|A finisher in this year's AirVenture Cup Race gets guidance to his tiedown spot Sunday evening after the racers made a later-than-usual arrival due to a weather delays earlier in the day.
Photo by Dave Higdon
|Detroit pilots Brian Smith and Charles Bracken trouble shoot a problematic system on the Lancair Legacy they flew in the 2008 AirVenture Cup Race Sunday after their arrival at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008.
Photo by Dave Higdon
After a 10-year history of
races against the prevailing winds, AirVenture Cup race organizers chose
2008 for the first of likely many more west to east routings for the
"There were actually
many reasons [the route was changed]," said race chairman Eric
Whyte. "We have wanted to do a downwind race, from west to east for
several years. This has several advantages, the prevailing winds are
generally going to provide favorable tailwinds, and after 10 years of
being an East Coast event, we wanted to expand our participants to
include more West Coast racers."
After deciding on the west
to east routing, the next challenge was finding an appropriate starting
airport. The planning team ended up with Mitchell Municipal Airport in
Mitchell, South Dakota.
"We sat down with
charts, and starting with Fond du Lac we worked west looking for an
airport in the 400-450nm range west of the finish line," Whyte
said. "Then we looked at airspace obstacles along the way. That
narrowed the list down considerably with airspace in Des Moines,
Minneapolis, Madison [Wisconsin] as well as several military restricted
areas we wanted to avoid.
"Next we wanted an
airport that could accommodate the race participants. We needed paved
runways, preferably more than one to help in crosswind situations. That
narrowed the list further."
Once Mitchell Municipal-a
former Air Force base-was selected, Whyte contacted the airport
management and the local fixed-base operators (FBOs). According to Whyte,
and as might be expected for an event that may involve 100 airplanes or
more, support from the airport is extremely important.
Forty-five racers and a
number of support aircraft gathered in Mitchell this past Saturday.
Wright Brothers Aviation, the host FBO, held an open house that day and
invited the community to come see the airplanes and visit with the race
pilots and crews. The open house was a great success with Whyte
estimating the crowd at 2,500 people. EAA Chapter 39 from Rapid City and
EAA Chapter 289 from Sioux Falls helped out with the activities.
The public came out again
Sunday to watch the race start, but unfortunately the weather did not
cooperate. A line of thunderstorms traveling along nearly the same
course as the race caused a launch delay of nearly seven hours. Though
according to Whyte, a large number of the spectators waited out the
This year's west to east
routing called for new and different race strategies. In the east to
west races staying low often netted the fastest ground speeds. One pilot
reported this year that up high was the place to find substantial
tailwinds this year. The weather also affected race strategy with some
pilots choosing a northern route and others choosing to go south.
"If this was not the
most successful race we've ever had, it certainly is in the top
three," Whyte said. "The support from Mitchell was phenomenal
and the race course went well. Overall it was a very enjoyable
Racers competed in seven
different classes this year, with additional sub-classes based on
landing gear configuration and engine size. The class divisions were the
same as for the 2007 race and are limited to aircraft in the
Whyte and the rest of the
race organizing team plan now for races on the even years to fly from
west to east and races on the odd years go east to west.
The AirVenture Cup race is
open to any licensed, current pilot that is an EAA Member and either
owns, or has access to, an experimental airplane that fits within one of
the race classes. More information is available on the race web site, www.AirVentureCup.com.