Monday, April 16, 2012

Bluebonnet Airsho

The Bluebonnet Airsho is held in Burnet, TX each year by the Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force. It is always a splendid show, one of the smaller, local, shows but always manages to attract some interesting performers, including (this time) a Mi-24 Hind and a race between a Stearman and a Hot Rod - look for pictures soon.

This year, I was in for a special treat - Air Boss Vernon Rooze approached me on the morning of the show, and asked if I would mind flying in this L-17 Navion DURING the show, to take pictures of the crowd.

Ryan/North American L-17 Navion with Col Randy Wilson at the helm

Is the Pope Catholic?!! This is seriously cool; something I never thought I would get to do. Only essential crew are allowed to fly during air shows - this basically means pilots and nobody else, unless they're needed for some specific purpose. So with the FAA guy watching from the ground, this was a fabulous opportunity, and one I certainly appreciate.

Oh yes; and there's the small point that I get to fly in this really shiny Navion, a type I'd always fancied a ride in. I can report that it is very comfortable, it has a wide cockpit and good seats. I was kind of surprised to see yokes in front, but this was designed as a civilian plane before the military decided to use it as a trainer. This particular one belongs to the CAF and is based at Midland, TX.

So for ten minutes, I got to see what it's like to be an airshow performer! We taxied out in a lull during the show, sneaking out in front of the eight-ship Falcon Flight team. We took off (into the extra-bumpy strong winds of the day) and made two tight circuits of the show field, doing some lovely steep photo passes. As far as the crowd were concerned, here was a shiny L-17 to enjoy. And I discovered that photo passes are pretty good for getting pictures of the ground, whereas I'd normally be on the ground getting a nice picture of the plane... It was fun to be able to interact with the crowd as we taxied around after landing; I don't know if the announcer had told them it was a photo flight but both us and they were vigorous with the waving :-)


Wider shot of the whole show field

I also managed to get a cool shot of the Falcon Flight team lining up for their takeoff, underneath us. You can also see the lead pair in the image above.

Falcon Flight

Here's one more shot of the L-17 departing later on, for good measure!

L-17 on takeoff

Many thanks to Vernon Rooze for this opportunity; it was a blast!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Texoma 100

Wow, what a start to the Sport Air Racing League's 2012 season - both for SARL and for me personally.

It started on Friday, when I drove up to Taylor, from where Mike flew us in his RV-6 to Crandall, TX where the Bennetts live. They have a private airstrip where we landed, to spend the night there before the race.

Mike's RV-6

The next morning, Ann Elise flew me in her Cessna 182 up to Sherman, TX, which is right about as far north as you can go in Texas before crossing over into Oklahoma. We spent a pleasant half hour avoiding a large thunderstorm off to our right, east of the Dallas area. Mike had flown on ahead, and Bobby was parallelling us in his Beech Bonanza.

Ann Elise's Cessna

We got ahead of the low-level cruddy clouds that had formed over much of region and landed in at Sherman (KGYI). Soon, the ramp was full of race planes. About thirty racers made it in; another ten or so had signed up but were stymied by the aforementioned weather, a lot of folks just couldn't make it out of their airfields in that thunderstormy area.

Line o' Racers

The race was delayed and delayed to give folks a chance to get to Sherman, and we enjoyed lunch while we waited. But soon it was time for race briefing, and the pilots were getting ready.

I was lucky enough to find a couple of friends of one of the racers, who were not competing, but were just out to see what was going on. They kindly agreed to give me a ride over to the finish line, which was to be 16 miles north, across Lake Texoma, in Oklahoma. So I got into what has to be about the most immaculate RV-6A I have ever seen, and his friend in an RV-4 led the way.

Randall's RV-6A

Randall and Gerald like to fly in formation. A lot. And this flight was no exception; from the formation takeoff until break for landing, Gerald stayed on our wing the whole way. Which, of course, led to some photos :-)

Gerald's RV-4

It's not a long flight over to Texoma State Park (F31), so we were soon looking down the runway. The race timers had taken a Bonanza ride over here ahead of us, and were camped out at the end of the runway. They were going to be hitting their stopwatches as the racers cross the runway (right to left seen from this angle).

Approach to Texoma State Park F31

Soon, the racers started coming through. Zooming over our heads at top speed, and those with smoke systems tend to enjoy using them ;-) It takes about an hour for everyone to come by. The two slowest planes flew a short course, which was a good thing or we'd have been there for quite a bit longer. One of the Bonanzas landed in after his finish (the others went back to Sherman) to pick up the timers. But - drat - he only had two seats spare! So I spent a little time wondering how long it would take me to walk back to Sherman (16 miles and across a lake....!) when another Bonanza showed up, who had been dispatched to pick us up as well. *Relief*!

Dale's Bonanza

I enjoyed my first V-tail Bonanza ride; it was a nice fast and comfortable aircraft, I can see why they are so sought after. Dale had a treat in store for me too; he asked the Tower for a low pass and hard left turn over the ramp, which provided me the opportunity to get this shot of all the racers, which is a shot I've been itching to take for years!

Ramp o' Racers

Once everyone was back and the times had been calculated, it was time for the prizegiving. Race organizer Pat Purcell had done a fabulous job with all the trophies and some extra prizes (for kicking butt, for example!) which everyone enjoyed receiving. Gradually, the ramp emptied of aircraft as folks fueled up and flew away home. Suddenly, all that was left was Mike's RV and the two T-28s.

And what does one do when there's a pair of T-28s firing up to fly? Well if you're Mike, you talk to them nicely, and then fabulous things like this happen:

T-28 Pair

Big thanks to everyone involved in this story; you're all awesome! Race results can be found on the official SARL website, here: