Vol. 5 November 2007
Velocity's Quarterly Whenever-We-Get-Around-To-It Newsletter
This is a ListBox

Building an Engine From Scratch
Andy Millin

The AirVenture Cup Air Race
Craig Woolston

AVCup Adventure!
Rich Guerra

Oshkosh Cook-Out
Andy Millin

Adopted Member of the Family
Ken "Lucky" Mishler

The AirVenture Cup Race
Craig Woolston

One of the motivations for John and I during the construction of our Velocity was the chance to take it to Oshkosh for the first time.  Neither of us has ever been and after we decided to build we were determined go the first time in the plane we built ourselves.  We also decided to avoid the normal rush hour traffic on arrival and with the encouragement of Pat Shea and Rich Guerra we elected to race in Airventure Cup 2007.  Going to Oshkosh is always an “experience”, but we managed to have three unique ones this year. 

It was on early Friday morning July 20, John, his wife Paula and I left Lancaster, CA for Wichita, KS.  My wife, Denise was already in Kansas from the previous week’s trip in the Velocity.  At this point in time the aircraft had flown from California to North Dakota and back, as well as, the Kansas trip via business in Southern New Mexico.
The three of us flew about 2.5 hours and landed in Holbrook AZ.  As we pulled up to the pumps there at the airport, we were greeted by the airport manager and shortly after by a local sheriff.  Our engine tends to pop a little if we pull back the throttle too quickly and with the short exhaust pipes, that can be pretty loud.  Being a little high and fast we had to do just that as we were approaching the airport and flying right over the middle of town.  The sheriff heard this and assumed we were having engine trouble and figured he better get to the scene of the crash.  I guess that was his excitement for the day since he stayed while we put in fuel and stretched our legs.  He said he was going to hang out while we took off.  We figured it was either to make sure those “California boys in their funny looking airplane got the hell out of his town” or he just wanted to see if that thing could really fly.  The airport manager also told us that Holbrook was on the old Route 66 and had been bypassed by the interstate at some point.  Many in town felt that they were at least part of the inspiration for the town in the movie “Cars”.

During our next 2 ½ hour leg to Borger, Texas, we decided to check in with Pat Shea.  Before leaving the day before we queried Pat as to whether we should fly together (not knowing yet how much faster he is) and his comment to us on starting the flying day at 5am was he, ‘wasn’t sure if he even knew how to fly at 6am’.  So I sent him the first of many emails with the Blackberry, reporting current speed, altitude and route.  We maneuvered around a few minor cells but had sunny skies the whole time.  It was fun comparing groundspeeds and weather via text messaging as we cruised across the country listening to XM radio; I’m convinced this is the only way to travel.

During our stop in Borger, we were greeted there by the standard question of “did you build that yourself?” followed by a brief story about the guy who built his own plane there and crashed on the second flight because of engine trouble (he walked away but the plane was totaled).  “Nice to meet you too!”  With a quick courtesy car ride into town for lunch and back we were ready to make our last leg.

The last leg took us under 2 hours and brought us into Wichita.  Weather the whole way was great.  We flew mostly at 9,500 feet (not high for us when we are flying out of the Antelope Valley, but pretty high when you are flying over Kansas) mostly to stay above the occasional white puffy clouds.  On our dive bomb approach into Mid-Continent, we were asked “What company we were with?”, suggesting that we were a business jet coming in.  We politely answered we were just a Velocity, which then they want to know what that was.

We left Wichita Saturday morning and flew two hours to Litchfield, Illinois, just northeast of St Louis (we couldn’t see the arch, it was too hazy).  Another two hours took us across Illinois and Indiana, south of Indianapolis and into Dayton, Ohio.  That evening was a dinner with all the racers.  It was awesome to have a “Velocity” Table (there were 5 in the race) and to put many faces to names.  After dinner was a briefing on the rules and course for the race.  Many had done the race before and all were pretty experienced, but Paula and Denise compared it to teaching elementary kids.  It seemed like even the most basic points had to be repeated numerous times.  We joked that it was frightening to think that these guys would be flying at over 200 mph the next day.

Sunday was race day.  There was certainly a group that took this race very seriously.  We fell into the other category.  You are allowed to fly alone or with a copilot.  We convinced the officials to let us fly with four.  Other guys offload their luggage with the race officials and carry the minimum gas they need to race.  We put in all 190 lbs of baggage and filled up the tanks which put us just under gross weight.  We certainly would have won the prize for most load carried for the race.  During this leg Denise caught a little cat nap and Paula was working on a crossword, definitely putting us in the “other race crowd”.  We were certainly pleased with how the airplane was performing and pleasantly surprised to see we were averaging about 210 mph and 24 gph (twice what we see in normal cruise) to the first checkpoint.  After making the turn at the first checkpoint, I felt like the control system on the plane wasn’t quite right and we decided to make a precautionary landing at Morris Municipal Airport (C09).

This is where we had the first “experience” of going to Oshkosh.  That is breaking down on the way to Oshkosh.  When you build your plane and something doesn’t feel right you need to strongly avoid what I call the “mechanic syndrome”.  You know the mechanic who after he hears something odd he decides that he has to rebuild the engine.  Well we started by taking everything out of the airplane, taking things apart (including the ailerons off) and couldn’t find anything wrong.  After several calls with Pat and Rich for advice we determined it was just the trim system slipping in the high speed turn and “resetting” with a bias. 

This is where we have to give hats off to our very understanding wives.  They calmly sat on the ramp in the sun, in front of 190 lbs of luggage, working crossword puzzles as every plane loaded for Oshkosh would stop and ask if we were “okay”.  The wives went in for lunch while John and I went for a test flight.  After a quick flight we declared the airplane airworthy again loaded up and headed for Fond du Lac where the race had ended.  All the racers had gathered there to do a mass arrival into Oshkosh and we arrived just in time for the briefing on the arrival procedure.

This is where we had our “second” experience going to Oshkosh.  What should have been a fairly straightforward event was not.  We were told to follow the person in front of us at a certain speed, altitude and course into Oshkosh.  It soon became apparent that not everyone was following the plan and then the Oshkosh controller got mad that everyone was too spread out and flying to far out. At that point it turned into a free for all and got very “entertaining” for those on the ground and listening to the radio chatter.  We had to make a go around on our first pass and do it all again.  So much for “missing the rush hour” into Oshkosh.

I had convinced my father to join us in the festivities at Oshkosh this year, so he had driven his motorhome up from Florida to be there.  He had just passed his private checkride the day he left for Oshkosh and even missed flying his brand new Liberty to meet us there.  Now that’s fatherly love for you.  We were able to camp out with him and “rough it” alongside an air conditioned RV with satellite TV and a refrigerator.

Monday and Tuesday were spent at the show.  It was nice to finally go to the Velocity booth and say that we flew there in our completed plane instead of saying “we think we’ll be done next year…”  Our plane was parked almost right next to the runway so we sat in the shade of the wings and watched the show, visited with other builders, and enjoyed the compliments from the many people who just like to walk around and look at airplanes.  Monday night the Beach Boys played which we also enjoyed from the shade of the wings. It is certainly something to see and experience and a nice reward after 5 years of work.

Wednesday morning we were ready to start the trek home.  Looked like the weather would cooperate but we felt completing the trip all in one day would be too much.  We packed up and pulled the airplane off the grass to get ready to go.  Many others were headed out too, so by the time we got in line we were behind at least 20 airplanes and there were 30+ behind us.  Departure was uneventful and after slaloming through some clouds we made it to altitude and were on our way to Kansas.  We chose to stop in Abilene (3 hours and 20 minutes) which is the town where Denise was born.

Our last leg for the day was another 3 hours and 20 minutes which took us to Santa Fe, NM.  Things were starting to get bumpy by then and the clouds kept getting higher.  Seemed like a good decision once we were on the ground.  The weather up ahead in Arizona showed heavy thunderstorms across the state and even some flash flooding in Phoenix.

Thursday’s destination was home!  We got an early start and flew 2 hours to Sedona, AZ.  We had breakfast at the airport and then launched for home.  Two hours later we were back home in Lancaster at around 11 am.  Quick trip home to change clothes and I was on my way to work.  The pain of building had faded to a distant memory at this point.

            Totals for the trip:
3600 nautical miles (about 4100 statute miles) flown
About 27 hours of running time on the airplane
States visited: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin plus a few more we flew over but didn’t land in.