We now return to our regularly scheduled program…

Enough maintenance tales. I’m sick of telling them, sicker still of paying for them, and you’ve probably sickened on reading them. For a bit there, I was afraid we’d have to change the name of our website to WrenchTales… Or maybe Wrenching Tales of the Wrench… which isn’t bad… I like the way it rolls right off the tongue…

Anyway, Tess is fixed. Again. And home in her hangar. Again.

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Phew!

And before you ask, as usual, no, it didn’t all go as planned—including the fact that United Parcel Service lost track of our rebuilt nose strut altogether for nearly a week. I think they used to call that a Maalox Moment. Only one that, you know, lasted for days. So you really can’t call it a “moment.” But you don’t need to read about that, and I don’t need to relive it.

Of course, maintenance is part of the aircraft experience, and despite being in the shop for nearly half the year, Tessie’s due for her annual inspection in June, so there may yet be more Wrenching WrenchTales in our pages in the future. But in the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting back to flying and getting back to writing flying stories.

Which, hopefully, will include some tales of air racing!

Speaking of racing, I plum missed the Kentucky Derby this year. It just slipped my mind. True, I was in the Air Capital of the World on Derby day, teaching a Rusty Pilot Seminar for AOPA, but I didn’t even set my DVR to record it while I was away. It wasn’t even on my radar that the Derby was coming up. What’s up with that? We usually watch it as a family. With Mint Julips and everything. Too much on my mind with the missing strut I guess…

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Anyway, as I’m sure you know by now, the first horse across the finish line at Churchill Downs wasn’t declared the winner. “Maximum Security,” got disqualified for bumping into another horse. Dem’ da’ rules. I think I once read that there’s a similar rule at the Reno air races. Wow. How sport has changed over the years. Did you know that in the Circus Maximus, turning your whip on a fellow chariot racer who was trying to pass you was just considered normal operating procedure?

Not that I’m the kind of guy who would turn my whip on the competing race pilot, even if it was allowed. Although…

Anyway, speaking of getting whipped, the 2019 SARL race season is off to a bad start. We had a short roster of races to start with, and the second race of the season, the Bob Axsom Memorial Air Race, got severely whipped—by the weather.

Originally set for April 13th, weather forced a rescheduling of the race to Debry day, when yet more weather led to its being cancelled altogether. Of course, as I was teaching on Debry day, so I knew I couldn’t participate in the race on its new date (I had blocked off the original date, had my hotel reservations, and everything… all I was missing was an airplane, so I guess it would have been moot anyway…) but just like the Derby, on the day of the race, it clean slipped my mind that there was an air race happening. Usually on the day of a race that I can’t make it to, I spend half the day staring at the sky wondering who’s winning and who’s getting whipped. Metaphorically whipped, of course. No real whipping of the competition in modern racing, as I’ve already noted.

Rubbing my feet in the hotel room that night, and feeling a little whipped myself, I suddenly remembered the race. The SARL race. Not the Derby. I didn’t remember the Derby until the next day.

I jumped up to get my Flightpad to check the standings, and learned that the air race had been scrubbed. Wow. Here we are on the cusp of summer and there’s been only one race so far. And only two remain before the hot weather hiatus: The Hardin Race in Terrell, Texas on the east side of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, and the Texas Twister around Galveston Island. Oh, right, and the AirVenture Cup, too. It’s not really a SARL race, but you can get League Championship points for placing in that largest of all air races.

After the summer break there are only three more races left in the season. Am I going to hit all of them? Try for a place on the season champ podium? I haven’t decided yet. I’ll have to see how the first two go, where the standings are, what the chances of success are, and how much money is left in the checking account. My original plan had been to slow down a bit, just do a few races. Enjoy them. Not be quite so competitive.

But my whip hand is itching.

Still, one thing’s for sure, there’s no way I’m going to win first place in my category and class at the Hardin race. Jaden Stapleton, Race 68, flying an Eagle 150, has thrown his hat into the ring. The Eagle is a funky modern composite canard biplane that’s fast, fast, fast. In fact, the Eagle is a category killer for all of us in FAC6. On paper it can do nearly 150 miles per hour. Stapleton raced it with an average speed of 132.3 m.p.h. in four races last season, beating the rest of the pack without even breaking a sweat. Hell, I can’t go that fast with my nose pointed to the earth and my engine on fire. None of us stand a chance against it. It’s almost not worth the avgas to try.

In short, I’m gonna get whipped, and I know it.

At least in the head-to-head race.

But there are lots of other ways to win at Hardin. The race features a parallel “handicapped” class in which each racer is racing his own plane’s maximum performance, rather than the other planes. I might be able to trump Stapleton there. And there’s a Cesena 150 in the race, another plane that can beat me on paper, but a type I’ve bested a number of times. If nothing else, that’ll make for an exciting contest for second place. Plus, there’s a people’s choice trophy, where townspeople come out and vote for the plane they like the best and Tess has a lot of charm.

And, for me, of course, I’m racing against my own past. We’ve yet to really race the new engine, or any of the other improvements we’ve made.

Whoever crosses the finish line first, I’ll consider it a major victory if I whip my own best time.