Reno and Back By: Steve Dari, Pilot Red Head Racing Team
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[ed. Steve Dari is a RV fan, an Anywhere Map user, and a good author...so if he writes...I'll host it <g>. DR]
The right side of my flight helmet struck the canopy as the aircraft instantly rolled to the left and I continued to accelerate only 40 feet above the ground. The stranger reality was that I hardly noticed it as I smoothly corrected my roll and concentrated on my flight path. There was no time to actually think about maneuvers – only training and reaction. The aircraft that had caused the vortex turbulence was only 50 feet in front of me and there were two others just behind me as I eased into seventy degrees of left back and started a gradual pull into the turn. As I maintained my line, Pylon One flashed by only fifteen feet beneath me and slightly left of my fuselage centerline. It still felt like a dream, but this was the BIG SHOW – the International Formula One Air Racing Finals at Reno where each September, tens of thousands of enthusiasts and five classes of airplanes gather for the National Championship Air Races.
This was my rookie year at Reno and looking back, I almost can’t believe all the times I thought we just wouldn’t be ready in time for the races. My wife and I bought an old Cassutt IIIM that had been originally built as a sport plane and hadn’t been flown since 1995. When we finally got it back to my house in San Diego, we had to evict all the critters and their nests that had accumulated during its near decade of storage in a work shed. That was in mid-April of this year. After lots of late nights and weekends, with what seemed like insurmountable barriers behind us, Redhead was taking the pylons along with the other Formula One racers. This was simply as good as it gets!
An aircraft that even makes an RV-3 look big (we’ve got a 15 foot wingspan), the Cassutt was designed by airline pilot and racer Tom Cassutt in the 1950’s expressly for pylon racing. Its lines are remarkably similar to RVs. However, they follow the Formula One design rules of 66 square feet minimum wing surface and a Continental O-200 engine. Pilot comfort is a nonexistent criterion and so is anything else that contributes to weight and drag. The massively strong laminated spruce wing spar touches the tops of my kneecaps and the instrument panel is barely large enough to house the minimum number of instruments to monitor flight and engine status.
Having a history of swimming against the current and not having purchased a trailer to truck the little racer to Reno and back, I decided to fly Redhead to and from the races. It turns out; I was the only Formula One racer to do this. With no trim and a stiflingly cramped cockpit, this proved to be quite a challenge. Reading a chart wasn’t impossible, but folding it to a new section using only my left hand was. The aircraft was also so pitch sensitive that merely lifting my right forearm off my thigh caused some pretty wild oscillations. Fortunately, I had been a long time user of Control Vision’s amazing AnywhereMap system and when I called them with my problem, they were eager to help out.
For those of you new to the system, AnywhereMap uses a Windows based Pocket PC as the navigation computer and display. The Hewlett Packard (formerly Compaq) iPAQ is the most common model used and runs AnywhereMap’s color moving map software to show the aircraft’s position and enroute information. This system runs rings around the competition because of the versatility of the software and the touch sensitive screen where one or two stylus taps brings up information much faster and easier than lots of knob twirling and menu selections. After returning from Reno, I’m convinced that without this fantastic system in the aircraft, I’d still be somewhere in the Midwest, looking for avgas and asking for directions to Reno.
After installing the system in the cockpit on the day we left for Reno, it more than proved its worth during the first hours of flight. After a quick hop from San Diego to Corona Muni for a top off and fuel flow check, I was quickly over the featureless high desert of Mojave. Trying to navigate around the restricted areas of Edwards AFB and Palmdale without AnywhereMap would have quickly found me with an F-16 or two off my wing tip and a lot of explaining to do. Instead, AnywhereMap’s distinctive display showed my exact position in relation to the prohibited airspace and allowed me an easy and direct flight to Fox Field near Lancaster, CA. As I approached within five miles, I called up frequency and facility information before checking in for landing. Half an hour later, I was heading north again, but because of the late start I got, the sun was quickly heading below the horizon.
I tapped AnywhereMap’s “Nearest” function and looked at likely airports. Inyokern (IYK) came up and I selected “Fly To.” Confirming they had self-serve fuel, I landed and filled up. By that time, I knew this was as far as I was going to get that day as daylight ran out. My crew was about 90 minutes behind me driving in our support truck. Unfortunately, my cell phone had no signal in any mode and the lonely looking public phone was inop. Time for some very sophisticated communications.
The AnywhereMap system we had installed also had the AnywhereWX capability for calling up and overlaying live, color weather information on the moving map display. To do this, it used a Globalstar satellite phone mounted in the cockpit. I simply unplugged the sat phone from the system, made sure the antenna was pointed at the sky and dialed my Crew Chief’s cell phone. The call sounded like a land line connection and in slightly over an hour I was having dinner with my crew.
After returning to Inyokern, my crew continued on to Reno and I was looking at the prospect of sleeping on a park bench, waiting for first light to take off once again. However, I thought I remembered something I saw in AnywhereMap. Walking out to Redhead I powered up the AnywhereMap system. Under the Inyokern AOPA Directory listing, it included “Pilotlng.” Pilot Lounge? Where?
I wandered around the deserted airport and found a huge old WWII vintage hangar with a big combination lock on a side door. After reading a faint “Welcome to Inyokern Airport” notice in one of the windows, I returned to the door, entered the field elevation in the combination lock, and – Click! Lights, air-conditioning, bathroom, big pilot’s lounge and most importantly; nice big cushy couch. Thank you AnywhereMap!
After eight hours of sleep, I was preflighting the racer at first light. The flight up the Owens Valley, between the Sierras and the White Mountains, past Mt. Whitney was inspirational. From 1000’ AGL, I could see the little towns of Lone Pine, Independence and Big Pine waking up. I used AnywhereMap’s blue RMI (Radio Magnetic Indicator) needle in addition to the HSI to keep me pointed toward Bishop. The RMI is one of my favorite features. Even if you wander off track – and I did, trying to stay within gliding distance of Highway 395, the RMI keeps pointing at your specified target, clicking off remaining miles to go.
I just never stopped using AnywhereMap. It’s “Cones of Safety” feature showed me gliding distances to nearby airports, the color moving map helped me stay out of Reno International’s Class B airspace and when I finally arrived at Reno Stead, I zoomed the map in to where it displayed a plan view of the airport complete with runway numbers to help me when I was cleared to land on Runway 14.
We even used AnywhereMap for practice sessions and racing. Indicated airspeed was only important to us on landing approach. In air racing, groundspeed and time around the course are everything. AnywhereMap’s precise and easily readable GPS speed display helped us make and evaluate lots of little adjustments and modifications that gave us five more miles an hour after our first heat race.
AnywhereMap continued to help us fly back home after the races. When you only have 10.3 gallons of fuel, it’s a real confidence builder having constantly updated ETAs and nearby airports enroute your next gas stop. And on the ground, the iPAQ Pocket PC comes out of the airplane and goes into the case on my belt. It now contains all the contact information for the people and resources we met in Reno, has records of all our expenses and is going into the sync cradle next to my desktop computer to get a software and database update from Control Vision.
Along with the efforts of my fantastic crew, Control Vision’s AnywhereMap system ensured we got to Reno and back safely. It has remained the most amazing and revolutionary situational awareness tool I’ve seen for as long as I’ve been flying. And speaking of my crew, Control Vision’s Marketing Director, Richard Herbst came up and worked with us at Reno as one of our team members. His efforts and help up there were absolutely indispensable. After the final day of racing, he sold an AnywhereMap system to Skip Holm, driver of the Unlimited Gold winner Dago Red, for use in that plane and the Saab J35 fighter interceptor air show plane Draken. Looks like Redhead and I are in pretty good company!
Reno 2003 was an incredible experience for everyone on the Red Head Racing Team. We were truly honored to be part of this very elite group of pilots and crew. Now that we’re in the game, we’re very serious about BIG speed increases for next year. Work has already begun.
To all the Formula One teams planning to race in 2004: Look Out!
Reno does that to you.
Redhead’s pilot, Steve Dari can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org