Air Races Return To The South
By Dewitt "Never Say Die" Beckett
Our first morning at
Tunica started off with an unscheduled "show" by none-other than a
Professional Aerial Applicator (crop duster to the uninformed)
demonstrating what working airplanes do down in the Southland -
spraying the cotton. OK... it wasn't really part of the day long
show and air races, but it was fitting in this setting of wide open
cotton fields with an airport in the middle of them.
With the bugs gone, day TWO of the TUNICA AIR RACES and Air Show
got under way with the first Formula 1 race of the day. These
relatively small aircraft, powered by 0-200's, put on a fine show
of race talent with varying flying techniques and positioning. Some
took the low road and some took the high road, but the gathering
crowd really got into the event.
After a short delay, Randy Henderson and the Texas T-Cart (a
beautiful Taylorcraft from Texas) showed what a Taylorcraft can
really do. In the past, airshow patrons have seen such Greats as
Duane Cole fly Taylorcrafts to perfection and Randy certainly has
taken notes from all those past performers.. and thrown in some
wrinkles that you just have to see. His perky announcer kept the
crowd's attention and she got them all doing the Texas "thing" with
Yee-Haw! I think the right side of the bleacher won with the better
Yee-Haw. Great show!
Another performer in this year's airshow was Jan Collmer with
his Extra 300, and does he show off the capabilities of that
airplane! Jan has been doing this stuff for quite a long time but
he puts on a show with high-g maneuvers that most of the young
bucks can't take. Snap rolls and Lomcevaks were the order of the
morning and it brought the crowd closer to the front line to watch
a great performance with finesse that experience can take credit
for. Thanks Jan.
Next up - Bob Odegaard with the Super Corsair. The big red
Corsair can get off the ground in about two shakes of a small
puppy's tail and you can credit that big 4360 cubic inch engine
generating 3000 horse power for that. There were only ten of these
Super Corsair's built and they were built for getting off the deck
of the carrier quickly to climb quickly and intercept incoming
Kamikazes. They performed well enough to carry out the mission, but
never got to battle as the war ended before they could get there.
The aircraft was built up by Bob, starting back in 1995, and has
been quite a labor of love, sweat, and most likely a few tears. Bob
put on a compelling show demonstrating the attributes of this bird
with smooth maneuvers that show off the climb, roll, and turning
capability of such power. We'll be seeing a lot of Bob in future
After looking at the day's schedule it was noticed that the
racers, all but the unlimited class, were going to race twice
in one day. That did not keep them from putting on their best for
each of the morning and afternoon shows to the admiration of the
The T-6 Racers took the course and they put on one heck of a
race. Nose to nose, if you will, right up to the finish when #5 Big
Red edged by to take the race. The T-6's are just as fun to watch
as the unlimited group and they go just slow enough that you can
get GREAT pics as they go by. I think the speeds were running
around 194 mph or so. Be sure and check the web site for all the
racers and performers at www.tunicaairraces.com.
There are some that I haven't mentioned here that really deserve
all the credit in the world for getting out there and performing
and racing. Its tough physically, and mentally -- and expensive
As the clock came to high noon, the temperature in the
Mississippi Delta began rising rapidly while people continued to
pour on to the grounds. The organizers of this event saw that you
could come to an air race and air show and pick your level of
interest. If you wanted to see the aircraft and sit close to the
announcers and be about "show center," you could pay a little more
and get there.
If you came with the kids and wife to "see the airplanes fly"
then there was a whole area for that crowd with excellent viewing
and a mid-way atmosphere that lined up all the food and booths of
products that you would expect at the county fair (well, maybe not
the pigs and stuff) but everything from tools to carved model
aircraft to a "jumping jack" bungee contraption for the brave at
heart. There was no one bored at this event. I think the crowd on
this beautiful Delta day was under estimated, though, as several of
the vendors ran out of stuff before the day was out, and the lines
for food were 25 to 40 deep at times. I sure appeared to be a money
making affair for the vendors that took a chance on such a new
Well, one event that was unscheduled, but proved to be very
interesting was the Tiger Cat and the Sea Fury flying together. The
Sea Fury was doing a qualification for the race, and the Tiger Cat
was just trying out some new parts on the big engines, but it was
fascinating to watch these two gorgeous aircraft flying around the
course. The Tiger Cat is just breath taking -- with a paint job
that stands out anywhere. The sound is what is truly awe inspiring.
With two R-2800 engines turning around 2200 rpms, it will shake
One part of the program that I did not mention previously was
the Radio Controlled aircraft demonstration. If the full size
aircraft could do some of the maneuvers these folks showed off, I
don't think the pilots would be able to stand the g's. A model of a
B-36, with all six engines, showed the full spectrum of what RC's
can pull off.
Diamond Lil was on hand, in all her radiance, and this B-24
Liberator, which is the oldest flying example of the WWII bomber,
put her best foot forward and showed them what it was like some 60
plus years ago. The really impressive part of seeing this aircraft,
and others like her, is to see what care and maintenance she has.
The folks that take care of Diamond 'Lil love that bird, and it
shows. As part of the B-24 fly by, the Tiger Cat and Sea Fury
joined up with her to make a most impressive sight for the crowd.
This was probably aviation history in the making - as I don't know
that these have ever flown together anywhere else - ever.
With Randy Henderson, Jan Collmer, Bob Odegaard and Randy Harris
putting on another great show of aerobatic competence that was also
pure excitement, the second Formula One race of the day was run and
it was even more exciting than the morning race. The racers were
seeing around 234 miles per hour around the course and that is
The main event of the day, The Unlimiteds, were up next -- and
this was a race to the finish with excitement at ALL the turns. The
Sea Fury went head to head with everyone right down to the
checkered flag with all kinds of beauty filling the sky - P-51's,
the Tiger Cat, and all. Now, that was worth the price of admission
just to see that race. Ole Yeller, of Bob Hoover fame, was even in
the race. Bob wasn't there to guide her but she did a good job of
getting around the pylons.
I sincerely hope that everyone will come back to the Tunica Air
Races and Air Show next year - and bring a friend or several
friends. This is an event worth having and thanks to some gutsy
people down in "cotton land," it came off with accolades from all
that attended. Hats off to a great event!