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Tennessee Valley Air Race

Three Mustang Aeronautics pilots race their airplanes

By Greg Bordelon, EAA 425459, for Experimenter

Three Mustang Aeronautics pilots
Three Mustang Aeronautics pilots raced their airplanes, had a blast, and took home some awards. Yippee! Left to right: John Keich, Les Burrill, and Greg Bordelon.

Last month the TennesseeValley Air Race was held in Alabama as part of the Sport Air Racing League. Mustang II owner Greg Bordelon (Green Machine – SARL #117) along with fellow Mustang owners Les Burrill and John Keich brought their aircraft to compete in the event which included a time trial and pumpkin drop. The 125.2 nautical mile course is probably the only circuit race that includes a Saturn V rocket as a pylon.

Les Burrill, John Keich, and I had a blast at the Tennessee Valley Air Race (TVAR) in Courtland, Alabama, on October 29, 2011. Chris Murphy and his team of volunteers hosted a Sport Air Racing League (SARL) cross-country air raceevent, sponsored by Tennessee Valley Jet Center and Aircraft Spruce and Specialty.

TVAR Race Route
Course layout

Chris and his team did a fantastic job and pulled out all the stops. We had an excellent race event, followed by a pumpkin dropping contest and an electronic time trial event. Organizers treated us to homemade chili and beef stew after the race. The event was finished off with a live band playing some of our favorite southern music. Wow! I’ll be back there next year!

The cross-country race course was centered over the Courtland Airport with four turn points and a total distance of 125.2 nautical miles. The turn points were very interesting and consisted of turns greater than 270 degrees around local landmarks such as a water tower, an airport, an island, and a Saturn V rocket. When was the last time you performed a 2g-to-3g turn around a Saturn rocket?

All tracks
Data logger tracks

Safety and fun were the focus of the event, and all FARs were abided by. A pilot briefing was held immediately before the race that covered all operational and safety aspects. Airplanes were then organized fastest to least fastest and launched one at a time with 30-second spacing between each airplane.

The idea was, as the race unfolded, the spacing between race planes increased, and passing another aircraft would become a rare event. Pilots then navigated to the turn points and announced their positions along the race course.

Pat Parcel and Bobby Rose
Left to right: Pat Parcel and Bobby Rose raced the Cessna 172 to a speed of 130 mph.

I have to say that this cross-country racing is fun! Hearing the other racers announce their positions on the race course and navigating to the “correct” turn points really got the adrenalin going. You would think that racing is as easy as programming your GPS and hitting go-to. Sometimes it’s not so easy around the course!

Getting the airplane pointed in the right direction, programming the GPS with the correct points, activating the route before launching, and having your brain running at peak efficiency on race day can be a challenge. A quick glance at these data logger tracts below highlights how fun and challenging it can be to look for the correct water tower at turn point one!

Our airplanes were grouped into classes with engine displacement, engine type, and landing gear configuration as the dominant factors. Technically you’re racing other aircraft in your class, but the goal of these events is to just have fun with your airplane and race as hard or light as you want. At this race, the fastest aircraft overall was a twin-turbocharged Lancair Legacy at 313.3 mph, and the least fastest was a Cessna 172 at 130.3 mph. Everyone was having fun regardless of his class or posted speed.

John Keich
John Keich - SARL Racer 98 - White Knight

At the event, I rendezvoused with two other Mustang pilots, Les Burrill and John Keich. This was my fourth Sport Air Racing League event, and I was looking to forward to seeing if I could do better than my previous race speeds.

John Keich flew his stock Continental O200 powered 100-hp Midget Mustang around the course at a speed of 184.14 mph. This was John’s fifth air race and he finished third in the Sprint Class.

Les Burrill flew his Lycoming O320 powered 160-hp Mustang II RG around the course at a speed of 194.73 mph. This was Les’ second air race and he finished first in the RG Red Class. Les also won $200 from Aircraft Spruce and Specialty as the fastest O320 RG airplane.

Les Burrill
Les Burrill - SARL Racer 11 - Silver Bullet

I flew my Lycoming O320 powered 150-hp Mustang II around the course at a speed of 201.13 mph. This was my fourth air race and I finished first in the FX Red Class.

Yes, Les and I were the only entrants in our classes at this particular race, but it didn’t deter our enthusiasm for improving the efficiency of our airplanes. Les worked on his gear leg doors, turned his exhaust back, and taped up his cowl to improve his speed of 188.91 mph from the Cleveland Race. I replaced my belly beacon with a tail strobe, filled in my rear intersection fairings on the wing, and tweaked my cabin air exhaust system. The changes improved my on-course speed of 200.38 mph from the Cleveland Race.

Greg Bordelon
Greg Bordelon – SARL Racer 117 – Green Machine

After the cross-country race, we had an opportunity to have our airplanes electronically timed on a short time trial course. This time trial had us fly in a level attitude before entry into the course which was the length of the runway and 100 feet above.

An upwind and downwind pass was electronically recorded and averaged for the final posted speed. I became really excited about my time result of 207.54 mph, and I’ve found that my Mustang II responds to my performance-tweaking efforts. John also ran the time trial and recorded a speed of 199.59 mph. Les had a malfunction on his trim tab servo and was unable to run the time trial.

The race organizer presented us with a certificate of our recorded time trial speeds. Now we obtained evidence and bragging material to show our flying buddies back home. It was great to have my plane measured this way, and it will be a good baseline for further tweaking efforts I have planned for the winter.

Race results
TVAR Race Results

After the race was over, a pumpkin dropping contest was held. A wooden outhouse was fabricated and placed in a clear area. A Cessna 172 flown by a commercial pilot played a role in the contest.

The goal was to ride along with the pilot, direct him to the outhouse, and release your pumpkin while aiming for the bull’s-eye painted on the top of the outhouse. What a hoot! We watched for a couple of hours; at least 80 pumpkins were released before a successful direct hit. A celebration ensued because last year the outhouse escaped as the victor.

Ben Parker Project
The Ben Parker Project

At the end of the event, we enjoyed the sounds of The Ben Parker Project; the band played a number of our favorite southern tunes. We relaxed and ate some fine homemade chili and beef stew during the performance.

If you’re tired of the same ole $200 burger run or formation flying activities, join us for something new at a Sport Air Racing League event. There’s a race class for everyone—this is “Racing for the Rest of Us”! To learn more about the Sport Air Racing League and its activities, visit http://SportAirRace.org.

Sports Racing League

To get your very own Midget Mustang or Mustang II, go to www.MustangAero.com or visit us on the Yahoo! group “Mustangaero.”

Hope to see you at the races. You can contact me at M2wingman@yahoo.com.


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