Aviation Stories and Aviation News

The First Mid Eastern Regional Fly In Air Race

Ohio now has a sanctioned Sport Air Racing League event thanks to the efforts of Richard Kaczmarek.  Richard is a racer who flies a “fast little airplane” named “Slug”  “Slug” is a PA28-140, Cherokee and further proves that the Sport Air Racing League is for everyone.

This event took place in conjunction with the Mid Eastern Regional Fly-In.  Richard’s fine tuned organization and professionalism did not go unnoticed.  The FAA praised Richard and the racers.  The spectators at the Fly-In were a most enthusiastic audience.  Turn four of the race course was at the Neil Armstrong airport at Wapakoneta, Ohio.  The racers flew over on the day Neil Armstrong died.  As a remembrance of this great aviator and astronaut, the airport has asked that each year the race return.  Turn four is now a tradition.

League regulars came to race from Texas, Missouri, Mississippi and Arkansas.  Local pilots now had easy access to becoming racers and many a now bona fide air racers.

Once you race, it gets in your blood.  Ron Mathis flew his Beech B55 Baron as a rookie at the Indy race two weeks earlier.  He was on the start line at Urbana and proved his impressive time at Indy was not pure luck.

League veterans added points in their quest for the 2012 Championships.  The experimental has three pilots making a serious run for the Gold and all were in Ohio.  Mike Smith in his SX-300 came from Mississippi, Gary Shelley in his FAST RV-8 from Texas and “Racer Bob” Axsom flew in from Arkansas in his RV-6A.

The first annual MERFI Air Race was a rousing success and will be on the 2013 schedule.

The Sport Air Racing League pilots make their mark at the Reno Championship Air Races.

It is Saturday September 8th and there are five Sport Air Racing League racers in the Sport Class hangar at Stead Field.   Their aircraft are about to be inspected and cleared to fly in the qualifying heats at the 2012 Reno Championship air races.

The Sport Class encompasses kit built aircraft and makes it possible for owners to race planes that are not necessarily special build race machines.

The Sport League racers included four Reno veterans and one rookie.  They were more than ready to fly after all passed inspection.  Undeniably the most excited was Alan Crawford from Lake Buchanan, Texas.  Alan is the 2011 Sport League Experimental Gold Champion and puts on the Hill Country Air Race.  He flies a Lancair Legacy L2K with a Bennett Special engine.  Alan is a Captain at Southwest Airlines and his crew member Bobby Bennett is a mechanic for Southwest.  Alan’s Lancair, the “Spirit of America” is the cover plane for the 2012 edition of Fly Fast magazine.  Alan qualified to race in Sport Silver and ran very consistent heats all week.  On race day he ran consistently and finished fourth.  At the awards banquet he was honored as Sport Class Rookie of the Year.

The lone representative of the League in Gold was Lynn Farnsworth from Roswell, GA.  Lynn flies a Lancair Legacy L2K named “Miss Karen II”.  She is the namesake of the F-100 Lynn flew in Vietnam.  Lynn is now retired from the air force and flying the airlines.  Lynn flew to third place in the Sport Class Gold posting 372.71.  Miss Karen II was the fastest Lancair Legacy at Reno.

The man with the perennial smile on his face, Ernie Sutter from The Woodlands, Texas never looked back and led Sport Silver all week.  Ernie is the most congenial competitor anywhere. After he won each of his heats he invited his crew to ride in the antique fire truck on his victory pass. Ernie is the organizer of the League sanctioned Cleveland (Texas) air race.   Ernie flies what he describes as his “out of the box” Lancair Legacy L2K, “Jus Passin’ Thru”.  They ran 292.11 in their final Silver race.

Mark Frederick from Taylor, Texas, builds and sells kits for the High Performance’s F1 Rocket.   His racing steed is “El Toro”, an F1 that is the final production version.  Powered by a 10-550 Mark posted times that moved him from Bronze to the Sport Silver division.  Mark was running very well and posting his best times ever when he had to declare a May Day at the start of Friday’s heat.  Mark landed safely but #12 was finished for the week.  Mark is a racer through and through and all knew how disappointed he was as not being able to continue to run.

Stead Field resident, “Super Bob” Mills flies the #43 Vans RV Super Six. Bob is a Captain for South West Airlines.  He is constantly improving his aircraft and loves to race.  Bob was totally elated over his performance and his second place finish in Sport Bronze.   He could not catch up to Rick Vandam and his Glasair IIS but he had to battle Peter Malone and his Radial Rocket all week for second.  There was some of the best racing and closest finishes to be seen in the Sport heats and races.

Many League members attended as crew for the racers.  Bobby and Ann Elise Bennett came from Texas to be part of team  “Spirit of America”.  Bob Mills convinced “Racer Bob” Axsom to fly in from Arkansas and work his magic on his plane.  Red Hamilton drove in to once again crew for a Formula 1 team.  Dave Adams flew  his Long EZ to the races and was a volunteer and when not doing that jumped in and crewed.  Many League racers came to watch and help and the Sport Class had a huge cheering section in the crew pit every time they flew.

It was unanimous.  The Reno Air Races are a must. There is nothing like it. There are the most amazing special build race planes on the planet to marvel at.  The little Formula 1 and Biplanes offer affordable racing.  The Sport class provides racing for many aircraft that are owner built and flown. The Sport Class had an RV-3 qualify to race.  It was the slowest qualifying time of the entire event but the owner and his crew member (his wife) were probably the most thrilled to be racing of anyone there.  David Casey from Friday Harbor, WA flew solid heats all week and raced hard posted 207mph.  There is something for everyone.  There are vendors and an air show and the National Aviation Heritage Invitational and the famous icons of aviation are there in abundance.  All who attended in 2012 intend to return and their stories have stirred many more League pilots to come out in 2013.