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Briefings and a Banquet!

We spent yesterday in a classroom (more like a refrigerator) at Texas State Technical College going through briefings. A safe air race requires a lot of prep-work, both from the race officials, and the racers, and the briefings are meant to make us all feel better prepared to handle the challenge.

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The highlight of the day was getting to meet Gene Nora Jessen, the author of “The Powder Puff Derby of 1929: The First All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race” and one of the Mercury 13. Cathy happened to bring that book with her to the race so that she could learn more about the history, but we all ended up getting a signed copy of the new edition of the same book! The new edition is titled “Sky Girls: The True Story of the First Women’s Cross-Country Air Race” and we definitely recommend reading it if you want to learn more about how the race started and the first racers. We also all watched “Mercury 13” together as a group, which seemed very appropriate, before talking to Gene Nora about her experiences.

We ended the day with a banquet to celebrate the start of the race, with a WASP as a special guest. We also celebrated her birthday–cake is always good!

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Sweetwater, TX

 

The first day of air race activities has begun! We started early in the morning by washing and waxing Tonto. A nice breeze helped keep us cool in the humid heat of Texas as we scrubbed every nook and cranny. Nicoletta focused on waxing everything down, while Cathy was brave enough to clean the belly of Tonto, and Morgan made sure all of the windows were streak-free. Eventually we all had to help Cathy finish up the underside. The plane looks ready to race now! The maintenance shop at Avenger Field (KSWW) was nice enough to help us with an issue too. Our charging outlet in the plane stopped working recently. It’s not something that is necessary for us to fly, but it sure helps keeping everything charged in case of an emergency. They promptly figured out the problem and were able to fix it by the end of the morning. They determined that something had short-circuited the outlet. We aren’t sure what exactly could have caused it to short-circuit, so we will be extra careful now to prevent it from happening again next week.

DSC_5512 Co-pilot Cathy was brave enough to clean the belly of Tonto. After a few months of not being washed, it really needed to be cleaned. 

Next, we had to inspect and impound the plane. We came well prepared with all of our documents, so we had nothing to worry about. We handed in the keys and won’t be seeing them until race-time. After impounding the plane, we headed over to registration and covered all of the basics of the race. This is Nicoletta’s second year at ARC, but Cathy and Morgan are both first-time racers. All of the directors and staff were there to offer their tips on how to have fun and succeed when the race starts. The atmosphere here is filled with excitement from all of the racers.  We all can’t wait to take-off on Tuesday, but Sweetwater has enough to offer in the meantime.

A long with some of our fellow racers, we headed over to the WASP museum to see the amazing history behind this truly unprecedented program. The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) started during WWII and women primarily ferried planes and trained pilots. These ladies worked hard to pioneer a way into aviation, and opened the door for all of us in the future. All of them were honored with the Congressional Gold Metal in 2010. A North American T-6 Texan made an appearance at the field today too. Both the museum and the T-6 are amazing pieces of aviation history. We also met new faces and returning racers from last year, each of them having their own adventures and flying stories to share. For dinner, everyone met up at the “Welcome the Racers” event. We were provided with local food and entertainment. We got to see what Sweetwater is best known for; Western Diamondback rattlesnakes. Some of the racers were even brave enough to put the snake around their neck–Cathy and Morgan sufficed with petting it, while Nicoletta chose to run away. Our post-dinner entertainment was a rodeo. It was an interesting experience for all of us who have never been to one before. We cheered on the riders as they did their best to remain on the sheep, horses, and bulls for as long as they could.

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Nicoletta, Cathy, and Morgan all stand next to the T-6 parked outside the WASP museum.

We still have a few more days before we embark on the 2,600+ mile journey. Needless to say,  Sweetwater is pretty sweet so far (pun intended) and is a great way to kick off the race. As of now, there is so much to take in; everyone here is extremely passionate about flying which is what makes the air race an amazing opportunity for all of us.

500 miles down, 300 to go

Good morning from Tulsa, OK!

Yesterday was busy! After timing our takeoffs from our respective airports a perfectly for our varying speeds, Classic Racer 52 (that’s us!), Classic Racer 41 (our Purdue friends), and Classic Racer 50 (our friends from Lewis University) landed at Creve Coeur, in St. Louis, within 10 minutes of each other, where we were met by a couple of PPI members and officers (shout-out to Rachel and Tom for coming out to see us!) and Carmelo Turdo, who runs the online blog “The Aero Experience.” Carmelo took some wonderful pictures of all three teams!

After resting and getting lunch, we all continued to Tulsa, OK, together. The route was long, but having each other on the air-to-air frequency to help with decision making and information sharing made the time fly by. Morgan met us at KTUL and took us all to dinner. Unfortunately, we can’t take us with her to Sweetwater, since she has to go to work for one more day, but we’ll see her in Sweetwater tonight!

Our next stop for the day is Oklahoma City. We talked the other two teams into visiting Louise Thaden’s Travel Air, which won the first Powder Puff Derby (the predecessor of the Air Race Classic) in 1929. Then we’ll be heading off to Sweetwater, our start for the race, where we will be meeting all the other teams!

 

Where there’s summer airplane racing, there’s ice cream

Classic Racer 52 will be en route to Sweetwater, TX, in a few days. To celebrate, we are having a small pre-departure party at the airport. We will have our airplane, Tonto, outside (here’s to hoping for some good weather) so that you can all come take pictures and ask us all the questions you’ve been wanting to. Join us for ice cream and some airplane fun! Maybe you can even talk us into giving you a ride…

 

Aviation is meant to be shared, so families and children are especially welcome! Stay up to date on our Facebook event page

If you have any questions or need additional information, please email ppiofficers@lists.purdue.edu. 

[T-14] Avenger Field, Sweetwater, TX (KSWW)

In two very short weeks, we will be patiently waiting our turn to take off from Avenger Field in Sweetwater, TX. This location is of particular importance to all the racers, as Avenger Field was the training facility for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) back in 1943 under the direction of Jacqueline Cochran. The WASP ferried airplanes from factories to military bases and therefore had exceptional cross-country flying experience with nowhere near the equipment we will be flying with.

Fifinella, the official WASP mascot, conceived by Roald Dahl and drawn by Walt Disney, tends to make an appearance throughout the race. It will be especially appropriate this year, with us paying homage to the 1,074 women who sacrificed so much to get their WASP wings in conditions that were not the most optimal.

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Our takeoff will mark our start time, and after that we’ll be on the clock–even the smallest deviations from a straight line mean we are wasting precious time. But before the stress of start day, we look forward to seeing what Sweetwater has to offer. The National WASP WWII Museum (http://waspmuseum.org/) is located at Avenger Field, and we can’t wait to spend some time there.

If any of you are planning on being near Sweetwater between June 15 and June 19th, let us know, because we would love to see you. Also, you should try and go to the airport on the morning of June 19th to see all the racers take off one after the other–it is quite the sight!

 

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T-15: Help us choose where Classic Racer 52 stops for lunch and dinner on the way to Texas!

With only fifteen days until we are lined up and ready to race, it’s time to solidify our departure plans, and we need your input! Nicoletta and Cathy will be flying our airplane down to Sweetwater, TX, around June 14th/15th, and Morgan will be meeting the rest of the crew there on June 15th, too. We have some flexibility built in, just in case weather doesn’t entirely cooperate. But we’ll be flying somewhat direct from KLAF to KSWW, with a few stops along the way, since it’s a 10-hour trip. So where should we stop? Is there anywhere we absolutely have to go for lunch and dinner? Maybe a unique attraction along the route that we should not miss out on?

Here’s a link to our route and a list of some of the bigger cities/towns on our way so you can judge where about we will be flying over.

Champaign, IL; St. Louis, MO; Springfield, MO; Bentonville, AR (Fayetteville area); Tulsa, OK; Oklahoma City, OK; Wichita Falls, TX; Abilene, TX

Leave a comment here or on Facebook if you are familiar with any of the areas we’ll be flying over and make your case!

Adventures in Terre Haute

Yesterday was our scheduled handicap flight in Terre Haute, IN.

So what’s a handicap flight? It’s a flight used to determine the airplane’s baseline speed in the race configuration. There are all kinds of aircraft participating in the Air Race Classic, from two-seaters to twin engine airplanes. Since they are all flying at different speeds, figuring out who wins is not always easy. Instead of comparing the aircraft to each other, the ARC judges compare each team’s performance to their handicap speed. Basically, a flight where the team’s pilot pretends to be an autopilot… We flew a very precise square pattern of 3-minute legs at full throttle in a completely empty airplane (other than fuel and the team) and collected data that the ARC will use to calculate our handicap speed. Last year, our handicap speed was 126 knots. We expect that number to be quite a bit lower this year, since we added a teammate and removed our wheel pants.

The handicap flight is always stressful, because of how strict the tolerances are. We have to maintain a density altitude of 6,000 ft plus or minus twenty feet, with a heading tolerance of only two degrees, at a constant airspeed and full throttle. While not having an autopilot makes this flight difficult, choosing a calm evening to do it, and practicing throughout the past month helped us tackle the challenge.

The flight to Terre Haute, where our volunteer handicap pilot is based, was uneventful, and we got luck and didn’t have to do anything to dodge the weather! We found the VOR off the field, and an A-10 waiting for us on the ramp, so what more could we ask for!

In preparation for the handicap flight, we cleaned and waxed the airplane, and applied our sponsor decals and race numbers, so that we won’t be adding any more drag to the airplane after the handicap speed is computed. Tonto looks GREAT when all shiny and polished!

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We also practiced flying the square at different altitudes (2,000 ft increments) while flight testing. Since Morgan is at her internship in Oklahoma, we had to use other people as Morgan-replacements. Geoffrey, Utsav, Alyssa, and Rachel, all did a great job pretending to be Morgan for a while! And Morgan was always with us in spirit, on the roof of this barn by Kentland!

Less than 3 weeks until we depart, so things will get really busy!