After a short 2015 race, Ellen and Terry are ready for 2016. We are currently working on the all so important pre-race vacation plans since we have another long flight out to the start in Prescott, AZ. We will also be working with Aviation Adventures for an awesome youth program at the terminus in Daytona. Of course, there is the standard race preparation as well....

January 7th - Registration is open: ARC opened the registration to 55 teams for the 2016 Air Race Classic. Ellen and I have started the registration process but got a bit waylayed in the process. Fortunately, since we purchased Classic Racer 11, we do not have to be "Johnny-on-the-spot" when the registration opens so we can secure a great number. . .at least for the next couple of years.

This is our busy season now with the new youth program running in Daytona and another starting in Fort Myers. Team Wild Mama will be well represented and we will have the honor of teaching kids all about air racing. Keep tabs on the youth program at!

May 8 - All dressed up and ready to race: Well, for Wild Mama, that is... With her annual complete, her detailing complete and now race numbers that must be installed on the cowling, Wild Mama is dressed in her racing best and raring to go. Today, is her scheduled handicap flight. I scheduled the flight more than a week ago as a shot in the dark.SheriffTour/alldressedup.jpg Several years ago, Marvin and I tried 4 times to get a handicap flight in and the weather thwarted all of our attempts. But not today...

Yesterday we did our flights of the youth for the No Limits Aviation Program in Lee County. Ellen and her Cirrus, Wild Mama with Vern at the helm, Skip Bently in Roxie Red Plane and Dean Martin with the Fort Myers Flying Club descended on LaBelle and flew 21 youth and adults in the bluest of blue skies. It was a perfect day and that perfection continued on to this morning.
In the early pre-dawn hours, Vern and I headed to re-fuel Wild Mama and head out for a 0700 rendevous with Marvin Guthrie, our handicap check pilot located in Clearwaer, FL. We touched down in Clearwater right at 0700 and taxied in for briefing, final cleaning and refueling to top off the tanks. Winds were calm, skies were clear and the day was perfect - hardly even a ripple on the water. We flew out over the Gulf and started our run. The speeds were steady and we never feltSheriffTour/handicapMarvin.jpg the first bump for the duration of the flight. S-W-E-E-T!!!! One for the books! We wait now for the "official word" that the flight has been accepted and we are complete with this task.

Ellen and I are counting down the days to departure on June 4th. We have a nice little pre-race vacation planned on SheriffTour/handicapflight.jpgour way to Prescott. More fun and flying to come.


May 12 - NOT HAPPY: I got an email this afternoon that the handicap run was unacceptable. That can happen .... but what really was not good was the REASON it was not accepted: we were told to fly early in the morning (we left at 7:20 am); fly in cal air conditions (METAR was calm wind when we left and returned); smooth air conditions (we never hit a bump and not a cloud in the sky and over the water) and cool air (a cold front passed and it was 56 degrees with 250' density altitude with an airport elevation of 72'). I am not sure what else we could have done.

So today I blasted off from the Keys for another early morning flight. Again, winds calm (but not as calm), temperatures were not as cool, but it was smooth and we were out over the water. In all I KNOW we got another good run.

MAY 17th - Still Waiting:  Still no word - waiting for the results of the flight. In the mean time we have to keep moving forward with preparations - flybys, read the rules again and keep Wild Mama clean. With a handicap in excess of a month before the race, keeping her clean is a challenge.

May 28th - Inching closer: We finally got the word earlier this week that our handicap was accepted so we are DONE with that phase of race preparation. At this point we are organizing and packing. We will be departing on June 4th so we are 7 days away from blast off for the pre-race vacation portion of the race.

We are anxiously watching the weather across tornado alley.  There have been many severe weather outbreaks and, if my memory serves me correctly, this has always been the hardest part of making it out west. We do fine with the mountains but that severe weather has stumped us a couple of times. We have a northern and a direct route and have allowed ourselves 2 days to make the crossing of the mid-west. SPOT will tell you our track as we go. So stay tuned ..... fun times ahead! SheriffTour/preblast.jpg


 June 3rd - Departure Eve: The time is upon us. We are packed, fueled and ready to go. I pick up Ellen at 0700 tomorrow morning then we make our way to our first vacation spot of Rapid City, SD. We have allowed ourselves 3 days to get there with the storms coming across the countryside now. There are severe storms forecast but we should have a few hours each morning to fly before the summer buildups appear. Follow us on Facebook and check our SPOT to watch our progress.


June 4th - X14-KUTA: The morning was beautiful with a bright sunrise and tailwinds. Vern and I made our way to Page Field to fetch Ellen and drop Vern to,pick up Roxie Red Plane for her trip back to LaBelle. In a relatively short time, we were on our way VFR sporting a little tailwind. We had been watching the weather and were confident that we would not complete our first leg. A huge ferocious blob of convective weather was morphing and moving in our direction. All we could do was fly and watch. 

SheriffTour/DSCN9723.JPGIt became apparent that our intded fuel stop in AL was not going to happen so we diverted to Legrange to refuel and reasess our options for the day.  The blob wqs starting to dissipate but other pop up storms were starting to build. We made a quick turn and headed out VFR under the clouds. It w not long before the clouds were hanging too low for comfort s we started to climb,  did the cloud tops. We decided that continued VFR was not wise so Ellen air filed and got us an IFR clearance to make the remainder of the trip to Tunica, MS. We were painting numerous storms with both the NEXRAD and out eyeballs that ATC wqs just not seeing. He coomented several times that thenradar coverage in that sector is poor. We hit some severe updrafts and some heqvy rains but made it through unscathed. After 3-1/2 hours we crossed 4 states and shot the ILS35 approach into Tunica. A good day overall and we still had time for fun!

We set out for lunch opting for yummy Memphis BBQ baby back ribs and proceeded to try to find downtown Memphis. You would,not think this was difficult but we covered 3 states - MS! TN and AR along with lunch in less time that it took us to make a flight over 3 states. The signage was not the best. We turned and returned and crossed rhe Mississippi twice!! Finally, we found Historic Beale Street. The Street was filled with lively music and nostalgic neon signs. We meandered through and headed back to the car before the rains came. Off to Bass Pro. Now, I would,normally not call that a tourist destination, but this one was the "great pyramid" and obviously the place to see. We wandered through and headed back to the south to spend the night in Tunica and relax.

Tomorrow is another day. We have a special trip planned if the  weather holds out. Stay tuned!


 June 5 - Back to the Mother Ship: The weather held out in the finest way. We looked out this morning when we got up and chuckled at the scene: it is not often we call it THAT well. Off to the southeast (from where we came) were showers and clouds. Out to the northwest (where we were headed) were clear blue skies....ok, and a headwind, so nothing is perfect. But this was a far cry better than the ducking and weaving fro yesterday. The visibility was close to 100 miles. We knew this because of the scaling on Foreflight and the mountains that we could see off in the distance.SheriffTour/DSCN9825.JPG

We passed many fields with odd lines, resembling the isogonic lines on the weather map. We wanted to from a large L in the middle of the fields and a cold front symbol. We made our first air crossing of the Mississippi River, having already done several by car and we went out to enjoy just a fun morning of easy flying. Our destination was Kansas City - a very interesting airport. Wheeler Downtown is in the bend of the river and bounded by the downtown area and LOTS of VERY tall towers to the east and southeast. We had to remain abover 2200' until we turned onto a long extended final. The scene of the city for landing, however, was spectacluar. The city is in anteresting mix of old and new architecture with many odd shapes and building testures, all bounded by the Missouri River. This was one time I would have rather been a passenger so I could take in all of the scenery insteay of flying the plane.

The afternoon was spent on a trip to Atchison, Kansas, home of the Ameila Earhart Birthplace Museum. This was our first trip. Both of us were struct by the location overlooking the Missouri River (I had pictured it in a less majestic setting) and by the number of people waiting to entere the museum. It was packed and the guests were genuinely interested in the life of Amelia. It was our homecoing as 99s. We follow this with the Forest of Friendship excursion.The Forest is peaceful and quiet and a nice place to reflect on the names of our friends and collegues who placues appear in the walway in front of the tree representing a state or country. It was a really good day.

We finished the day with BBQ again - sampling the difference in Memphis and Kansas City BBQ. The results: it is a personal decision on taste - they are both delicious! 

June 6th - a Monumental Day: Bright and early on this amazingly clear day, we launched out for our next vacation stop. But first, we had a couple flybys to do. No, not the racing kind of fly bys but the vacation kind. At the park next to the Forest of Friendship is the Amelia Earthworks, a large image of Amelia in the hill side. It was not so spectacular to see by the ground so we decided it must be done by air. We launched out at turtle speed - 111 kts. Oh dear - our 3-1/2 hour leg will be qite a bit longer, especially with the lingering we planned to do. We made our Amelia flyby and headed northwest ... still not quite sirect to Prescott. One other sighting of note was the fly over of the Amelia Earhart Airport - and NO COMPASS ROSE!!!

The severe headwinds necessitated a fuel stop so we chose Evelyn Sharpe Airport. We dropped in with shifting and gusty winds and rather expensive fuel. But the alternative of running out of fuel was, well, not an option at all. We still had lots of flying to do. We headed out direct to our next flyby over Mount Rushmore. We foung the coordinates and dialed them in and had no trouble getting there at all. Our main issue at this point was the wind. It was just after noon and the winds were picking up even more. The Black Hills SheriffTour/DSCN9949.JPGbattered us quite a bit but we were going to accomplish our mission of seeing Mount Rushmore then Crazyhorse. We made the turn around the back side to pick up the tail wind and take less of a beating. Crazy Horse is huge!

With mission accomplished we set course for Rapid City. The gal in the tower was quite perky and invited us for a tour. We tried to get up there but getting our rental car took over 2 hours and killed the time we had available for the tower excursion. With little time for sight seeing we headed south to Custer State Park for a wander around for the afternoon before heading back to the hotel for the night. We will be here a few days to take in the Black Hills area. Can't wait!! 


June 7th - Above and down under:  Today was a land based day in and around Rapid City. We headed south for another tour of Custer State Park, but on the south side this time. The main attractions were some nice hiking trails and birding.

The morning trail along French Creek was a  bust both in terms of the hiking quality and the birding, the creek was dry so the wild life qt that location was just not there. Also, much to our dismay, the trail too a turn uphill and went from and easy hike to a challenge that both Ellen and I thought best to avoid. On the positive side, the trail was peaceful and you could hear, although not see, many birds joined in song with the wind as it flew through the valley.SheriffTour/IMG_2076.JPG

We heard there was a herd of buffalo along highway 89 to the south near "prairie dog city". Both places sounded interesting and we headed off. Shortly afterward we were stopped by a line of cars and donkeys in the road. We made the mistake of rolling down the windows for better photos. This probably would not have been an issue had we not been eating lunch at the time. As I was focused on photographing a momma and baby, another donkey decided he wanted the sandwich on my lap and just popped his head in the window to see what he could get. What a surprise! I fought for my sandwich and won out in the end but how fun playing with the donkeys.

The buffalo were doing many road crossing as promised. There was a rather large herd of the majestic creatures, meandering their was along as they grazed through the thick grasslands. Even though the area is dry, it was surprisingly lush and green. 

Continuing with our goal of National Park tours, we continued south to the Wind Cave National Park. This cave contains unique boxwork formations found in abundance nowhere else in the world. The formations and crystals in this cave are formed and preserved because of the dryness of the cave. This cave is said to be alive because it breathes. The pressure differential makes the air exhaust or suck in With great force, strong enough to blow off your hat. Locals say it forecasts weather - high and low pressure systems. Sure enough, strong low outside today and the rain came this afternoon. We toured the cave, marveling at the formations and the lack of stalactites and stalagmites. 

The rangers suggested the Wind Cave Canyon hike for us as an easy hike with lots of wildlife. Good call on both counts. Lots of birds, buffalo, other furry critters and and large gravel road to traverse. All of this on a well marked trail. Our kind of hike!!

With a great day behind us, we headed back to the hotel for some rest. Tomorrow is Badlands National Park, more hiking and more fun!


June 8th - The Badlands: After a small delay getting out of town (we had to stop for the yummiest bagels ever), we headed out to the Badlands National Park. I had a distinct impression of the park from out brief overflight of the southern portion but my visit to the park left me with a far different appreciation of the lands.

Many parts of the badlands are the craggy and irregular stone formations, now vanishing at the rate of about one inch per year due to wind erosion. The remaining parts of the park are actually grasslands and a very important part of the ecosystem.

There are few hiking trails in the area but the park has an "open hiking" policy...just watch out for the rattle snakes. That was sufficient to keep us on the marked trails. We ventured to the fossil loop and listened to the ranger program on the formation of the badlands and the various critters that inhabited the lands oh so long ago, then finished with a drive through the park and out back to Wall, SD.

The National Grasslands Visitor Center was in Wall. It is the only visitor center for ALL of the national grasslands spread all through the midwest and western US. As luck would have it, we arrived in time to hear the prairie dog presentation and learn all about the prairie dogs and how important they are to the grasslands. They share their homes with burrowing owls (the owls actually borrow unoccupied prairie dog homes) and ferrets who, oddly enough, are the number one predator of the prairie dog. Fine example of no good deed goes unpunished.

We called it an early day and made it back to town with time to pack and floght plan for tomorrow.

June 9th - Air Day: The winds were quite high the day we arrived in Rapid City and out aerial viewing of the monuments was limited in terms of height and duration of the visit. We had to stay high enough about the hills for safety from the 25-30 kt winds aloft.

Today, however, was different. The wind sock was limp and the winds aloft were not more than 5 kts. It was our day to fly! We headed straight for Mt Rushmore.SheriffTour/DSCN0081.JPG From quite a distance we could see the amphitheater that sat at the base of the monument. We were able to fly at Washington's' eye level to get a spectacular view. It was then on to Crazy Horse. I stead of climbing over the 7200' peak, we opted to stay around 6500' and circle around from the southeast. We rounded the peak to have an awesome head on view of Crazy Horse with him pointing directly at us. Ellen got some great pictures and we flew past and departed the area for Devils Tower.

We could see Devils Tower from 50 miles out even though there was a little haze in the area. Approaching from the east, we had the sun reflecting on the tower illuminating the vertical lines in the tower. As we circled and lost the sun, it really became pretty unremarkable and bland. We finished our tour and headed southeast for Pawnee Buttes.

The flight to the Butte took us over varied land features: small towns, mining operations, plains and farming communities. At one point as I looked out my side and Ellen looked out her side, our views were so different that it was hard to believe we were in the same area, let alone the same plane. We circled the Buttes and I enjoyed the large windmill farm laying just to the north.

With sightseeing over, we headed to Fort Collins to relax and prepare for pur visit to Rocky Mountain National Park.
 June 10th - Short on air:  Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park has been on our list for quite soe time so we were happy to finally be here to do some quality hiking. Ellen researched the trails to find the "easy" omes that we could handle. Most have serious inclunes and the altitude is quite high. Being flatlanders we were cocerned about altitude sickness and a lack of air.
SheriffTour/IMG_2275.JPGThe hike we choose was at 9400' and 5.4 miles total. We had the option of cutting it short to 3.4 miles but we wanted to make the whole thing. It was important toget to the park early, which we did, an start out before the trails became overcrowded. This trail was all about water falls. We hiked along swollen streams filled with the snowpack melt. The sound was quite loud most of the trip but the scenes were beautiful with tall pines and rustling aspens. Our pace was akin to a slow trudge, making the desitnation waterfalls at 2.7 miles in right at 2.5 hours. We made many stops for air and water. Our return journey down hill was a short 1.5 hours and we felt pretty good about making the whole trip.
After a stop at the visitor center, we headed up to the Alpine visitor center over 11,000' elevation. We wer above the tree line here and there was stil a substantial amount of snow left over - even at a comfortable 64 degrees. The scenery was breath-taking, literally. We drove a little higher to crest the 12,000' mark and had a snowball fight at tht altitude. That did me in - oxygen level in my blood dropped to 87%. I passed on the tundra hike that Ellen did and she managed to make it back with 81% blood oxygen level. We were both done and it was time to head back. More hiking tomorrow.
June 11th - Family Fun: We had the pleasure today of visiting with my step-son, Chance and his family who live in Denver. We all met early at his hotel in Estes and headed to theSheriffTour/IMG_2325.JPG park to be in place by 0730 for the hike to Bear Lake and Dream Lake about 4 miles total but at 10,000'. We hiken even more slowly than yesterday but Chance and I had a long conversation of cathing up for the last 30 years.
The hike was as amazing as the family visit. The lakes were still offering a reflection of the mountain vistas. The mornng was cool and with the temperatures were delightful. There was abundant snow on the ground and the trail was partially blocked with the snow. We crossed a snow bridge over a very fast flowing snow melt stream. With the wear on the bottom from the river and on the top from the hoards of hikers crossing, I was concerned that at some point the bridge would be no more. But the hike to Dream Lake was well worth the effort. After reflecting on the vista we headed back down, chatting as much as we did on the way up.

The park was VERY crowded today and getting aparking spot to hike Sprauge Lake was impossile. We half parked right next to the picnic area and had a nice lunch together before saying our goodbyes and heading off in our own directions. Ellen and I found another short hike at Morrain Meadow where we saw some hummingbirds and passed through an area with the most delightful smells. With our hiking feet exhausted for the day we headed into Estes for some retail therapy before heading home. Tomorrow we have a great day planned ... if the weather holds out... Fingers crossed..
 June 12 - The Sound of Silence: For all who have already seen the Facebook pictures, you know that Ellen and I launched out today for a glider lesson. The rains wereSheriffTour/IMG2386.JPG threatening all day but our scheduled morning lessons continued as planned.

 My turn came and after the repositioning we were in the air fairly quickly, the Pawnee just missed the elk that darted out across the runway as we lifted off. That was interesting. We slowly circled our way to to 8500', about 3000' AGL and released. We peeled off to the right and the Pawnee headed back down off to the left. From the beginning of the flight we could see that the lift was severely missing. After circling a bit we headed toward a plowed field and picked up a little juice but not nearly enough to extend the flight for any measurable period of time. All too soon it was over. But I think I am starting to get the itch to keep going. This might be a good summer time plan....We drove up to Owl Canyon Glider Port where we each had our opportunity to launch and ry our hand at finding some lift. Ellen was first and  reported that they knew where the lift was not. By the time she landed and we positioned, the wind shifted 180 degrees and we had to tow the glider to the other end of the runway for launch. It was hot and the Pawnee used the whole runway for Ellen's launch so there was no way he could make it with a a tailwind.
June 13th - Last Chance: This  was our last hiking day for the vacation. We went back in to Rocky Mountain National Park to do some more bird and critter watching. We selected the Cub trail with the Morrain meadow transition but after a long period on the Cub Lake Trail we determined that we missed our turn off to Morrain. Backtracking we found that part of the trail to be under water - no wonder we missed it. With the birding opportunity missed, we headed to the Upper Beaver Meadow just in time for the rains to come. That pretty much killed the remainder of our hiking.SheriffTour/IMG_2639web.jpg
We had seen signs for Benson Sculpture Garden and decided it was worth a look. The gardens were beautiful: very tranquil and inviting. The sculptures was mostly bronze and a mix of realistic and abstract. The gardens were full of people wandering and photographing the local art. It was a nice surprise.
With the city covered we headed back to the hotel to pack and get ready for departure tomorrow. We had been watching the weather and decided to bag our original route through the mountains due to high winds. We will take the less scenic but infintely safer lowland route south then make the westerly turn to Prescott the next day. Our last day of vacation tomorrow. 

June 14 - Diverted: We strongly suspected that the winds would not cooperate with our mountain flight plans and sure enough, we were right. Winds were all over the board: multi directional and ranging from calm to 30 kts.  We had seen another race team head into Santa Fe, a place we have fisited in the past end really enjoyed, so we decided to head in that direction and spend the night.

The flight wqs relqtively unremarkable. We managed to catch a small tailwind for a part of the flight but still had a mixed bag of winds for the majority. We passed east of the Denver metro area and south approaching Santa Fe from the ESE.  We met our friends and headed off for lunch and to explore the town finishing with another race team for a home cooked meal. Thanks Susan Larson for a great evening with Classic 26, Corbi and Ramona!

June 15 - Made it to Prescott: The winds were already up when we left Santa Fe at 0700 - headwinds, of course. Our climb out was slow and the ride was even slower. At times we had headwinds as much as 45 kts. The good news is that the scenery was spectacular! This is a part ofmrhe country where you see rich colors, odd geological formations and features that FL and the SE US just lack. We stayed up at 10,500' to take away some of the bumps and ended up with a great ride, albiet slow.

We landed in Prescott around 0915 and  headed straight for the mechanic. We have flown just over 45 hours since the oil change immediately preceeding the first handicap flight and it was time for another change. Phillip from Arizona Air was outstanding and took care of Wild Mama quite well. With Wild Mama secured, we headed to the hotel and into town. There is a nice downtown area called "Whisky Row" filled with shops and restaurants. We wandered about, had some lunch then came back to the hotel to start organizing stuff for the race. We made piles in our room: race pile, Prescott pile and "why did I bring this pile" of stuff to ship back home. Seems we also managed a bit of shopping so that stuff went to the shipping pile as well. Tomorrow is a free day so we are joining Corbi and Ramona, Classic 26 for a land trip to the Grand Canyon. Our last vacation day is upon us and it will be time to get down to business.

 June 16 - Last Vacation Day: The fun part of the trip came to a close in a great way:  we hopped a train to the Grand Canyon with Corbi and Ramona. The Grand Canyon Railway offers round trip day excursions from Williams AZ to the south rim. We thought this would be a perfect end to the perfect pre-race vacation.

We finished the day with a stop for dinner along Route 66 before heading back to Prescott. Tomorrow our work begins with airplane inspection and credentials. It will be a busy day.The Canyon is impressive no matter how you see if. The sun angle was good so we had an amazing array of colors as we hiked along the trail time. The trail  gave the geological history of the canyon with small chunks of beautiful rocks representative of each stage in history.The train lumbered along the 65 mile route topping out at 40 mph. The scenery was lots of scrub brush dotted with buttes, cows and a few elk. We had western entertainment - singers and banjo pickers, and a train robbery - that made the trip even more entertaining.

 June 17th - Inspections:  Kudos to ARC for a quick and orderly inspection process. We were #1 on the list and breexed through the credentials, aircraft log and aircraft inspections and we were on our way late morning. Time to get to work now and kick back to relax for a tough 4 days ahead. 

June 20th - Race Eve: It has been a couple of very busy days at Prescott with the pre-race briefings and obligations. Saturday was the youth event at the airport. We had 24 girl scouts come to the airport to talk to the racers and learn about airplanes and racing. They are participating in a week long aviation summer camp hosted by the local 99s. We had some outside activities - static airplane display and flying the pattern - but the 100 degree temperatures cut short the "race leg" that they were to fly.

Saturday evening was meet the racers BBQ at a local country club. All of the racers had finally arrived including the last of the teams that had mechanical issues and those delayed by some storms. We have a full field. One of the 99s, Susan Peck, got a new Pilatus and needs to build time. Since she cannot race the aircraft, she offered to become "Peck Cargo Freight Lines" and haul 40 pounds of luggage for 24 team drawn at random. Classic 11 was fortunate enough to be the 20th team drawn so it was back to the room to reorganize our shipping piles.

The other big event Friday night into Saturday morning was the release of the handicaps. With The new handicapping system put in place in 2010, a once inconsistent and inaccurate handicapping system was replaced with a fair system. Each racer has a handicap flight each year for the race. If the flight conditions are right and the flight is valid, the electronic tracking device information is fed into a computer and through the magic of programming a number is spit out the other end. No adjustments are made, no guessing, no voodoo. Your handicap is that magic number. The ARC web site has a great explanation of this procedure copied in full:


During the weeks before the race, each airplane flies a prescribed course to determine its fastest true air speed (TAS). The handicap process is described in the ARC Handicap Requirements (H-01). Briefly, a member of the Team, usually the Team Pilot, flies the handicap course as fast as possible, with a check pilot, called a Handicap Pilot, on board to monitor the flight.

Were it not for wind, determining handicaps would be easy: fly the airplane and measure its speed! Fortunately, we can calculate the maximum TAS in the real world. Calm air is not required, but the wind needs to be steady to get accurate results.SheriffTour/Box.jpg

To be fair for all Teams, Handicap Flights are flown at a density altitude of 6,000 feet. Pilots fly four legs, each at least five minutes in duration, with ninety-degree heading turns between legs. Figure 1 shows the ground track of a 2015 Handicap Flight. The track is plotted from GPS data recorded during the flight, using a Bad Elf GPS data logger. The logger in the airplane records the latitude and longitude of the airplane's position once per second, to an accuracy of six decimal positions.

SheriffTour/Graph.jpgFigure 2.  Single handicap leg
The ground speed for each leg is calculated using data from the data logger in the airplane. The mathematics to calculate the true air speed from the ground speeds is described here: TASformula.  However, understanding the formulas is not required to understand the process. The calculation requires three legs to compute TAS and assumes steady wind. Flying four legs gives us the redundancy to detect erratic winds.

To process this data, we displayed the track and marked the ends of the legs, numbered 1 through 4 in Figure 1. Then we looked at each leg, using a display illustrated in Figure 2, and trimmed the ends, looking for reasonably stable speeds and altitudes. We had the program apply the calculations for four combinations of three legs. The results are shown in Figure 3 (two legs are shown as less than five minutes because we had to trim SheriffTour/Result.jpgunstable portions from those legs).

Figure 3.  Handicap computation
Figure 3 shows that this was an exceptionally clean Handicap Flight. Applying the calculations to four combinations of legs, from 1-2-3 to 2-3-4, the program calculated almost the same TAS even though the individual leg speeds varied from, roughly, 136 to 161 knots (after the 2015 race, we switched from knots to mph). The calculations show that the wind was steady at 13 knots with a direction of 287 degrees. To measure the variation between the four calculations, the program computed the standard deviation, zero in this case (if the wind had not been steady, the formulas would have calculated different TAS values, resulting in a higher standard deviation). After other handicap volunteers checked the paperwork and compared the handicap to other airplane and historical records, the team was ready to race!



Each year, after the run, I make the computation myself on a rough formula and I can predict the handicap within one knot. Something went awry this year and my number was nearly 4 knots off of the handicap provided. Fortunately, our racing rules allow for a "Request for Investigation" (RFI) to be filed with the judges to question anything we find anomalous about the race procedures or something that has happened. We filed our RFI Saturday morning and we are awaiting the results of the judges investigation. In the mean time, our option is to fly our hearts out and do the best job we can and, hopefully, get this issue resolved as expeditiously as possible. It is totally out of our hands.

Sunday we had a long day of briefings and the take off banquet. Today we have one last day of briefings and a trip to the UPS store to ship everything over our 40 pound limit. Then it is rest and race planning with the latest weather updates. It will prove to be a hot couple of legs with temperatures over 100 and a persistent heat wave in the SW US. Fingers crossed for a great start Tuesday morning.

SheriffTour/2016-1web.jpgJune 21st - Race Day 1:  After an early evening emergency call out to the airport last night to checke the planes because of a microburst, we were decidedly ready to leave Arizona and the 105 degree days in the heat wave. Wild Mama was fine but all of the pilots were certainly wound up. The wind forecast for today was not the best - at least, not what we want from a west to east route.

We made our first leg without incident passing over the crevaces and colorful hills. Fires still ravage the area and a new fire popped up in our way filling the skies with thick white smoke. Fortunately, no firefighting TFR. After 4-5 miles, we were out of the smoke and could breathe again. Our first flyby was in sight. We made the turn and starting descending to the flyby altitude. Our of the orner of my eye I see a plane 9:00 low and turning RIGHT below us. I stopped my descent and Ellen immediately called dual flyby as we gained on Classic Racer 5. We sidestepped the runway and held our altitude at 5,350' staying west of the runway but trying to avoid overflight of the line of houses below. I do not think Classic 5 ever say us. We broke off to the left and it seems they followed. we climbed hard and kept Wild Mama in racing mode to build some safety distance bewteen the two planes. With a 2 mile cushion, we finally throttled back and came in to land at Doule Eagle Airport west of Albuquerque, NM.

We were both hungry and the food and cookies wer really yummy. We had lunch and looked at the weather. We decided to remain at the first stop as we watch the bulk of the teams fly on. It is hard to watch. Two teams joined us for mechanical issues and a coupe others stayed for various other motives. We will be at the airport early tomorrow morning for our next leg.

June 22nd - Race Day 2: Weather cooperated with our plan today. We started out at 6:30 departing Double Eagle and after 5 legs, nearly 9 flight hours and over 12 hours we arrived in Urbana. We hope the gamble paid off but there is no way of knowing until the end of the race. We shall see. For now, we are exhausted and will fall into bed - after anice hot shower...ready for another race day tomorrow. 


June 24th - Race Day 3 and after:  Much to uor surprise, we finished the race Thursday afternoon. We had only planned on 1 leg but an overfueling by the volunteers at Urbana menat we had a full load of fuel and only one leg to fly. We decided to take advantge of it, especially seeing many racers starting to pile up in TN, and flew 2 legs ending in Americus, GA. After a bit of studying, we decided it better to make the run for Daytona today, rather than tomorrow (Friday).

Arrival in Daytona was great. We were met by a host of friends who had come in specially to see our arrival - including our girls from Mobile, all wearing hot pink Team Wild Mama, Classic Racer 11 decorated shirts. It was awesome to have such a welcoming committee. We turned in our keys and put the plane in impound and headed to the hotel. It was a great day.

Friday was a day off for us so we met the girls and went to the Mosquito Point Light house and Marine Discovery Center. We learned about light house history in FL and abuot ligh house lighting systems. Then we had a lesson on turtles and breeding in FL. Pretty cool. Tonight is the melt-dowm party followed by my birthday party in the hospitality where we have 2 sheet cakes to feed EVERYONE! FLY FAST - EAT CAKE!!! 

June 26th - Banquet night: Lots has happened over the past couple of days. We finally met with the jusges about the handicap and they agreed that there were "issues" and offered us another handicap flight which we eagerly accepted. We knew we were close to 4 kts off so this was a real blessing to us. Early Saturday morning, we went to the airport to empty out the plane and fly another handicap run. We ended up nearly 40 miles off shore but we got a good smooth run and valid data which was finally accepted.

We spend the day Saturday with the girls from Mobile again after our race duties were over and made it an early night because I was called to be check pilot for another 12 planes flown for maintenance issues.

Sunday morning was a 6:00 am check flight for Classic 44 followed by briefings and the local youth program. By the afternoon, we FINALLY got our valid handicap score of 181.528 mph or 157.67 kts - very close to my original calculation. This handicap ordeal has finally come to a close since the first run on May 8th.

We had been concerned because we did not get "The Call" for inspection as being one of the top 15 teams. We had tried an unusual stratgey and we figured that maybe it did not pay off at all. At the briefing this morning, we found out that NO ONE got "The Call" because all planes were inspected; so hope springs eternal. We are not sure at all how we did and could be anywhere in the pack at this point. We will keep our fingers crossed. SheriffTour/winner2016web.jpg

June 28th - Home: In the end, Team Wild Mama took home 5th place. We were really excited and decided that our strategy had mixed results. I was also awarded the Tookie Hensley Mama Bird Award. I was very touched to be following in the footsteps of everyone's all time favorite Mama Bird. They are large shoes to fill.

SheriffTour/mamaawardweb.jpgEllen and I made a quick trip home Monday morning and Wild Mama is already unpacked, cleaned and repacked - ready for her next adventure. Follow the next journey on the travel log pages.