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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Trip to the Races

The summer of 2014 has been quite a summer full of flying.  The last big trip of the year was down to Reno for the National Air Races.  On this trip, I took a friend from work who had an in on some great box seats.  After watching weather all week and ending up with a great Friday morning, we opted for a 7:00 am departure.  I found out another VAF Friend was flying down from Puyallup on same day same time, so we coordinated flight paths.  He got off the ground before we did so was always about 40 miles ahead of us.  We were able to reach out and talk on air to air frequency the entire way.  That worked out great for us because he could provide visibility reports ahead which due to the amount of Forest Fire Smoke in the air around Crater Lake helped put our flight at ease.  Smoke is a different animal than clouds because it doesn’t have any visible boundary.  Flying into it, you can easily lose all visibility without even seeing it coming.  Luckily on the trip down we were able to stay on top of it for the most part, and still have enough visibility to see the ground directly below us.  Crater lake wasn’t very visible though which definitely was a bummer.  We made it to Reno in 3.5 hours with almost neutral winds.  Getting the rental car from the FBO and opting to skip the hotel check in till later, we were able to make it to the races by early afternoon hardly missing any of the Friday show.

I knew we had good Box Seats, but had no idea just how good they were or the history that came with them until we arrived.  It was shocking when we walked into the grounds and walked right up to show center and into the first row Box.  The owner of our box had been going to the races for over 29 years and has had this box for much of that time.  He named it the S.O.B. Box, which of course stands for “Steersman’s Owners Box” and has a very recognizable banner on the box.  It truly was one of the best 2 or 3 boxes at the Races which made for an amazing show.  Also the box had a very dramatic history which effected all the people who had been going to the races and historically sharing that box.  You may have heard of the Galloping Ghost accident in 2011?  The most tragic accident at the races in history where the plane impacted in the box seat area killing several attendees.  Well that plane hit about 20 feet from the box, but the direction of the blast fortunately reflected away from the box to spare all the lives of the members in that box.  In fact, all neighboring boxes suffered deaths in the horrific incident.  I could feel the connection that all the S.O.B. members and neighboring boxes held based on that tragic event.  Also, it was eerie as so many  people in the neighboring boxes had prosthetics in place due to the loss of limbs etc. that happened in that accident.  It seems that these Air Race Fans are so dedicated to aviation and their losses from that day have somehow made them an even more dedicated and greater part of the air races and they continue to come year after year even post-accident.

We had Pit Passes too, which allowed us to go mingle with the teams and learn more about each aircraft.  I think I am team Rare Bear..  Such a beautiful plane !

The final Ultimate Gold heat was great, although there were 3 mayday calls I think.  All landed safely but in the end it made for an interesting heat.  Rare Bear was one of the mayday calls, and of course Strega was out from the day prior, so a few of the big hitters didn’t even finish or compete in the last heat.   In the end it was Voodoo in First, followed by Czech Mate, with Precious Metal in 3rd.  Fourth was Dreadknot and due to a contested line break from Precious Metal, I think Dreadnaught ended up taking third in the end.   Quite an interesting end to the Air Races this year.
Here are a couple videos that are really worth watching:
Our trip home went as planned as well, except for even more smoke in the air all the way from Reno to Seattle.  Basically is seems the entire west coast is burning right now.  The only bonus was that Crater Lake was slightly more visible this time through and I got some photos of the lake with a friend whom we flew home with posing in his RV-7A.

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Places we have been in our RV-7 ! (Blue 2013, Yellow 2014, Green 2015, Purple 2016, Red 2017)