Thursday - Smooth Sailing: Returning
for her third Okie Derby, Wild Mama lifted off from Punta Gorda with Terry and Cheryl Lynn, trusty co-pilot, at 0730
- right on schedule. We had filed a flight plan as the initial weather forecast showed a line across the big bend area of Florida, extending through Alabama and Georgia. But by the time
we departed, the weather was breaking apart and we decided to make the run for it. It was a non event by the time we got there.
It was a great day to fly. The cloud layer that remained about 6,000' was high enough to give us a relatively smooth ride
but dense enough to shade the trip for a cool 72 degrees most of the way.
We made our first stop for cheap gas at Waynesboro Airport in Mississippi, just over the AL/MS line. Gas was $2.85/gallon
so we could not pass that up. They opened a new fuel farm there with self serve (instead of the assisted serve advertised).
With friendly service and conversation, a new FBO and cheap gas, it could not have been a better stop. We continued "direct
to" David Perry just south of Oklahoma City for our second fuel stop. Gas here was $3.46 - much better than the $5.39
in Wiley Post - enough to warrant the second take off and landing. This was a quick stop. We had been up since 0430 and we
were both getting ready to be on the ground after 7 hours of steady flying.
arrival at PWA ws uneventful. Theresa had a car ready for us and we had time to leisurely meander around and head to Brick
Town for a little walk and to meet Mike and Theresa and Jim for dinner at Toby Keith's Restaurant - good ribs. We finished
our evening meandering around the Bricktown water way and watching the ducks before we heading to Theresa's and promptly slept.
Friday - Talking and Touring: Part
of the goal of the weekend was to be a tourist again in Oklahoma City. Although I have been here 10 times, Cheryl Lynn is
experiencing her first time in this fair city so tourist activities are appropriate. We started, naturally, with the 99's
Museum of Woman Pilots. There is a new little simulator exhibit that was not fully functional at the time we were there; but
there were other new additions to the other collections of woman pilot history.
We followed with
a brief stop at the A.P Murrah Memorial to the Oklahoma City bombing. The day was perfect for a stop at the memorial as the
reflecting pool was reflecting and the day was sunny but still cool. We circled the rows of chairs - large ones for adults
and the small ones representing the children killed during the bombing. We stayed only a bit when we decided that we
needed to have a little snack before the check in time. Knowing the OKC 99s, there would be LOTS of really good food, so we
wanted to waste neither our hard earned dollars nor our calories on senseless eats - we would wait for hte good stuff. We
found a little coffee shop, Undergrounds, where we had the chance to kick back, relax and chat for a couple
of hours. By then it was time for registration.
It is always good
to come back to OKC as I have always received such a warm reception here and feel like part of the family. It is good to come
home. The receiption today was the typical Oklahoma welcome - seeing my friends and catching up over the last year. We settled
in after registration for more chatting and lots and lots of home made goodies. This chatting process lasted well into the late afternoon where we found ourselves ready for the 7:00 p.m. pilot
briefing, oh, yes, and dinner, which we decided would be a continuation of lunch. Good idea. We finished the pilot briefing
late, chatted some more with ARC racers, Becky Smith, Linda Street-Ely, Jeanette Hackler, and Theresa White. We dropped Becky
and her husband at the hotel and headed back for Theresa's house.
Saturday - Running the Derby:
Although the weather looked a bit dicey at 0-dark-30, the front looming to the west of our route moving to the northeast,
at Derby time, the weather was perfect! We made our final calculations, checked our charts and got ready to go at the appointed time. Shortly after 0800, we were Okie Derby 3 and we
departed PWA heading northwest for our first leg. The wind was howling but it was giving us a quartering tail wind so we would
remain ahead of schedule for this leg. We were pleased. We knew we would have a direct headwind - in the neighborhood of 30-40
kts - over the next leg. As we approached Seiling (1S4) we were having a bit of trouble spotting the airport. We had heard
Okie Derby 1 circle 4 times; Okie Derby 2 seemed to do OK, but the airport was nowhere in sight. I looked at the GPS - we
were 1/2 mile from the airport - it HAD to be directly under us. Oh, crap - there is it and we are zooming past. I cranked
Wild Mamaover on her left wind and called "Seiling traffic, Okie Derby 3 side stepped right in a funky overhead
pass down runway 17, Seiling" OK, not the best of calls, but it got the point across. Let's head for Cordell (F36).
This would be easier - we would go straight down the runway as the
orientation was 170 degrees and we were heading 176. We made a very slow leg - only 115 over the ground. We lost a lot of
time and we were quite far behind as we approached the airport but we knew we would have a cross wind for the last leg and
could made up some time. Cheryl Lynn made the radio calls; the spotters acknowledged but we cold not find the chevrons. I
dropped the right wing so Cheryl Lynn could get a better look and snap a photo. "I've got it!" she declares. Great
and I turned out ..... "Okie Racer 3 - this is the Cordell spotters. You did not fly the full length of the runway."
OOPS! We do a steep banking turn back to the left cross back over the runway and fly the full length before heading back on
course. We settle back down, engage the auto pilot and see we are zooming over the ground at over 150 kts. We are going to make up our time just fine .... well, maybe a little too good. At 30 miles out, we drop 10 degrees of
flaps to slow her down.... 140 kts. At 25 miles out we drop the gear. Perfect 123 kts. Now we have to lose 5 minutes. After crossing El Reno airport we will do a 360 and lose
another 2 minutes. There's El Reno ..... "Wiley Post tower, Okie Derby 3 is 10 miles out". Wait, wait, we did not
do the 360 yet! Another oops. Now we are still 3 minutes fast and have no place to go, we drift right to add space, we drift
more. "Okie Racer 3, make your downwind turn to 17L". We are screwed. We cross the timing line a full 3.2 minutes
ahead of schedule. This will mess up our fuel, too. OK, lets do the best on fuel.
We set up for a normal landing and I think of Aaron Schneider. Aaron was over on his fuel estimate for the
Sunshine Derby and did his "run-up" taxiing all the way back to the ramp. Let's see if it works. We hold on to the
brakes as we leave Wild Mama at a "very high idle" as we taxi on to the ramp and in to our spot. The moment
of truth: 1 gallon off. Ugh! Our only hope is that all others do as poorly as we do - with this crowd, not a chance!
With the race now just a fun event, we opted for more tourist activities and headed
off to the Omniplex Science Center where we got to play tornado, went in the wind tunnel, rode Sergways and got to be kids
for a few hours. We got a call from ARC racer, Louise Sculdieri, who had just flown in from Decatur, TX to say hi. Back to the airport
for lunch with Louise and her sister. Even though the Okie Derby was a bust for us, this has been a great day - good fun,
good friends and airplanes. It does not get better. We will go to the banquet tonight to see who did really well. We hop Theresa
and Mike get a repeat but they are not so confident - they were .5 gallons and 1 second off. They have a shot at a repeat.
We will see.
We just got back from the banquet and the results are
in: we placed 12th out of 20 - we were pleased that we did that well. Theresa and Mike placed 7th (yes, 7th with 1 second
and .5 gallons off). ...... and the winners with a score of 100% - yes - dead on the money on fuel and time for the first
time ever int he 31 year history of the Okie Derby - Jeff Sandusky and Julie Orrick! Congratulations to all racers - great
Sunday - Heading Home:
Check the weather is a favorite pass time of pilots and studying the winds is even more fun. The problem is you usually know
when the head winds are coming at you - which, in my case, is almost always. We were to have a mixed bag of winds forecast today but we could be guaranteed some rain. If we did
not get the usual Florida afternoon thunderstorms, we might get some of the little low swirling in the Gulf next to the "Big
Bend" area of Florida. Wow, that low looks big and Cheryl Lynn and I comment to one another how it has a really nice
cyclonic spin to it as we ready ourself to depart Theresa's house at 0430.
planned IFR departure with 0630 wheels up went without a hitch and we made a timely departure, getting routed directly over
OKC and Tinker AFB, cutting a little time out of our track. We settled in at 7,000' at 155 kts. Sweet! This tail wind was
forecast to diminish before we got to Mississippi so we will enjoy it while we can. The sunrise was spectacular, with just
the right mix between the haze and the clouds to make the colors brilliant and the streaking rays visible as the pierced the
hill tops in western Arkansas. The radio was dead silent - virtually no one around. We wondered if Fort Worth Center had forgotten about us or
if the radio was even working. We did a quick squelch check. Yup, radio is OK. We were handed off - OK - just quiet this morning.
I guess that I should have mentioned the feel of the morning in Oklahoma City. It was warm and muggy with a 20 kt "breeze"
blowing. While this is normal for Oklahoma, us Florida girls called that an ominous feel to the wind. When we feel something
like that in Florida, there is most certainly a tropical storm or hurricane brewing. In the mid-west, however, we were not
We continued on with our tailwind waining ever so slightly
as we pressed south-eastward until we were near Waynesboro again. Somehow, we could not pass up that $2.85/gallon Avgas. We
canceled IFR and made a visual approach exchanging radio transmissions with a rather pesky Ch-47 who seemed very concerned
of our whereabouts in his planned rendezvous with his sister ship at the Waynesboro Airport. "Any traffic, please advise
...." As much as that annoys me, we continuously advised. Even after we landed, he kept questioning until we radioed
that we were off the runway at the fuel farm. Mr. CH-47 radioed that he would be making a left downwind for runway 2. Strange
- why would a helicopter fly such a pattern? We shut down the plane to re-fuel. Neither Cheryl Lynn nor I were impressed with
Mr. CH-47 and his concern for our well-being (part of this stemmed from the fact that neither of us knew what a CH-47 was).
"Whop-whop-whop-whop..." We looked to the downwind for runway 2. Whoa, now we are impressed. Quick, grab the camera.
Mr. CH-47 comes in and lands behind the building. We run to the side where we can see the massive amounts of debris swirling
around from the enormous rotor wash produced by this Chinook. We understand his concern for us as his rotor wash would have flipped us over like a leaf. We continue fueling and depart VFR
for the next leg of the trip to Perry-Foley.
The day was growing
hot and muggy and it was only 1000 hrs local time. Headwinds were now going to be a real issue so lower was better to make
the best time. We climb to 1800' for a while before the ceiling starts to lower. Soon we are getting a cloud headache as this
thin layer of clouds is starting to fill in more than we like to see, so we find a hole and head up to 2800'. The clouds start
expanding pushing us up to 5500' over the next hour. Now our butts are getting tickled as we appear in a trough with cloud
mountains forming all around us - time to head back down as we are nearing our destination. We zig and zag through the maze
of clouds until we drop back to 2400' with an ever more solid ceiling out ahead. We look off to the right to compare our picture
on the Nexrad with the massive storm to the south. That low really blew up fast! We head in to Perry-Foley (40J) to visit
with Cheryl Lynn's husband, Stan. I elect to check the weather to see how long of a visit we can have only to discover that
the low is now Tropical Storm Claudette. We are not hanging out here long as there is another line of storms forming from
Naples to Tampa. We depart low to stay out of the winds and head straight for LaBelle (X14), getting in safe,
sound and dry while we watch the rains over Punta Gorda.
Cheryl Lynn completes the last leg as our passenger in the
car. This actually worked out well since her car battery was dead and she needed a jump to get going. That would have
been most difficult with the airplane! Ahhhh, safe and sound, indeed.