Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009 - Silverstone

by Norm

It's mid-morning and the team is still at the hotel. We are scheduled to brief at 1300, and continue with the Freestyle at 1400. The weather looks OK. Yesterday, was a no fly day. England was forecasted to be hit with the remnants of hurricane Bill. It was blustery and wet, but not as bad as expected. The Team members elected to travel locally to see the sites. David and Martha invited Debby and me to visit Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchhill. It is a magnificent palace on beautiful grounds. We had lunch in the Palace and then took the tours. Afterwards, all of us were invited to Nigel Lamb's (Red Bull Pilot) home for refreshments and dinner. Nigel and his lovely wife, Hillary, were great hosts. We shared many flying stories (a few about Kirby), and several glasses of wine.

Some of the beautiful grounds at Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace

Nigel and Hillary, thank you for a fantastic evening!!!!

We then returned to the hotel, and called it an evening.

As you may have already seen from the scores, your team did a very good job in the Q program. When the results were in, Jeff was in 4th place followed by Goody in 9th, Michael in 14th, and David in 15th. Debby, Hubie, and Robert each flew well, in my opinion, but the judges disagreed with me.

On Tuesday, we were able to fly the top 11 pilots on the start of the freestyle. Then darkness ended the day. We will restart the remaining pilots in a few hours. Unfortunately, Goody had more than 1000 penalty points during his flight. He had some outs, but the radar tracking system being used to track penalties captured him low on several figures. You just can't push the bottom of the box in international competition, especially when the tracking system is accurate to within a centimeter or two.

Now, our team is going to need some help from the British Team, and a great flight from Jeff in order to bring home a team medal. Jeff has been flying very well. I know he will do well for you.

Wish them good luck. More later.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mal Dia

by Norm

Most, if not all, of you who have been following this blog are probably aware that we lost Vicki Cruse in an accident, yesterday. Vicki was performing her "Q" flight in front of the judges when she was unable to recover from a 1 1/4 snap on a downline. The plane crashed on the grass inside the racing circuit. No one on the ground was injured. Assistance was at the site moments after the crash, but the impact was not survivable.

Many of the competitors from around the world witnessed the accident. All are heart broken. Many have offered their condolences to the team and Vicki's family. All flying has been suspended until an investigation has been completed. The team members have met with the local police and the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

A meeting of the team managers was conducted this morning, and all voted to continue the contest in Vicki's memory. I know that Vicki would have wanted the contest to go on. The contest organizers will restart the contest on Monday afternoon, weather permitting. Due to other Silverstone commitments, there will be no flying on Wednesday and Thursday. The contest will be shortened, and most likely will include the results of the Q program and the Freestyle. The 4-Minute Freestyle will be flown on Saturday.

I have had the honor to have known Vicki for 14 years. Both of us flew Christen Eagles in competition, and later, the Edge 540s. We traveled to contests from California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona to Nebraska, Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Texas. She flew contests in many other states, in addition. I will never forget the memories of flying on her wing tip to or from a contest, meeting new friends, and seeing old friends. Vicki was an extraordinary person. She was bright, street smart, unassuming, and possessed a twisted sense of humor. Many of you know how much she enjoyed pulling a prank on any one of us. I will miss her, greatly. I feel very lucky to have been one of her close friends. I am sure that you share my sentiments.

Good bye my dear, dear friend

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009 - Silverstone

The Coffee Machine

The Pilot's Briefing

by Norm

The morning briefing began promptly at 8 AM in the briefing tent. Clouds were not an issue. The winds at 500 meters were within limits at 11.3 m/sec. The warm up pilots were launched at 9 AM. Then scud started coming into the box. A few moments later light rain began to fall. Now, we are on a weather hold, and it is raining. The forecast for later today is for isolated showers. It's not looking all that well, but tomorrow's forecast is more promising. Oh, well, weather can always change. Now you know why it takes 10 days to fly a WAC. If this weather keeps being uncertain, the team and I will need you to send more money in large denominations.
At the top of the blog is a picture of a coffee machine that is in the lobby of the hotel Also, there is a similar machine at the Briefing Tent. It is really cool. There are about nine different buttons that you can press to select coffee, lattes, capucino (sp?), etc. You can also make your selection double strength. The process takes about 10 seconds, and it tastes pretty good. Way cool. My coffee group at the San Carlos Airport needs one of these.

I will update this blog later today as something happens.

Just prior to the 1PM lunch break, we were able to fly the warmup pilots and contestant #1. Lunch was from 1300 to 1400. The next pilot was in the air by 2 PM. When I left the airport about 6:15 PM, we had flown through Goody Thomas #21, and the plan was to stop at pilot #28 and 7 PM. The contest is finally underway, and there are happy pilots at Silverstone.

Two of the US pilots have flown: Robert Armstrong and Goody Thomas. Both flew very well, but Robert received a 150 point penalty for not doing three wing wags on a free break. The scores will be posted and you can go to and see where everyone stands. You should also be able to link from this site, but I have not had an opportunity to check it.

Tomorrow, we may complete the Q program. Vicki will be the first US pilot to fly. Michael next followed by the rest of the team. Wish them well. They are going to make us proud.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wed night - Opening Banquet

It has been a crazy stay so far as you can tell from Norm and Vicki's posts. Weather, noise complaints, and maintennance issues have kept us from being able to fly as much as we would all like, but finally we are all in one place looking forward to the contest. Since Vicki and Len were working on the airplane last night they couldn't attend the opening ceremony and you have to hear about it from me.

After the draw for order of flight and getting the early airplanes ready for the morning start, we all quickly cleaned up for the opening festivities.


The ceremonies began with mess beatings, not what you think (Norm is still ok). It really was a great drum corp (The Corp of Drums) which marched in and put on quite a show.

After some welcoming remarks by contest director Steve Green, we were served a wonderful dinner complete from the Lamb to the creme brule. (So much for trying to lose weight) The Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marine of Collingwood played throughout the evening.

Robert sleeping? ... or is he 4th to fly tomorrow?

After dinner, more welcoming remarks from sponsors, Jeff Zaltman of Flying Aces, Richard Phillips of Silverstone Circuits, Ltd., and Robert Heygate, Deputy Lieutenant of Northampshire. Nick Onn read the Competitors' Pledge and the competition was officially opened by Mike Heuer. Flags were raised and anthems were played. The finale for the night was dualing buglers, and what a performance! Everyone is looking forward to a great contest.

August 20 - Back to Conington and Finally Silverstone

by Vicki

This morning Len and I are back in Conington where the weather is good, except for a nice crosswind. The first day of the contest is currently on hold; the winds are out of limits and there is scud going through the box on occasion.

Here is the notice on the flight board at Conington this morning.

Len and Joe are changing the ignition switch and will change out the left magneto shortly.

Here is Len putting the plane back together.


Here is a photo I took while Len and I were having lunch.

It is now after lunch, the plane is ready to go except for fuel and I am waiting for the winds to die a bit here in Conington. It is about 20 kts gusting to 35 kts and about 70 degrees to the runway. Not my idea of a great place to takeoff and land. So far Norm says no flying is happening at Silverstone due to the wind being out of limits. The ceiling is good there and the wind is down the runway he says at 20 kts

Don and the guys have a very cool score board in the hangar and I couldn’t resist getting a photo of it.

Finally, another front went through followed by a little relief in the wind speed and direction and I went out on a test flight. Everything worked great, even the landing upon return. We fueled the airplane for the trip to Silverstone and I paid my hefty bill. Julie was kind enough to charge me only the shop wages for the three guys working on the plane. This was very generous of her, but the bill was still huge. I gave the guys team pins before I left and wished them all the best.

The flight to Silverstone was uneventful (thankfully). I flew east Sywell and spotted Silverstone a few miles out. It was a welcome sight. I burned out the fuel in the wing tank circling east of Silvertsone, the came in for a good landing. Jeff and Norm were waiting for me, pushed me in the hangar and off we went to the hotel.

August 19 - Art Deco and Shower Trouble

by Vicki

This morning I am typing from the hotel lobby at an amazing airport called Sywell. This airport is unreal, the runway is a huge grass strip and the facilities look like they are from the 1940’s. I am including a few photos here to get the point across. As I sit typing, sipping tea and trying to find a magneto, I am listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra played in the background.

The British team is still here practicing and it was nice to see them. They are aware of my magneto problem and have offered some possibilities for me, which is great.

Len, Hanspeter and I headed out very early this morning for Sywell. Hanspeter/Debby’s plane is here and Len will be fixing the broken rudder pedal and then he and I will head to Conington to work on the Edge. Both mags are off and are being taken to a shop that overhauls Slick mags. The local mechanic at Sywell here offered to pull two new mags off an Extra he has sitting here and give them to me, but only the right one matches the Edge magneto.

Here is a photo Julie took of Robert, Me and Len outside the terminal. Julie flew the US flag for us today; Robert announced is as we were reclaiming the place, formerly home to the 457th Bomb Group and known as Glatton.

Arriving this morning, Robert flew a couple of practice flights in the area and noted that once he was in the pattern with all women. He also noted this sign in the FBO:

Len, Robert and I are sitting at Conington waiting for a new mag to arrive. Turns out the right magneto was defective, not the left one. In retrospect, the magneto off the Extra would have had me flying by now, but we didn’t know. Fortunately, Don (the local mechanic) decided to pull of both mags and send them in. Turns out the shop here had three left mags, but no right mags (they are different). A mag is being driven from London by courier. We expected it before now but...

The right mag appeared around 3:30 pm and went on promptly. A test run of the engine revealed no change in the engine. Robert decided to go back to Silverstone where he would just be slightly late for the 5:00 pilot briefing. The engine ran slightly better at higher power, so Len suggest I fly it around the pattern, which I reluctantly did. The engine ran ok, but three cylinders were quite hot. We did another run up on the ground, but the results were the same. So we decided to get a new left mag and try that. While waiting for the mag, Len and I went out for a quick sandwich at the local pub. The new mag arrived around 6 pm.

Here is Joe putting on the magneto.

After putting on this mag, we had high hopes for a smooth run. An engine run revealed that once again, the engine was not running well on the left magneto. Now we were getting stumped. Len decided we should check the fuel injectors, so they were removed and small bits were found in a few of them. Robert previously found some contamination in his fuel, so we sumped the tanks and found the same thing Robert had. We drained several gallons of fuel, pushed it outside and started it up. We were thinking positive, but the engine still would not run properly.

After more thinking, our next step was to remove the p-lead from the left mag, being very careful not to bump the prop. An engine run this time found a perfectly running engine. At least we were getting somewhere. Len decided that having the plane in the contest hangar with the p-lead off was not a good idea. The planes are moved about to get others out and this was not the safe way to go. Joe hooked the p-lead back to the magneto and we kept working.

Our next task was to suspect the ignition switch. Don took the ignition switch out of his airplane. Len and Joe replaced the ignition switch and Len hopped in to try it. The engine ran horribly, just like before. Now we were all stumped. However Joe suggested we remove the wire to the Slick start shower of sparks. Len started the engine and it ran perfectly. It was 9:00 pm and Don, Joe and Henry were still there helping. We had finally found the problem.

In the morning, we will remove the left mag and put the old one back on (so I do not have to buy two new mags), as well as the borrowed ignition switch. Len will try to start it without the shower of sparks and we will see what happens. After our discovery, we closed the hangar and everyone went home.

Len and I headed back to the hotel (just over an hour) were we were able to catch the last 15 minutes of the Opening Ceremony and share a creme brule Norm had saved for dessert.

August 20, 2009 Action

by Norm

The short answer is that there wasn't any action. The Pilot's Briefing began at 8 AM. The 500 meter winds were already above the 12 m/sec limit. This put us on a weather hold until 12:45 PM. In the meantime, we had a cold frontal passage with some light rain. The winds continued to increase as forecasted, and by 3 PM the organizers cancelled the day.

On the good news side, Vicki got her plane fixed and returned to Silverstone.

The winds are forecasted to diminish some by tomorrow. There is also the possibility of some rain in the morning. Hopefully, we will complete some flights by tomorrow night. This is not atypical of the World Championships. It seems that it is often the case that we have cloud or wind issues that stop the contest, even though we might be flying at a contest in the US. The international rules are written to try to fly pilots in similar weather conditions. Let us hope that tomorrow offers flyable conditions.