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ISSUE 125 - July 2010
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Unlimited Racing License #223

By Jay Consalvi, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Roslin, Ontario, Canada

Flying airplanes has always been a part of my life. My Dad, rest in peace, took my Mom and I flying when I was three days old, on our way home from the hospital. I think that makes it reasonable to say that flying is in my blood. On Thursday, 17 June, I think I may have discovered something else that is in my blood, or will be if I have anything to say about it...Unlimited Air Racing in Reno.

I should preface by saying that, like all of us, I have experienced some undeniably special moments in aviation. Our first solos, our first $100 hamburgers, our first aviation competitions - all of these experiences are jotted down in our logbooks and held in our memories for safe keeping...and hangar-flying... My first taste of air combat in a Navy jet, my first day carrier landing, my first night carrier landing (yikes), - all of these experiences kept me excited, a little scared, and definitely wanting for more. Flying my Stearman, a CAF T6, and now an F4U Corsair - well, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while..!

Okay, so take all of those experiences I just mentioned, wrap them up in a flour tortilla, cover it with some of the hottest fire sauce you can find, eat it as fast as you possibly can, and...besides a mean case of the'll have a good idea of what it is like to haul the chili around the pylons of Reno's Unlimited Race Course in what is arguably the coolest fighter of WWII and Korea - the F4U Corsair!

Thanks to Classic Fighters of America, based in Ramona, CA, I have been given the opportunity to cut my teeth in warbirds in none other than the Corsair. When asked if I'd like to go to Pylon Racing School, and ultimately, race the Corsair in Reno, I was beside myself excited! Umm, lemme see...yes, I would love to go fly a Corsair with a bunch of fighters, full throttle, 50' above the ground, as close to the pylons as I can get, passing, being passed, and generally raising hell around Stead Airport for a week! Bring it!

Day One of the course began with lots of ground instruction by some great unlimited air racers. Together, they were able to pound into our heads a few of the more important items - tighter intervals on take-off, join up quick, be predictable, don't pass on the inside, and don't kill yourself. All pretty good points, I'd say.

Day Two introduced us to the race course...and introduced me to the sport that has now got my head spinning and the butterflies in my stomach flying loop-the-loops. Picture launching with three P-51 Mustangs and a gigantic Hawker Sea Fury, all lined up next to the bent-wing of your Corsair...seriously, you have got to be kidding me! Now picture all of us, line abreast, 20 degrees nose down, throttles forward, 300 knots, just waiting to hear those sweet words, "Gentlemen, you have a race!" All I can really say about those first three laps around the pylons is that I flew low, flew (kinda) fast, and turned left...and I literally screamed at myself in the cockpit about how cool this sport is!

The second flight on Day Two followed about the same flow. We launched, we flew, I was giddy and couldn't stop smiling, I nearly got twisted onto my back flying behind the Sea Fury and then I completely screwed up a simulated engine-out and had to take my own wave-off. Nice one, Jay. At least no one was looking...right? Like I'll tell anyone who will listen, though...the day that I am perfect in an airplane is the day I'm gonna get REAL nervous...

Day Three of PRS brought two more flights. On the first one, the flight went out to the practice area to execute a few individual aileron rolls.

This simulates recovery from the unusual attitude that may exist after flying through the wake turbulence of, say, a Sea Fury, at 50'. After our rolls, we came down the chute once again and ran around the course. Some passing and getting passed, and 5 laps later, we were off the course and up to cool down. The afternoon's flight was just like a race, and we all had a blast. It was fun holding off one or two of the Mustangs with the big Corsair...but I have a sneaky feeling they might run a little faster come race week. It was also more than a little fun looking down at my girlfriend standing next to pylon 8, and thinking about how cool we all must look right now. Hey, I gotta take advantage of those rare moments... In the debrief, we all received good marks from our Instructors, both on the ground and in the air. At the end of the debrief, on a little piece of paper, we were handed our racing license numbers. I am more than proud to say that I was issued Unlimited Racing License #223. In the past ten years before us, only 26 pilots have been issued their licenses.

My friends in our class of 4 have earned the right to be rookies in this year's Reno National Championship Air Races. We have lots to learn, and I can speak for all of us in saying that we are more than excited to let the learning begin. September can't get here quick enough..!

Keep an eye out for the Big Blue Bent-Wing airplane rounding the pylons. We'll be fast, but I think you'll be able to pick us out of the pack.

By Jay Consalvi, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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