My 2010 AirVenture Cup Race
By Sam Hoskins, EAA 188889
The EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Cup Race was created to give the average homebuilder an avenue to compete in air racing with his own aircraft and without the deep pockets of corporate sponsorship. Since its beginning in 1998, the AirVenture Cup has motivated many homebuilders to tinker and innovate with their aircraft to squeeze out as much performance as possible. Sam Hoskins tells of his adventure in the" big race" and gives us a cockpit-view account of his 202.15-mph journey covering 500 miles in his Quickie Q-200. His tale includes a carbon monoxide leak from an unlikely source and ever-increasing oil temps.
After two-and-a-half years of an extensive rebuild, I finally got my old Quickie Q-200 ready enough for my eighth entry in the big race, or so I hoped. (There are so many parts to the story, it’s hard to relate them all.) Even though the plane might not have been 100 percent race ready, I thought it was close enough. I guess I had three main goals: participate in the race, finish it safely, and get my Q-200 to Oshkosh for the 20th time. It had missed the last two years, and I sorely missed its presence there.
Among all the other troubleshooting and preparations, I finally decided to use my old Catto propeller. It’s 60-inch diameter x 70-inch pitch has me served well. Dr. Charley Rodriguez, assistant professor of aviation technology at Southern Illinois University,helped me dynamically balance it, so at least that part was good to go. Don Bartlett had welded up a few cracks in my new aluminum oil sump and added a bit of a brace. Just to be sure, I wrapped a nylon strap around the sump to make certain it couldn’t depart the engine. My plan was to fly each leg, then pull the cowl to inspect for cracks. And just for good measure, I brought along my old composite sump. I’m pretty sure I was the only racer carrying a spare oil sump. I wish I had been able to figure out how to fit an oil cooler in my particular installation.
I arrived at Mitchell, South Dakota, the starting point of the race, and made an arrival pass down the runway, which was pretty fun. The townspeople were very interested in the race, and we had over 2,000 spectators come out. Kids carried the event programs around and had the pilots sign autographs. More fun stuff.
I had secured a hangar reservation ($25) for Friday night and had the Quickie safely tucked away to guard against forecasted storms. Man, did it hit hard – 70 mph winds! Hail was forecast, but fortunately it avoided us. Only about five planes were stranded outside, and by all reports they did just fine.
We had a dinner and race briefing on Saturday night before I settled into the hotel.
Race day is always different from one year to the next. We racers are all focused and a bit more subdued as we gather our thoughts and mentally prepare. Several handshakes are exchanged with the wish, “Good luck, be safe.”
The morning of the big race
They always launch the fastest planes first, and I was in the third group to go. The procedure is to take off but not climb untill we hit the departure end of the runway so we can build up a bit of speed before they start the clock. I followed Bob Vasey in his RV-3 and I was off. My big concern had been the oil temperature. I figured if the ambient air temp stayed below 60 degrees or so, I would be able to fly wide open. Above 60 and I would probably have to throttle back.
The engine was smooth, and I climbed to 7,500 feet msl. High pressure dominated the area; it seemed that there wasn’t going to be any help with tailwinds so 7,500 seemed as good a place as any. I climbed rather quickly (for a race profile) at 500 feet per minute (fpm).
Once leveled off, the engine went to 3,100 rpm, and I accelerated to around 208 mph true air speed. So far, so good.
The outside air was about 62°F, and after about a half hour, the oil temp steadily crept up to my redline. I have my Dynon D180 connected to my radio so I can hear the audio alert (as well as see the visual warning) go beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep through my headset. You have to hit a button on the Dynon to silence it, but it keeps coming back. I was really upset and angry to hear that first alert. The ambient air had dropped to 60°F, and I was hoping that would be enough, but it wasn’t.
Only one solution at this point – raise the redline alarm point on the Dynon. I forget what it was originally set to, but I raised it to 255°F, causing most of the racket and screen alarms to go away.
7,500 feet and no one in sight
It’s kind of funny. I was at 7,500 feet and didn’t see anyone. We have a common race frequency and state our position, something like “Race 22 at 7,500 feet, 322 miles out (from the finish line).” There were guys below me that I knew I were passing, but I never saw them. Never saw anyone until the finish line.
Things seemed to be going okay, but I hated the oil temps. I passed over Rochester, Minnesota, and most of that state, but when I got to La Crosse, Wisconsin, the price of poker went up.
I smelled something funny, and not ha-ha funny. I looked at the carbon monoxide indicator pasted to the instrument panel, and it had almost turned black. Hmm, never did that before. Not a good sign. Crapola! What to do now? Land at La Crosse? Press on? Pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning? Realize the seriousness of the indicator? Don’t be such a big baby? This is the stuff that makes air racing interesting.
I looked around the cockpit for something that might help get me some fresh air. I had kind of a gap between the canopy and the fuselage, on the left side where air always entered. I tried to fold my sectional chart to direct some clean air toward my face. That didn’t work very well, and a piece of my chart wound up getting sucked out of the plane.
I had a roll of paper towels and tried that. I found if I held it just so, I could channel some air through the center of the roll, toward my face. My GPS said I would hit (probably a bad choice of words) the finish line in about 32 minutes, so I continued on. Here’s a photo recreation:
Sam recreating his makeshift oxygen system, focusing the leak from around his canopy to his face via a paper towel tube.
Naturally, as I was screwing around with charts and paper towels, I wound up drifting 30 degrees off course, which isn’t exactly the kind of thing that gets a racer to the finish in the fastest time.
About 70 miles from Snow Crest Ranch Airport, I started descending at 250 fpm. Of course I didn’t back off the throttle.
The little airport came into sight, and it was pretty easy to distinguish. You usually hear a lot of position reports getting close to the finish line, but the funny thing was it was quiet. I looked at my radio, and I was no longer on freq! Turned out I had bumped the radio when I was messing around with the improvised breathing apparatus. I got the radio set upright and called out, “Race 22 – 10 miles…Race 22 – 5 miles…” etc.
When I finally hit the finish line, I was indicating about 222 mph true.
Once past the finish line, it was time to pull up, cool down, and calm down. I throttled back to a leisurely 2,600 rpm and set the GPS for Fon du Lac.
Fon du Lac (FLD) seemed to have more planes than Oshkosh (OSH). All the certified aircraft that had been denied landing at OSH because of the extremely wet grounds seemed to be at FLD, and they were jammed everywhere. It turned out the race planes weren’t going anywhere right now either. The regular race plane parking at Oshkosh was too wet, so they loaded everyone into a bus for transport to Wittman Field.
The next day, there was a sudden rush to get the planes from FLD to OSH. I was still a little unsure and decided to take a pass for the moment. Later in the day, and after most of the race planes had arrived at OSH, my buddy Jeff gave me a ride to FLD with the intention of coming in after the air show ended. Once I got there, I took another look at my little wheels and decided against it. I didn’t want them sinking into the mud. I took the bus back up to OSH.
Sam’s plane, nearly all along at Fon du Lac airport, waiting for OSH to dry.
Tuesday was going to be decision day. I had to head home, so would I take the bus to Fon du Lac and head south, or would I throw caution to the wind and fly to Oshkosh, even if for just a few hours?
When I woke up in my tent, the decision was made. After all, I had flown my Quickie to EAA Oshkosh for 19 years, and darn it, I wasn’t going to postpone the 20th visit another dad-gummed year.
The Fisk arrival procedure was messed up as usual. The FAA controllers always seem to forget they have a fast lane set up above the 100-mph C-172s and Cherokees. I can’t “drive 55,” and they expect me to follow Cessnas and the like.
It is just about impossible for me to fly the arrival at 100 mph. Then, to boot, when I got to Fisk, a controller called for the “Hiperbipe to continue for the downwind to runway two-seven.” Click here to see what a Hiperbipe looks like. How should I have known she was talking to me? People mistake the Quickie for all sorts of odd planes and from a distance I can understand how one could confuse these two planes.
Then, when I was on the downwind, she said, “Experimental – turn right base now!” Experimental? At Oshkosh? Who the heck was she talking to?
Anyway, I took matters into my own hands and got it on the runway safely. After the long taxi in, Race 22 finally got back with the rest of our race plane buddies, back where we both belonged.
I’d finally arrived – 20th visit for the Quickie to Oshkosh and our 8th AirVenture Cup Race! I was only going to be here about four hours, so I had to quickly collect my prop tag, commemorative mug, and my perseverance award for restoring/rebuilding my plane.
I wound up taking second place in the Sprint class, with a speed of 202.15 mph. I was about 40 mph behind Klaus Savier and Jenny Tackabury in their “Delaminator.” You can see the full race results here and here.
Note that a new AirVenture Cup speed record was set in the Turbine class at over 400 mph! Yow!
My friend Terry Crouch stopped by, and we pulled the cowling for a quick oil tank and exhaust gasket leak inspection. All seemed well. After thumping away on my electronic fuel injection sensor bracket and deeming it inadequate, we recowled it.
Now, back to that carbon monoxide indicator turning black. How did the fumes get in? The engine compartment seemed pretty good – no apparent trouble there – and the exhaust gaskets looked fine.
We turned to the tail cone, which for the Quicke, is removable for ground transportation. In previous years, I had sealed the tail cone removal joint with silicone. You can see the joint in the photo at the top of this article. The split is just aft of the rear wing. Out of laziness, when I rebuilt the plane, I neglected the sealant.
As it turns out, when I go fast, or at least when the engine spins fast, the exhaust travels along the belly and up into the fuselage split. We proved this by filling the joint with RTV (room temperature vulcanizing silicone), then taping it over. Once I got back in the air, all I could smell was RTVand no exhaust fumes. One more problem solved.
Just as I was getting it ready to push out of the spectator area, I heard a voice with a funny accent cry, “Sam Hoskins!” There was a gent reading the prop tag, and he saw my name. It was John Cartledge, an Australian who was kind enough to give me a ride in his Q-200 during our visit down under, about 10 years ago. I had received an e-mail from John saying he was coming, but I had pretty much dismissed getting hold of him. Now that he was here, I barely had time to say hi and take a photo or two. Then it was time to be off before they closed the airport for the air show.
So all in all, it was a very successful event. I ran the race safely with an overall speed of 202.15 mph and came in second place in my class. I was just happy to finish the darn thing.
Now it’s time to take a deep breath and make things a little more permanent. I need to reexamine the oil tank, oil cooling, and those related matters. I would also really like to fly it more and work on it less.
But it’s all fun – kind of.