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2008 Air Race Classic 'flight log'

June 25, 2008

by Meghan Burlager and Betsy Taylor

FRANKFORT, Ky.--Hello all! We're back in the Eastern Time Zone.

It was definitely a crazy day. Most of the teams got up at 4 a.m. to head off early, but we were smart and slept in till 5:30. No one left the airport until about 9 a.m. because of overcast skies and storms along the way. Sleeping in let us take advantage of the free breakfast. Score one for us!

We left Aberdeen, S.D., and landed in Mason City, Iowa. Our weatherman told us to hurry and keep going on to Decatur, Ill., but we decided to verify the radar first and made the decision to stay. Good thing. He called us 20 minutes later praying we hadn't left. Apparently some storms popped up along the route.

We took the opportunity to have lunch with our Mama Birds, and we had a fun time. They told us a funny story. During one race, many of the racers were using our weatherman, and he told them to depart, sending them directly into a storm that was building up. Our Mama Birds went automatically from 10th place to fourth place, because they waited out the storm. Needless to say, we will always check the weather ourselves, not that our weatherman isn't helpful. He's been great helping us find some awesome tailwinds.

We left Mason City and made it into Decatur. There were some clouds building up, so we had to descend to stay VFR (visual flight rules). We lost a bit of our tailwind, but we aren't disqualified [for violating VFR]. There are so many rules and new racers, everyone is terrified of being disqualified for minor things. We didn't stay long in Decatur. On the next leg of the race, we just missed the edge of a storm. We were happy about that.

Coming into Frankfort for the flyby was a little crazy. There is only one runway, so it was being used for both flybys and landings. The airport is on a hill. During our flyby, we saw that just beyond the end of the runway, the terrain drops several hundred feet, with the state capitol building below. When we landed we looked at each other and said, "I guess Frankfort is the capitol of Kentucky." Who knew?

Some of the racers weren't following the proper procedures for the flyby, so we were left to deal with a hairy situation. We circled on downwind for the flyby traffic (common courtesy). Two planes that were coming in decided not to break to the left, as they should have, and headed directly for us. Luckily, we used our CRM [crew resource management] to keep everyone in sight and figure out a safe course of action. It was sort of like "Top Gun," straining our necks in every direction trying to find traffic. (Please don't forward this to our mothers.)

After landing, we were greeted with Kentucky root beer and friendly faces. We could have used something stronger after that crazy approach, if you get what we mean. They are very organized here at the airport in Kentucky, and we were lined up in an orderly fashion to fuel.

Time for some real food. We are starving and need another early start in the morning. Pray for some good weather all day tomorrow, because Friday looks bad on the northeast coast.

Meghan Burlager and Betsy Taylor
#32 on the tail and #1 in your hearts

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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