Saturday, September 3, 2011

Last Post for This Race

Post Race Reflections
My first air race taught me that a little airplane can traverse a lot of ground in only a few days.

At each stop, I met wonderful people about whose lives I learned much too little, but just enough for an appreciative glimpse.

The folks at Borger, Texas, were a hoot, as the expression says. Several weeks before finishing the construction of their new terminal, they hustled to finish some of the most important services, such as the lobby and the restrooms. Both restrooms had the same signs, LADIES, even though one of them had a men's urinal.

Some of the most wonderful characters live in places we had not planned to fly into, such as Amelia Earhart Airport, Nebraska, and Harlan, Iowa.

The organizers of the race encouraged me to continue to improve my flying and decision-making skills, which is something I hope to reciprocate and to pass along to others.

Already some of the ladies are posting on Facebook that they are preparing for next year. I'd better start polishing up my ol' Scissortail!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Breaking through the Clouds" Documentary

The film "Breaking through the Clouds" by Heather Taylor will debut in Iowa City on August 25th - 28th, 2011 at the Fifth Annual Landlocked Film Festival.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Heading Home

    The 2011 Air Race Classic has ended. Wonderfully, I met some extraordinary women and children. Time to return home to fly for another year feeling inspired by the experience of an all-women transcontinental air race. Fly around the world now, anyone?

The score keeper showed me our time. He wasn't as impressed as I was about my perfect time-keeping. Our team did not place but we sure flew well and without penalties.

These ladies have raced over thirty Air Race Classics.

     Before Terry Carbonell, ARC board member, and Miss Enger at the Boys and Girls Club of Alabama, the girls in the photo had not flown in an airplane. Now they have flown and know that they have the opportunity to seek professions in aviation. Some may even race someday.

And this is a picture of Terry and her teammate Elaine holding the ARC 2010 first place trophy. 

    Tou Can Team accomplished our mission to bring awareness to women and to women in aviation. I feel delighted by all I did on my own in that regard: 1. Purchased domain name for Girls in Flight Training;  2. Established a web site for the school which is now held by Tamara; 3. Donated my plane and funding to race to bring awareness; and 4. Interacted with Tia to assist her in making her way toward accomplishing her goals. Um, who else benefits here? Me, too! My airplane benefitted, too, and thanks to Vernon Conley, by now having all documents complete and in order. 
     My thoughts now have turned toward Texas and flying back home to John! 

Links to Media Reports

Thanks to H.-P. Schuele the Tou Can Team received great press. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011


     One would think that having departed from a town to the north of Mobile one would approach from the north. But no. Not us. We approached from the south, swooping in at a standard angle of bank into Runway 32 at the Mobile airport. Mary and I had a dramatic arrival there.

      We departed Borger, Texas, at sunrise, performed the departure fly by to start the clocks, and then headed to Norman, Oklahoma. Smooth sailing at 5,500 feet. Zero winds to push us. Where are the winds when we want them?  

Parking the plane in Norman. 

       At Norman, the volunteers taped our fuel slip to the plane. Eventually, when he finishes fueling the other aircraft, the lineman comes around with the truck, reads the amount of fuel to put on board, and then calls the office to tell them the amount. At the office, I am usually hovering over the employee, eager to pay so that we can hop back in and fly the next leg. But at this point, Mary has not had much sleep or food. I must take better care of my pilot, so I encourage her to have breakfast at Ozzie's Diner. We had some time to relax a bit, for the weather in El Dorado, our next destination, indicated cloudy skies. 
       "We can wait and leave at ten (o'clock) and we'll be okay," said Mary, and I agreed, especially since she had something to eat. 

At El Dorado, Arkansas, we watched some of the racers performing their fly bys.

Enroute to Mobile we began to see the clouds so we descended to 2,500 feet from our cruising 5,500. 

D'Arbonne Bayou.

Mississippi River at Vicksburg.

I adore the beauty of clouds. 

A line of clouds off the wing.

    Over Mobile down came a rainstorm, lightning, thunder . . . not much wind. Tower diverted us to the east a couple of miles. Mary and I were prepared to divert. Safety first.
     "It's VFR at the airport," said Mary.
   "Lemme give 'em a call over there and find out. Just a sec," replied the tower controller at Mobile International. "Yes, they've got visibility over there. Lemme fly out east and then in to one four. There's a clear area there you can get in."

Rain on the windshield.

      The ocean at left. Airport at right. Clouds. Rain. Mary had the airport in sight. But not the one four runway. 
      "We're not doing the fly by," Mary said. "We're taking three two."

    And Runway 32 was all we could see. Half of it. One half sunny, the other half pounded by rain. Inclement weather can occur suddenly, and Mary and I were prepared to divert. 

The tower at Mobile. The tower controllers everywhere are our friends. 

   Volunteers guided us into a hangar where we would remain dry. I took this image of the hard rain pouring on the ramp and on a helicopter in an attempt to show how pour the visibility seemed, indeed, poor enough that the tower controller had to guide us along the taxiways to reach the ramp, able to see us only by the strobe light on the wing.
    Inside the hangar, we shut down. For the first time this week I sighed deeply. How quickly the race ended, as if in the blink of an eye! We arrived third of forty-six racers at the terminus, having flown 1,228nm in 8.7 hours. There were racers in Great Bend, still, making their way to Mobile for the sunset deadline tomorrow, Friday. I removed my headset and looked outside the cockpit. There, over the wings of parked airplanes stood young girls and their teachers, waiting for us to emerge from the plane. Our Adopt-a-Pilot friends had come to greet us! A delightful surprise! Finally we met Tia, our adopted pilot.  A young girl walked determinedly toward me. 
    "Are you . . . ?" I said.
    "Tia! Which one are you?"
    "Elizabeth," and I gave her a hug.
    "I knew. You look like an Elizabeth!"
    Watching Mary land the plane and being met by Tia in the hangar provided me with a cheery and delightful way to end an air race!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An Exciting First Leg: Dual Fly By

     The Air Race Classic uses the "fly by" method to start and stop the watches on each racer. The timer sits at a specific spot along the runway, and when the plane reaches that spot abeam their wing, the timer starts (or stops) the clock for that plane. The plane has to fly overhead at 200 feet above the ground, as the rules specify. Planes come in one after the other, so the timer has quite a task on her/his hands when they start arriving.    
     Dual fly bys occur rarely. The racers take off in sequence depending on their number, flagged to depart by the start chart on the ramp. Normally racers will arrive one behind the other at the end of the leg, but today Mary and I caught up to one of the racers in front of us. As we neared the airport four miles before the fly by, we spotted Classic #44 straight ahead. When #44 turned for final fly by, we turned to remain at their right, following proper procedure. As we crossed abeam the timer, our planes passed nose to nose. I think this means we beat them by a . . . propeller?

Racers depart Alliance Airport, fly out a couple of miles, and then return for the departure fly by before they turn their heading toward Great Bend, Kansas, the first leg of the race. 

The timer sits under the tent clocking the racers as they fly by at 200 feet above the runway.

A Classic Racer studies the weather on her Skypad.

Classic Racer #26 washes her plane before departing Alliance. 

Planes are ready for pre-flight.

Daisy and friend wait on a couch in the hangar for the race to begin.

Dodger came out to watch forty-six racers take off.

Kutch is Dodger's best friend.

Our first leg ended in Great Bend, Kansas, where corn surrounds the airport. Team Bessie wait to taxi. 

From cornfields of Kansas we flew to the native grasslands of the Texas Panhandle. 

We arrived in Borger with plenty of sunlight left in the day. 

A volunteer  who works as a locksmith gave us a ride in his truck. Mary rode in the back holding on while he drove us to Borger's terminal building. 

     Some of the faster aircraft have flown the third leg today and will overnight in Norman, Oklahoma. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Raining Cats and Dogs

We waved good-bye to Iowans and others who had come to Iowa City to experience the departure of forty-six airplanes.

Mary thought we could fly all the way to Norfolk, Nebraska, but not through the storms ahead. 

We diverted to sunny Harlan, Iowa, only twenty miles to our left.

Olie filled 'er up for us. 

A Cub landed just after us to fill up, too. He was on his way home to Idaho. 
"You racers? I just came in from Alliance. Storms 'r bad all the way," he said.

I felt delighted to make Olie Pash's acquaintance. He flies aerobatically. Olie donated his Pitts to the Iowa Aviation Museum, but not before removing its engine to install it in an Extra, which he still flies.

Olie's cat. One yellow eye. One blue eye. Friendly.

Time to take off from Harlan. This time we will fly much farther to the south to go around the storms.

Iowa had many rainstorms like the one I show above. Pretty . . . from a distance.

I spotted this crop circle as we left Iowa and entered Nebraska.

We landed in Lexington to refuel and found Classic Racer 24 on their way to Alliance. The winds blew at thirty-nine knots up the runway, so it did not take long to stop after landing or to get airborne.
"Will the winds die down at all?" asked Classic 24 before they hopped back into their plane.

I post this image in honor of storm chaser Ben
At this point we are seventy miles from our destination.

Thirty miles to go. Rain, rain, go away, come again another day to Texas!

Safe and sound in Alliance, Nebraska. The lineman guides us to our parking spot on the ramp.
I could have kissed the guy! After 530nm through turbulence and rain I felt happy to land. Indeed, several classic racers did not proceed through the storms and opted wisely to remain overnight elsewhere. We will see them tomorrow at noon.

Sue and Carol, Ninety-nines, greeted us at the terminal. They gave us pizza and a ride to the hotel. 

Daisy seemed interested in sharing my slice of pizza, but we compromised with a belly rub (not mine, her belly).

      The Air Race Classic begins tomorrow at noon. We depart Alliance to Great Bend, Kansas. From there, we will fly to Borger, Texas for a total of 481nm in the afternoon. If we have fair skies and favorable winds we may proceed to Norman, Oklahoma, but only if everything looks good. The rules state that we must land by sunset at one of the race towns. Safety is our priority. 

Making Our Way to Alliance

     Plan: Fly from Iowa City to Alliance, Nebraska. Distance: 500 n.m. Winds: Strong. We'll fly at three to five thousand feet. The race begins tomorrow, Wednesday, and we may depart from there any time after noon to Great Bend, Kansas, the to Borger, Texas, Norman, Oklahoma, El Dorado, Arkansas, and finally to Mobile, Alabama. We have until Friday at sunset to arrive in Mobile. 
    Today's time for departure: 10:00 a. m. Estimated time of arrival in Alliance: Six or seven hours from now with one or two stops to re-fuel along the way.
    As Lynn said, "Onward!" And happy birthday today to my other dear professor!

Monday, June 20, 2011

New Start Location and Date

    The weather did not cooperate with the Air Race Classic this year. Judges, after much huddling and whispering, changed the date and location of the start. Below, Jo and Meredith realize that we will not fly tomorrow to the Dakotas. Later we learned that we will now fly to Alliance, Nebraska, and begin the race from there at 8am on Wednesday. We may fly to Alliance with visual flight rules or we may file under instrument flight rules. I still hear H.-P.'s words when he advised me not to fly my airplane under IFR conditions because the pitot tube has no heater. Mary and I will make our way to Alliance just fine under visual flight rules. And I get to sleep late again tomorrow!