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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April 10, 2012 Texoma 100 Air Race

The Liberty Gazette
April 10, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Busy schedules kept us from early preparation for the Texoma 100 Air Race. Examination of the race course and even hotel reservations would wait until we arrived in Sherman the night before the race. After over a year of installing upgrades to our Grumman Cheetah, now dubbed The Elyminator, chomping at the bit to turn it out and really see what it can do, the good-humored banter for the race season opener fueled my competitive streak. Wayne Lemkelde flies a Grumman Cheetah with similar modifications and is our closest competitor. Apparently those who arrived at Race Central earlier in the evening joined Wayne in the hotel lounge, and as we were winging our way there they were posting in the group web page something about Wayne naming his airplane the “e-linda-nator.” It was on. Wayne was in for it. This was just what I was hungry for – someone to beat.

Mike: Earlier in the week Linda texted to me: “Another Cheetah has entered the race. We need Tim’s wheel pants!” Wheel pants are fairings that cover the wheels making fixed landing gear more aerodynamically clean, which means speed, and to Linda it was a need. We’ve been looking for wheel pants since our worn and cracked ones could no longer be repaired and wanted “speed” pants but have had difficulty locating approved parts. Our friend Tim keeps his Cheetah in a hangar near ours, but how to ask that question - may I borrow your pants? It’s like asking to borrow underwear. But when I managed the awkward question Tim laughed, assuring me that “Cheetahs aren’t bashful,” and yes, we could borrow them.

Linda: I pulled the airplane out of the hangar, fueled, loaded and cleaned while waiting for Mike to get off work. Race organizer Pat Purcell awaited our late arrival at the North Texas Regional Airport to give us a ride to the hotel. The night ended early with thunderstorms, hail and wind passing across the race course just north of the airport where race planes were lined up outside, but not a drop on the ramp.

After the pre-race briefing I caught fellow racer Greg Bordelon giving Wayne some tips on racing, and you can imagine Greg got a good scolding from me. Finally, at race time props began spinning, aircraft began taxiing out, and as Wayne taxied ahead of us I joyfully looked forward to passing him on the course.

Mike and I work well as a team and this race was my turn to fly and his to navigate. We had our race strategy, altitude for each leg, the degree of bank for each turn, and our preferred race communication style, all of which paid off when we caught Wayne before the first turn, passing him on the inside, leaving him in our wake as we turned in our fastest time ever at nearly 155 mph.

Mike: The friendly banter with Wayne continued after the race, and he congratulated us on the win while waiting in line for fuel. That’s what Sport Air Racing League is all about. We are competitive spirits but enjoy the people in our family of racers as much as we enjoy the competition.

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