Camaraderie, airmanship and uncooperative weather make for
By ANN Contributor Pat Purcell
Day 2 Update
The Marion Jayne U.S. Air Race continued across the high
country. The racers turned into comrades and competitors,
appreciative of the skills they discovered in their fellow
With the exception of two Grumman Tigers, each model airplane
was different, each pilot trying to find the tailwinds needed to
exceed their handicap. Alas, this is the week all the spare
winds seemed to gather their entire force in Florida and little was
left for us.
Being one of the slower airplanes, we'd rather everyone had a
strong tailwind because it works on the slowest, the longest. We
also had a secret weapon, which I'll reveal if you promise not to
tell. Fran Bera is one of the country's winningest racers and
she pulled past us in her Comanche. We could see the sun
glinting off her polished airplane as she pulled away, but we
continued to see her altitude selection for winds and matched her.
All's fair, right?
The Farmington to Dalhart leg introduced us to the grandeur of
the high desert Navajo country. The 10,000 foot ridges surprised us
with their lack of rough air in the early afternoon.
We flew off the edge of the ancient mountains at Angel Fire (NM)
resolved to visit that beautiful spot again one day on the ground.
The chart elevations turned from dark brown to beige, and then
green as we passed lower terrain going into Dalhart (TX).
However, sightseeing wasn't all that was going on. About
half the racers stopped at Winfield (KS), planning on better winds
the next day. The other half went on, reading the weather
differently. Patty and I continued on to Mexico City (MO).
Tomorrow will tell who was right.
Day 3 Update
All the air racers arrived by deadline in Valparaiso (IN) after
flying six legs of the 2,100 mile Marion Jayne Air Race. On
September 4 the field launches together for the final leg into the
Cleveland National Air Show.
The competition is so close that the final leg will determine
the winner. The racers have been running neck-to-neck for 1,800
miles. Many different strategies have been employed and not a
single pilot thinks he has this race in the bag.
Winners of this event will be announced and awards made on
September 4 during the Air Show. The pressure will
truly be on the front runners at this point, as they have one more
race to fly, the Cleveland 300, before the winner of the Marion
Jayne Perpetual Trophy for 2004 can be named.
On Sunday, September 5, the racers will again take to the sky
and that same day the winners will be announced and the trophies
presented. The air race is proud to announce that a special
trophy will be awarded by Pat Thaden Webb, daughter of Louise
Thaden. Louise won the 1929 First Women's Air Derby and the 1936
Bendix Trophy Race. Both of these races flew from California
to the Cleveland National Air Show.
Day 4 Update
Devil Badweather caught
up with us today. After three days of good flying weather across
America, our final leg became the weather challenge.
After a wakeup call at 0530, load and preflight the airplane, we
enjoyed an EAA fly-in pancake breakfast, and were ready to fly by
0700. Except for the ground fog in Valpariaso (IN), the plan
worked well. Then it went downhill.
The leg was to be a short shot to Cleveland (OH), but first we
ran into bad weather. Next, a sports team had a game scheduled at a
stadium near the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, and of
course airshows and air races cannot place small airplanes near
athletic events. More delay.
To top it off, the President chose today to visit Cleveland,
making the destination airport off-limits. All these problems were
solved for a 1400 takeoff, seven hours late and just in time for
The Valpariaso to Cleveland leg was a classic demonstration of
sportsmanship. I was proud to be among a group of pilots,
each intent upon winning the race while looking out for each
Visibility was murky, but the Baron in front relayed visibility
and small thunderstorm developments along the course. The pilots
talked to each other for safety, volunteering their distance from
Cleveland as the faster passed the slower in the less than
The only secret was altitude, for the best tailwinds were a
trade secret. It was necessary to contact Toledo approach as
we transited their airspace and the controller asked one airplane
to verify 3,500 feet altitude. The response was "affirmative, but
please don't tell my friends," the joke being that we were all on
frequency and listening. Air racing is challenging, educational and
fun among generous people of such integrity.
Next -- the race results! Stay tuned!