Trying to catch up on news from yesterday and today. We're super busy and its getting kind of late to be blogging - have an early start in the morning, but will just briefly mention a few things...
The start was exciting. Our friend, Denny, was one in the crowd in the special viewing area. Jodie flew the first leg and did a great job. She did her first fly-by, flying the timing line in to Liberal, KS, and did a great job. The folks in Liberal were great. Lots of volunteers waiting with cold water and snacks and very friendly faces. We filled up, were on the ground a little longer than we wanted to be, but that's how the first stop usually happens; then later on the airplanes start to space out more.
Jodie flew the second leg as well, in to Sweetwater. About 65 miles out of Sweetwater we lost the vacuum pump. Jodie saw the "vac" light, I saw the suction gauge dump to zero, and soon after the two gyro instruments - attitude indicator and directional gyro - were tumbling. Okay, we're VFR, no big deal, we can continue, but we can't take back off until its fixed. There's a rule about having required equipment working.
John Howard is the airport manager in Sweetwater. He's also an IA (mechanic). He was also fueling all the race planes. And unfortunately he didn't have a vacuum pump in stock. Abilene is 40 miles away, and Sue Johnson, who happened to be in Abilene, went to Abilene Aero and picked up a vacuum pump and brought it to John, and he put it in. Sue's husband, Bill, is a volunteer with the WASP Museum in Sweetwater, and he was really put to work with this air race. He was busy transporting people and helped us out arranging the vacuum pump.
We were hoping John could get the pump in so we could make Lufkin, but we ran out of time, so spent the night in Sweetwater. With the weather forecast Thursday, we've been concerned about how far we could get, so the pump failure wasn't great news. We made the best of it though.
A couple of other teams have had electrical problems. Another team staying at the same hotel in Sweetwater, the girls from Indiana Technical College, happen to know an aerobatic pilot I've met. They have both trained under Billy Werth, so we had some things to talk about. I told them about how Billy recently proposed to his fiance, Haley, while performing his act at the Indy Air Show, "bowing" his Pitts on one "knee" and popping the question in public. Funny thing is, Haley grew up just a few houses down from us and I remember her as a cute little two year old with blonde pigtails.
Anyway, back to the air race.
There's a stuffed bear named Amelia Bearheart, who is the official Ninety-Nines bear and apparently she travels extensively. She was supposed to be transferred from the San Antonio 99s chapter to Houston, so when we landed in Lufkin, someone from the Houston 99s grabbed her and handed her to me. Now my partner, Cubbie, and I are responsible for taking Amelia's picture at every stop.
Speaking of Lufkin, the compass rose looked great, and efficiency of the folks marshalling/parking, and fueling was outstanding. EAA Chapter 1219 and the Houston 99s did an outstanding job in Lufkin.
The folks in Russellville, AR and Grenada, MS were very friendly also. In fact, Russellville really wants the business, so go visit there; its a great town with smiling people and has a park with a landing strip.
Cubbie and I had to make the tough decision whether or not to go on to Sparta tonight. We'd have to make it in before 8:02 Central time. The forecast winds looked better for tomorrow morning, but we didn't feel that would leave us enough time to get to Jacksonville, IL before the weather caves in, so we took off for Sparta, accepting the fact that we'd have higher headwinds and probably a slower leg.
As it turned out, the headwinds weren't nearly as bad, but we did notice the #1 cylinder getting hot. 1650 is max, and it was climbing to 1950. Getting rather concerned, we enriched the mixture and soon the temp went back down, and then everything was normal from then on out.
I flew the first two legs today, Cubbie flew from Russellville to Grenada, and I flew the last one in to Sparta. Over eight hours flying time... Gotta get some shut-eye now....