I am now ready to write my post-Reno letter to all of you generally recapping our participation in this year’s National Championship Air Races. I wanted to wait until we were able to evaluate the Bracket Challenge competition results and the awarding of prizes to our 1st, 2nd and 3rd place contestants.
Just before our arrival at Stead, I was expecting 16 biplane entries for this year. By the time Sunday the 10th rolled around, we were at 13 entries. Our new Tech Inspector, Jerry Aberle, completed all inspections by Saturday night which allowed anyone who wished to practice on Sunday to be able to partake. The weather was very threatening over that weekend with afternoon rain, wind, thunder and lightning. Fortunately, by Monday AM, we were able to take the course with more practice and qualifying. By Tuesday, we were divided into two metal groups, Gold and Silver. Throughout the week, we ran eight aircraft in the Gold and five in the Silver. Our Wednesday night annual Biplane Class Banquet was, as usual, very well attended where our guest speaker was RARA’s own Air Boss Greg “Shifty” Peairs. Also in attendance from RARA were Terry Matter and his wife, Lori Crown, Debbie Giese and Robbie Burgess. The event was held at Pinocchio’s in Sparks, where we have been meeting for 6 or 7 years now. They do a wonderful job providing a buffet style dinner and a spacious room for the meeting. At the banquet, we awarded our annual DSM award to a great pilot, Phil Ensley. Phil’s radio transmissions which were broadcast everywhere in the world, were the best! We also awarded the annual Stan Brown perpetual trophy to Anthony Oshinuga, for the most improved qualification time over the previous year.
Throughout the week, we hosted several FAA representatives at each of our heat and medallion races. On the final race on Sunday the 17th, both of the attending FAA folks informed me that after all of the week’s races, the Gold race and its runway change (winds) which were called in the middle of the race, was handled professionally by all our Gold race pilots. They launched on runway 8 and recovered on runway 26. We earned more points that day, with the FAA. The winner of the Gold race on Sunday was Andrew Buehler flying race 62, “Phantom.” Our Silver winner on Saturday, was the ever smiling Jeffrey Lo in his race 6, “Miss Diane.” Our 2017 "Rookie of the Year" award from RARA, was given to Scott Thomson in his race 23X. Also attending and flying as official "alternate" pilots, were Rob Caster and Philip Ensley. By participating in at least one heat race, they keep their RARA race pilot currency alive and well.
With regard to our first annual Bracket Challenge contest, seven pilots were able to turn their GPS loggers on for both their qualification runs and their medallion laps. BEFORE we did the math work using Phil Starbuck’s data printouts, Dennis Brown and I realized that we needed to establisha math rule that fairly applied to ALL participants. Since all seven pilots actually ran more than two qualification laps as well as completed more than six race laps, we decided on the following method of comparison of the qualification versus medallion course times. We took the average of each pilots two official qualification laps for their base qualification time. Then we took only five of the race laps and averaged them, as not everyone completed six laps because of being lapped during the race. We also ignored the first staging lap as well as any cool down laps which were obvious on Phil’s data printouts. The winner of first place and $500, was Andrew Buehler in race 26 with a tiny difference in times of just .09 of a second. Second place and $250, went to Tony Higa in his race 31 with a time difference of only .834 of a second. Finally, third place and $100, went to Alan Hoover in his race 84 with a time difference of 1.135 of a second. Congratulations to these three for their consistent times on the race course.
I do not want to fail to thank Leo Williams who was our color announcer with RARA’s announcer in the grandstands. Also in attendance was past president Jeff Watkins. Jeff looked well despite, no doubt, being over worked by the California Highway Patrol as a lead officer in their aero division. The work accomplished by Dennis, Bob Zaha and our newly elected Secretary, Eric Zine, was extremely helpful, as no one person could ever manage a race class at Reno by themselves. By the way, Dennis Brown is back to work on our PRS Syllabus with some notes in his hands from the FAA whereby they want some standardization in all race classes written into the Syllabus before next year’s PRS. Speaking of PRS in 2018, we are waiting for information about the Stead runway rebuild scheduled for next year and whether they will be able to even hold the annual PRS. I would think that by the Class President’s meeting with RARA’s Board next February, we will know what they will be able to do regarding this important issue. It is also important for all of you to know that our biplane class did receive the needed bi-annual accreditation from the FAA based on our rules, syllabus and other procedures as submitted to them by Dennis and myself. If a race class cannot earn that approval from the FAA every two years, then they would not be allowed to race at Reno.
In conclusion, I want to say that our experience with the FAA, RARA, and their independent Contest Committee was a wonderful and smooth experience for all of us in leadership. I believe we have attained a point in biplane racing history where our relationship with these groups is the best it has ever been. They trust us completely and we do all we can to work within their required regulatory perimeters, so as to maintain that trust. This is why when we need consideration from one of them over some matter, they respect and listen to us accordingly. There are dozens of things that happen over what I call our eleven days in Reno each year. Some printable and some not. I have tried to present the highlights as I saw them and if I have left out anything or anyone, my apologies.
President, Treasurer & Slave Driver.