Exxon's Bohannon Fails At Altitude Record Attempt
by Kevin O'Brien and Chris Armstrong
Sad faces all round at
the Exxon Flyin' Tiger tent in Oshkosh Saturday as Bruce Bohannon
taxied in from an unsuccessful attempt at an absolute Unlimited US
altitude record for piston aircraft (not, as widely reported
elsewhere, a world record).
There was no emergency, and Bohannon taxied the Flyin' Tiger in
under its own power.
"If there's anything wrong with it, he didn't mention it to us,"
a crew member told ANN. Crew members were tossing around unofficial
figures of 45,500 feet; the data from the certified and sealed NAA
recording equipment will not be available for a while, but it is
extremely unlikely that any conceivable atmospheric correction will
yield the numbers Bohannon needs for his record.
This was, if the numbers the crew were discussing are correct,
not only short of the planned mission altitude of 50,000 feet and
the current US record of 47,910 feet (set in 1946 by a pressurized,
four-engine, military B-29) but considerably short of Bohannon's
current FAI Absolute Altitude Record in Class C-1B (47,067 feet,
set in Texas in November).
This previous record earned Bohannon the FAI's Louis Bleriot
Medal -- for an unprecedented third year running.
Most record holders set records in the early morning to take
advantage of cool, calm air (although all records are corrected to
standard atmosphere equivalents by NAA/FAI). Bruce Bohannon has
traditionally made his record attempts under the blaze of the
noonday sun. The temperature at altitude in the "thin troposphere"
today was, according to Flyin' Tiger team members, 20 degrees F
above standard atmosphere, profoundly depressing
the performance of the Flyin' Tiger's Mattituck MTX-555 engine. The
stock Van's RV-4 wings were still lifting but the power plant was
just plain out of spare thrust for climbing.
The Exxon Flyin' Tiger team expected this to be the last
altitude method for the unique machine, to be followed by a
reconfiguration for speed records. Whether this changes the plans
is unknown. What is known is that the current unlimited absolute
altitude record for the US stands at the above-mentioned 47,910
feet, and the world record has stood at an astonishing 56,046 feet
since 1938 (the 1938 record was set by Mario Pezzi of Italy). And
neither of these records belongs to Bruce Bohannon and the Exxon
Flyin' Tiger team. And they don't like that.
Bruce Bohannon was not immediately available for comment.
Aero-News remains on the story; expect further follow-up.