Follow the "fearless foursome" as they head west for the 30th annual Okie
Derby held at Wiley Post Airport, Oklahoma City, OK. The crew plan to depart LaBelle (X14) at 0700 local for a girls
weekend adventure of flying and fun. Stay tuned as we up-date with our daily progress and news from the race.
AUGUST 15TH: X14-PWA Bright
and early we all meet at LaBelle to pack up the plane and begin our trek westward. The skies looked promising for the first
leg of our journey excapt for the area up around Cross City where there were some large, but scattered build-up for us to
Jessica had called me the day
before about weight and balance with 4 adults and luggage for the trip. "What weight and balance: it's a 182 cargo carrier",
I thought. Then it occurred to me that I do not know how others pack. Hmmm . . . we are all pilots; we all fly small planes,
I will take my chances. Guys - take a lesson - tons of rooms to spare, even. Loading was a snap: one small, lightweight bag
each, a few snacks, the computer (probably that was the heaviest thing) some cookies and packing is done. By 0720 we were
on our way.
Lynne was up for a
big adventure. As she was the newest pilot of the group and had not flown in a small plane out of Florida, this was a treat
for her. Jessica was the co-pilot and Suzanne was in the back starving as I fetched her a bit earlier than expected and did
not give her enough time for a proper breakfast (sorry Suzanne). We headed over Lakeland then toward Cross City and had to
deviate off the coast to avoid the build-ups. The air was still very smooth and relatively cool and we stayed low to be below the scuzz layer that
seemed particularly thick this morning. We passed just north of Tallahassee, through Marianna and on into Quitman (23M) for
our first planned fuel stop. Oh, yes, of course . . . did I mention that we had a killer headwind. Progress wa slow - we inched
along at 125-130 kts most of the way; but climbing at this point would have been worse. Quitman was a welcomed site. I had stoped here before on the way to
the Air Race Classic and vowed to return. Today I kept good on my promise - with their fuel price at $4.15, that one was a
no brainer! We make the 5 mile out radio call and a friendly and familiar voice on the other end came back: "Wild
Mama, is that you?" It is so nice to be loved. We had nice stop, got our "cheap" gas (cheap being a relative
term), had some snacks and checked the weather. Jessica was on the phone for quite some time. I suspect that she had gotten a weather longer rather than a weather briefer
but when she came back with her report, I could understnad why. We had seem some really nasty stuff on the weather scope through
Arkansas and knew we would have to file to get around it; there were multiple cloud layers that made VFR impossible for all
but a very low trip and with the build-ups and front that we had to pass, we did not want to build our own trap. Winds were
light and variable at 6,000' but the monster cell was directly in our intended path. Jessica and the briefer fashioned
out a nice little route to the north over LIttle Rock that, with not too much devistion, should get us where we need to go.
We bid farewell to our temporary hostess and we were off again.
The first half hour or so was bumpy. Heading to SQS VOR, we were hitting some lower clouds in the process
of building so we bumped and rolled along for a bit before we got ourselves in the clear. A large cell blew up in front of
us. Jessica and I were staring intently at all of our fancy electronic equipment and wondering why our eyeballs did not agree.
We trusted our eyeballs and made our first devision to the right of course for a huge cell. By the time we had gotten around
it, the MX20 refreshed and there it was. A bit late, but it was there.
Heading toward Little Rock was the challenging part. The storms were to our left and right - heavy to
intense precipitation - and we tried to get the best pathway right down the middle. Ten degrees here; 15 degrees there and
we made it just in time to begin our VFR descent into Henrietta, OK for another "cheap" gas stop.
Henrietta is a small airport about 80 miles east of OKC
and gas was, again $4.15/gallon. We topped of and began our final VFR leg in to Wiley Post.
Our landing at WIley Post was a welcomed homecoming for me. This is my 4th return trip to OKC after the 2007 Air Race and
it was an opportunity to see all my friends and "the other #1", my partner Theresa, again. We psrked and headed
to the hospitality room for some of the customary spread that this 99s Chapter is famous for providing., There was more food
- and really good eats, too - than one could imagine. We registered, ate our fill and remained for the racers briefing. Eighteen
planes will compete tomorrow in the route from PWA-86F-F36-JWG-PWA. We head off to the hotel to make our fuel computation
and get some rest. Tomorrow will be a blast!
August 16th - The Okie Derby Race Day 0600 and we are out the door for breakfast
and to race off to the airport for the Okie Derby. We doa quick "low tech" weather check. Hmmmm ... looks a bit
foggy; but maybe it is just a little early morning mist. We arrive at the airport to find less than minimums and getting foggier.
Hurry up and wait (have we all done this before?).
The weather briefing is not promising. Wiley Post is less than IFR; other airports
on the route are IFR and there is a cloud deck at 20,000' that wil not allow the sun through for a fast burn off. So we wait.
After many delays and on again, off again weather briefings, we are given an alternate route at 1130 with the caveat that
we are leaving at high noon one one of the routes - we will find out as we mount our mighty steeds on the ramp. Quick re-calculations
are needed. We crunch some numbers, come up with a new estimated time and fuel consumption and we are off to Wild Mama.
Once on the ramp, we learn that were are VFR for the whole original route, so we trash our re-calculations and resurrect the
old ones and wait for our turn to fire up and fly. Okie 1 is ready. The two minute count and we are ready. We are given the
high sign to start our engine. We start and begin our taxi. Jessica goes to call the tower and she is blocked by a pilot calling
for his IFAR clearance. She cannot get in. Our fuel is wasting away. His rather lengthy clearance is read to him; he repeats
incorrectly and asks for a re-read. We are wasting fuel and can do nothing about it ARGH!!! Finally our slow penned pilot
gets it right and we get our permission to taxi. Darn - that will hurt; but we will deal with it. Off we go!
We climb out to 2,500', make our power setting and settle down for the ride. Jessica navigates and handles
the radio. Suzanne is our timer and Lynne is the artist to draw the chevrons.
We pass the farm fields, oil wells and
rivers. We hear Okie 1 make the first turn. We will be there in another 10 miles. Here we come. "Okie 2, 5 miles out".
We are ready for our first fly by. We spot the chevron and are ready for airport 2. So far, so good. We fly over a windmill
tower and head for Wontonga, collect the chevron and check the time. On, no. We are 9 minutes ahead of schedule. We deploy
the speed brakes - 10 degres flaps and landing gear. We slow to 100 kts. to start burning up time. OK - 360 to the left. S- turns, Another 360 to the right. We are coming in to Wiley Post, we make a long entry to the downwind, throttle back -
our ground speed is down to 65 kts, nose her up and ... time! Ok, back to the business of landing and fuel conservation. We
land and go for the long taxi in. The fuel judges come out for us to verify 0.00 on the fuel and they cover it up. I fuel
the plane. I should not have changed the fuel caps last week as I cannot see into the tank. It seems to be full but the left
tank is taking on more fuel. I better quit and go to the right tank. Nothing. It is completely full. Shoot. I better go back
to the left tank and see if more will go in. I shoot a bit more in. OK, done. And the reveal: .6 gallons over. OK, not
bad as that is exactly what we did last year. I hope our time is OK. We hear others getting their fuel readings: some are
not so good, but .2 gallons from Theresa. Whoa - that's good. Best so far then someone hits dead on the fuel.
Lynne and Suzanne headed off to the 99s museaum. It was Jessica's third visit but with new exhibits to see, it was as interesting
as ever. Suzanne had to do some shopping - that's what girls do, given the opportunity. The museum is located at the Will Roger's World Airport (OKC) and is near both the airline terminal
and FBO. If you go thorugh OKC, plan on a visit. It's well worth while.
I go check the times. We are 3 seconds
too fast. Well that is better than the 9 minutes we started with; but is it good enough. Theresa check her time. Whoa, again
2 seconds off. That's good. Let's see what the others do.
The banquet was a blast - good eats and lots of fun. We sat
together with Mike and Theresa and Mike and Linda Ely. The awards came. As we expected Theresa White and Mike Werner took
first place with 2 seconds and .2 off. As for the Paradise ladies . . . 7th place with 3 seconds and .6 gallons off.
The competitin was close; the race was a blast and we learned much for our own upcoming event, the Sunshine Derby on
November 22nd. Now we check weather, pack and get ready for the trip back to Floridaq tomorrow.
|Paradise Coast 99s win 7th in 2008 Okie Derby |
August 17th: Homeward Bound
The trip was way too short and way too fun but it was time to head out early in the morning. We had been watch ing
weather report about Tropical Storm Fay and we did not know what was to come, but we wanted to be back in Florida
for whatever it was.
Today, unlike yesterday morning, was perfect VFR out of Wiley
Post. We decided to stay low and do some sight-seeing along the way home as the winds aloft were - you guessed it -,
stronger headwinds than they were low. We also managed to have some cloud cover keeping the morning cool; but the day was extremely hazey with pretty rotten visibility. After a bit as we headed toward the Arkansas border,
the clouds lifted enough and the winds shifted enough that we could climb to 5500', then 7500' for a while and we picked up
about 10 kts on the ground speed.As we approached Mississippi, however, the clouds came in forcing us to go back down to ground
level in time for our first re-fueling stop at Yazoon, MS.
Approaching Yazoo we saw
several crop dusters in Air Tractors hard at work. We landed and turned off for fuel while they were busy back and forth,
landing on 35, taking off heavily loaded on 17, out and back again. We tried to re-fule but the credit card reader had been
struck by lightening and we had to wait for Bubba, the proprietor, to come and assist us. In short order we were back on our
way, low, flying VFR, to see and avoid the build-ups above us. The day was now hot and the ride was bumby but we did not have
to deviate too much for storms. It gave us an opportunity to talk about the Sunshine Derby and all the work ahead of us to
make the Sunshine Derby as successful as the Okie Derby has been for the past 30 years.
Finally, the storms got the best of us as they started popping to the left and right. We landed at Marianna to get some lunch,
take a break, give the storms time to pass and re-assess our last leg. By 1800 we were ready to hit the air again. We decided
on low altitude VFR again to keep our eyes on the build-ups which has dissipated to widely scattered by now. Refreshed and
reinvigorated, we pressed on, only 2 hous from home.
With minor deviations we made
our way to Plant City before things got ugly. A line of storms had blown up over Lakeland and stretched toward Wachula. We
headed for Arcadia, to the west of the squawl line, to shoot back to the west after we passed Arcadia. We could not out-run
the building line. There had been a 20 mile gap just northeast of Punta Gorda, but the time we got there, the gap was lightening
filled and we could see from the storm scope that passage was unsafe. We saw a break in the rain and lightening and dove through.
It wa s rough 5 miles or so but we passed the line and headed home to LaBelle. With only 20 miles to go, the storm scope lit
up: lightening covered our path and was striking directly over top the airport. Lynne suggested Arcadia. We looked and it
was now in the clear. We landed there and turned back on the taxiway to face LaBelle. We saw the lightening move off to the
east. Now was the time. It was getting dark; the clouds were low and rain and lighteneing were all around us. We put Wild
Mama in race mode and made the last dash to LaBelle. By 2030 we made in straight in on runway 14, safe and sound - an
exciting last 30 minutes of an otherwise uneventful flight.
We are all tired, say our good nights and head home for the next adventure: Tropical