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.
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 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 :-)
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*!
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:
Big thanks to everyone involved in this story; you're all awesome! Race results can be found on the official SARL website, here: http://www.sportairrace.org/id461.html