The Sport Air Racing League —- and me!

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I owe a big thank you to Sharon Tinker for letting me know the Indy Air Race, a sanctioned event of the Sport Air Racing League, would be racing in Indianapolis today. That was five days ago. I’ve been hearing about the Sport Air Racing League for a long time and I’ve even sat on the ground at multiple locations watching some slick, high performance birds streak by overhead.

Colin and Judy

My navigator and back-up everything was Colin Tabb

I knew mostly hotshot pilots with high performance airplanes participated but I’d also heard an occasional Ercoupe, T-craft and other light weights occasionally got into the act.

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Colin Tabb & Judy Birchler

So 3 days ago I contacted race organizer, Linda Street-Eley, and sheepishly inquired about the possibility of me and my Rans S7 coming along. OH NO, not really participating, just flying along and observing….no need to judge me! If I actually did it, it’d just be a little non-competitive fun. 🙂

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Linda was great, encouraged me to register very soon, arrive by 8:30 and come to the mandatory 9:00 a.m. pilot briefing. Oh yes, and be ready for a 10 a.m. staged departure. Hmmmm?

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I’m still not sure exactly what got into me but I registered, and with not much time to spare. I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into but Linda was there to encourage and get me checked in this morning. Can I seriously do this? Hey, I just flew into OSH so I must be able to do anything!

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Pilot briefing

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Colin and I getting ready to fire her up

Pilot briefing:  I’d already read and absorbed, to the best of my abilities, the 60+ page Pilot Brief pdf that was emailed to all registered pilots the evening before. Holy cow, along the course I’m gonna be planting my wing tip on geographical spots on the ground, at an altitude that’s legal (but the locals love low fly-bys :), and make my turns towards the next check point while broadcasting “Race Plane 25, Turn number so-and-so”. Ok, doable!

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Most aircraft are running full throttle and hauling ass the entire course!

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Midget Mustang

Safety is paramount so the fastest aircraft taxis out first, 2nd fastest next and so on. Guess who taxied out last?! That’s right, me. My Rans S7 qualified as E-LSA in the category even slower than an Ercoupe and a Cessna Sky Catcher. The fastest aircraft were RV8’s and Rutan Long Ezs in today’s race.  IMG_7329

So a funny thing happened getting ready for the race —  from registering as a slightly involved observer to actually taxiing out with all the other aircraft for the start of the race – I got sucked in! Totally, completely, sucked into flying the course as fast as I could, hitting the checkpoints perfectly, and keeping up with the pack. I shocked myself.

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A Rans S7 in Indy today – a P-51 Mustang at Reno next?!!!

Colin and I had a blast. He was my tandem seat check pilot, fine-tuning my headings, reading me frequencies, helping me find that sweet-spot on the ground. I’m sorry to say, he hit the ground running, heading to a previous engagement as soon as we landed, but I was happy to have him along. It was awesome. All of it!!

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And yes, I actually did receive a 1st Place Trophy flying E-SLA. OK, so what if I was the ONLY E-SLA. I got my trophy and had a terrific time along the way!

 

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