above ground level.

The first turn was 26 miles away, around the right side of a plateau sitting in a canyon. At low altitudes it’s hard to get a good perspective and picking up natural turn points can be a problem but I saw the canyon and the plateau itself well before the turn. Cutting a “pylon” will cost ten minutes, missing it by more than a mile is disqualifying. My ground speed was in the 180-knot range. Not too long after I banked around the plateau, called "Race 71 turn-one" and headed off toward turn-two, I heard Race 391 make his turn-one call; he’s not far behind.

Jason: During the first half of the race we had a nice tailwind. I slowly climbed until turn-two, reaching 1300’ above the ground. Through turn-two I descended and was then on the deck for the rest of the race knowing we’d be fighting a headwind.

Bob: I decided to stay low and not try for a tailwind higher up. Turn-two was a dirt strip 26 miles from turn-one where the elevation begins to drop. Drifting down with the terrain my ground speed picked up to between 190 and 200 knots but I had to find this dirt strip with nothing but a north-south road and a house by the strip as visual aids. I saw the house and the dirt strip just off to the left, a little wide but it was a tight turn. I made my turn-two call and almost immediately heard “Race 391 turn two”; he’s making good time.

As I rolled out of the turn and fine-tuned the heading for turn-three, I had to maximize my speed. I stayed low back over the higher ground and came up to clear the Floydada runway as late as practical.

The speed dropped off to the low 170-knot range. The distance was 25 miles to turn-three. As I made my turn call I saw Jason low and off to the right. It was like we were tied together. I made some adjustments trying for more speed and saw my engine temperatures increasing but my speed decayed slightly. The distance between us was growing. More adjustments, the speed came back, and we were locked by an invisible bond racing to the finish.

Jason: We were low and it was hard to tell which building was the turn point. I saw Bob going a little left and I had not seen the pylon yet. I must have only found the building a second or two before him. Without making this turn slightly before him I would have been following him to the finish line. A great first race for me and I was in good competition with a gentleman.

Mike: Jason finished 21 seconds ahead of Bob. Bob’s overall speed: 204.89 mph, Jason’s: 207.04. Great competition and camaraderie is shared by this group.

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