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Race 71 at the AirCap 200

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Jeanine had eye surgery on the first of August so I was on my own for this race.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I spent time washing the plane and inflating the tires and looking at additional gap-sealing ideas with gaffer’s Tape.  I applied the tape to the openings around the aileron mounting brackets and on the aft fuselage across the unused part of the oversized opening for the movement of the elevator connecting rod.  After looking at it I decided that the aileron tape looked vulnerable to the wind and I wouldn’t want to race with it without testing it first.  I took the aileron tape off but I left the tape on the tail.  One of the frequent posters on the website had stated long ago that there is not much to be gained in drag reduction efforts in this area so I thought to myself, “Well it can’t hurt much so let’s try it.”


Friday night I went to bed around 10 pm so I could get an early start in the morning.  I went to the web and found at a U.S. Navy website that the sunrise at our airport in Fayetteville, Arkansas would not occur until near 7 am.  Since I do not have any lights in my racing wingtips I can’t fly in the dark so I set the alarm for 5 am to start the day’s events.

At 5 am I got up and checked the weather for the ability to get to Wichita and the winds aloft for the race.   Ever since the 8-23-08 wind forecasts became available on the government’s aviation weather website the pattern had been the same 5kt winds at the surface from the north, powerful 25 to 35 kt winds from the south at 3,000 ft and 10 kt winds from the south at 6,000 ft.  I had made up a matrix in Excel for selecting the best altitude for each leg.  Applying the wind direction and speed to my baseline speed and looking at the active cells in my matrices I was very confident that 3,000 ft on the first leg and 500 ft AGL on the two return legs would work best.  The plan fell apart with the Saturday morning forecast of the winds.  It appeared that 2,000 ft MSL would be a good altitude because it was easy to remember and it was just 700 ft AGL down in the light wind level.  So fly the entire race at 2,000 ft MSL became my new plan.

I called Flight Service to get a standard briefing and to file my IFR flight plan – I knew there would be clouds.  The weather seemed fairly decent for IFR so I filed the flight plan with no modifications.  I had to wait out sunrise but at 6:45 am I was on my way.

Almost immediately I was in the clouds and it seemed that things were worse than forecast.   As I approached Tulsa from Razorback land Memphis Center advised of a 40-mile diameter area of intense precipitation directly ahead.  We worked a deal where I could proceed direct to Wichita in spite of my /U equipment declaration.  It was a rough ride and in one area east of Wichita there was some of that intense precipitation but ultimately I flew into Col. Jabara Airport on a visual approach beneath the clouds.

Then there was the park the plane, check-in, fuel up, use the restroom, attend the briefing, pull planes in start order alignment on the taxiway, get in start-up and get ready to fly when given the release signal by the designated race official. 

I took off behind a Bonanza and climbed to the maximum allowed 3,400 ft for a diving start over the east taxiway at Stearman field. 

The Bonanza went way downwind of Stearman field (1K1) and I didn’t want to lose sight of the start environment so as he was going away I turned and dived for the start line.   I made the required radio calls, passed the “17” on the north end of the runway and the race was on.

I eased up to 2,000 MSL per plan to begin the longest leg of the race, 77 nautical miles to the turn on the south end of runway 36 at Freeman Field (3JC).  As the high speed cruise settled in I saw that it was stuck on 172 kts.  I really didn’t want to settle for that because it is just under 200 MPH.  I wondered if I went down to the absolute legal minimum 500 ft AGL could I pick up any speed.  I knew from studying the sectional before the race that the ground level was approximately 1,300 ft so I could descend 200 ft to 1,800 ft it a try.  The speed came up 4 kts immediately. 

As I made approached the first turn around the “36” painted on the south end of the Freeman Field runway, other racers were making their inbound calls – they were close! 

As I continued south, the ground speed crept up to 184kts and I stayed at 1,800 ft MSL.  When I made the turn at the south end of Schroeder Field (M66) the closest racer behind me made the “1-mile out” call.  It was the same at the finish back at Stearman Field.  It is always good to make a clean run at a good speed regardless of the finish position.  I heard Mike Thompson making turn calls during the race and he was my direct competition but he started well behind me so I do not know how our final times compare.  I returned home after the race so I will not know the race results for a few days.  I’m sure I averaged more than 200 MPH and that is good enough for me.

After the race was over I looked at the tape on the aft fuselage.  A corner was lifted on the left side so I removed all of the tape there and checked the right side.  It was far worse with all three pieces clinging at the front end but resembling a tangled and knotted mop at the rear end.  Now I know there is a lot of air action in this location and I will work on a permanent fix for closing the holes.

Bob Axsom

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