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On to Alabama and then to Hot Springs

June 28, 2010

On Thursday morning Heather and I got to the airport at 5:30 a.m.  We loaded the plane, handed in our flight plan, thanked Bill for coming in so early, did a preflight inspection of the plane, and got in ready to go.  She started with no issue…and we knew we were on our way.

We took off at just after 6:30 and headed out to gain speed before coming back for our fly by to continue.  There’s several things that have to happen all at the same time.  First, we’re flying full throttle….and that means the plane is going fast.  (Now, for those of you who know aircraft….the Piper Warrior is not the fastest plane around….we realize that…. but still, we were flying her full-out, which is not how we usually fly.)  Most of the fly bys were prescribed to be flown at 200 or 300 feet AGL.  This means Above Ground Level.  Again….we don’t usually buzz past this low going this fast.

My job was to start our timer at the timing line.  Prior to the race we had been given specific instructions for executing the fly by and part of that included being told exactly where the timers would be marking time.  We had 2 timers in the plane and each started one on my cue.  We then noted the exact time as well – just in case there was a discrepancy later on, we would be able to show our data.  We did the fly by and headed towards Alabama…we were racing once again!

In Tuscaloosa we were met by the stop chair and offered soda, water and snacks…though it turned out all he really had to give us was water.  Apparently they had a decent spread for the teams on Tuesday – but since we were two days behind, the staff had raided the soda and snack supply.  We didn’t mind – we had other priorities like checking the weather and moving on.  One team was stuck there, waiting for a part.  We tried not to be rude, but quickly got out of there and headed to Hot Springs.

The plane didn’t want to start and after several attempts, we finally phoned Mitch.  I think both Heather and I were silently holding our breath…hoping we weren’t in for more of the same…problems!  Mitch talked Heather through what to do and she handed me the phone while she executed his instructions.  The plane started, I yelled thanks to Mitch, hung up, and we were off.

This leg was uneventful and by now we had a rhythm for cockpit management.  Heather would handle the take-off and landing portion of the flight including the fly bys.  She also handled radios because it played to her strength as an air traffic controller.  I was in charge of the paperwork and logistics for each stop, handled the timing start and stop and took the controls for the straight and level portion of flight.  We were both responsible for spotting traffic and every decision was discussed so that both opinions were heard.

While Heather flew, I reviewed the fly by procedures, timing line position, and my checklist for what needed to be accomplished at the next stop.  (This was also my chance to eat something!)  We had specific paperwork required for fueling and other lists or papers we needed to sign or submit depending on our intent to fly, stay or require en route work – so I spent time filling out forms as needed.  While in the plane, I kept the sectional in hand and periodically updated Heather as to where we were.  Once at altitude, Heather would trim the plane and I would take over.  I was careful to stay as close to our flight path as possible to gain every possible knot.  Heather would take time to get something to eat, and then review the procedures for the next airport.

As we got closer to Hot Springs, the haze grew thick.  We could see down to the ground without issue, but our view out in front was compromised.  Finding the airport was challenging, though we knew if we flew the GPS line we would be led right to it.  Problem is, we had to drop low for the fly bys, and that meant losing a lot of our ability to find things (like the airport) in the distance.  We arrived at Hot Springs and were greeted by Team Up!  (Classic #34)  Mary and Leah were also stuck – waiting for parts to arrive to get them back on their way.  In the true spirit of sisterhood, they had already told the fuel truck to get out to us ASAP, and they greeted us with hugs and bottles of cold water.  Knowing we were on a tight timeline, they offered to help with anything we needed, and understood when we were quick about checking weather and winds and heading out again.

Bravoski was hot by this point.  We had flown 2 legs so far and the temperature in Hot Springs was over 100 degrees.  It took several tries to get her started and we noticed the affect on the ammeter during our run up.  We quickly pulled all electrical equipment that wasn’t vital, and reviewed the result.  Slowly, we began to see the numbers register normally and we felt comfortable taking off.  We were on our way to Cameron, Missouri…

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