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Airventure Cup Race / Oshkosh Diary - Day 5

Date: July 29, 2003

Tuesday morning (Day 5) broke sunny and nice, so we ate some breakfast in the Holiday Inn (they opened at 6 AM for us - very nice) and took the cool bus back to the airport. We didn't get briefed until about 8:30 AM, since the race crew had a lot of back and forth coordinating with the OSH FAA folks about the 85 plane arrival. Around 9 AM they started launching planes every 30 seconds or so. We waited until the canards were up, pulled the plane out, and jumped in.

I started the engine normally, but as I checked the alternator, I got nothing. I tried it a number of times, but it was clear that I was NOT getting any juice from the alternator - just the battery. Some quick thinking told me that there was no way I was going to launch without a fully working electrical system - if I couldn't finish the race because of that, then so be it. I taxied over to the Commander Aero hanger and began taking off the cowling.

I especially want to thank Charlie Bracken (Berkut) for coming over and giving a few suggestions and helping out, even as he was being called for his race launch - it was extremely nice of him to do so.

So I removed the cowlings, top and bottom, while watching all the other planes depart. The race crew asked what was up, and I told them. They said "take your time, do it right, be safe - we'll wait for you". After removing the lower cowl, it became immediately obvious what the problem was - the lug from the "+" terminal of the alternator attaching the alternator cable had bent, fatigued, and broken (crappy copper terminal from ACS on a #2 cable). I have the AeroElectric Connection 80 Amp inline fuse, so we unbolted the short piece of cable from the fuse to the alternator, and the A&P's at Commander Aero scrounged around for some cable and lugs to fabricate a replacement. The only large cable they had was 1/0 size with appropriate lugs, so I've now got a MONSTER section of cable from the alternator to the fuse. The lugs they had are double thickness heavy duty, so there should be no problems there anymore.

By the time I finished, all the other planes had launched, including 3 of the 4 chase/support planes - the race crew held the Cirrus back with 2 people for our start time. We put the plane back together - it took about an hour and a half total for the fix, and launched at about 1030 AM EDT.

We climbed up to 6500 ft for the trip to Aurora (ARR), but there were some clouds building at about that level so we came down under them, since we had to come down for the pylon turn at ARR anyway. Prior to descending, we heard a loud "bang" from the rear somewhere, but all the gauges were nominal, the plane was flying fine, and there was no vibration from anything. We flew on, thinking that it was just an "Al Wick potato chip bag" phenomena. As it turned out, after we landed we found that one of the 1/4 turn fasteners on the top cowling had worked its way loose because Wayne had not quite turned it all the way - not his fault - it's a particularly tight one and is easy not to get seated all the way. It did NOT depart the aircraft or go through the prop - it just sat there sticking up.

We went most of the 150 remaining miles to ARR at about 1000 - 1500 ft. AGL, getting a good look at the countryside of Indiana and Illinois. I blew about 2 minutes going around the circumference of Grissom AFB, rather than through it, because I forgot it was there (thinking we were going over the top) and by the time I remembered we were about 150 ft. from the edge and I didn't have time to call in..... Dope.

Coming in to ARR, we headed just slightly south of the airport to line up with runway 36 and then dove down to 300 ft. AGL to cross the timing line going due north. Just as we started to pull up back to crusing altitude (1300 ft. AGL), we flew through something that left crap all over the canopy. At first, we thought it might be oil, until we remembered that the oil in this plane is in the back, and would have a heck of a time finding its way to the canopy. We then realized that it was a MONSTROUS cloud of bugs, and we were plastered with them. After landing at OSH, we found out that EVERYONE had flown through it, and a few of the GU canard planes (as opposed to the Roncz canard planes) had major problems on landing due to the contamination on the L.E. of the canard. Frank Pullano's V.E. had to land at 120 kts. to stay level.

We stayed low from ARR to Fond Du Lac (FLD) and thankfully it wasn't too bumpy, even at 200 mph IAS. We stayed east of the highway at FLD, away from the traffic pattern and then proceeded up the west coast of Lake Winnebago at about 500 ft. We were looking for orange floats and an orange pontoon boat in the water, sticking out from a pier - these were the indications of the finish line. We had a false alarm with a fishing boat, over whom we passed at about 300 ft. - I'm sure we surprised him a bit, since all the other racers had passed through an hour before. Just past him, we saw the finish line, dove down to about 200 ft. AGL, and finished in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 4 seconds for the 416 miles, for an average speed of 197.54 statute mph. If I hadn't climbed to 6500 ft or zipped around Grissom, I would have been under 2 hours and over 200 mph average for the day.

After crossing the finish line, we pulled up into a 270 degree right turn to cross back over warbird island in the lake to enter the "warbird" entry to OSH. We called the tower and they put us on a right base for 360 right, and we landed at the same time as a twin on 360 left at about 1230 PM local time. We were directed to the "race parking" area, shut down, and pulled the plane onto the grass with help from some of the volunteers.

So, 4 hours, 55 minutes and 10 seconds for the 945 mile race, for an average of 192.1 mph groundspeed. Not too tacky. I'm sure with weight loss (no co-pilot and less cargo) alone, I could pick up 4 - 6 mph, and some further drag reduction (hidden rudder belhorns, gear leg fairings, etc.) I could get over 200 mph average -).

We wandered around for most of the afternoon, looking over the planes on the northern flight line, ran into John Vermeylen (who was on his way OUT on the first day of the show, having arrived three days earlier), and talked to numerous people both on the COZY list and off (I won't remember everyone, so I won't try :-) ). We looked at some of the vendor booths, got some drinks, and pretty soon it was time to head back to the race tent for the tram ride to the Nature Pavilion for the Race Dinner.

Now, the volunteers at OSH are wonderful - they work hard, they help out tremendously, and they do it all for the love of the airplanes. However, this tram driver must have been peripherally related to the first bus driver in Dayton, as when he was told to bring us to the "Nature Pavilion", he thought that he was told the "Volunteer Kitchen", so we ended up milling around there for a few minutes until I informed the driver as to where we REALLY were supposed to be. He didn't know how to get there, so he had to study a map for a few minutes.... We finally arrived at the right place and had a good dinner with all the race participants, their families, the crew, their families, and other random people that wandered into the tent by accident but had a good time talking to us.

After dinner, we headed back to the plane, gathered up all our stuff, and took an unbelievably crowded bus into town to the dormitories, where Wayne and I were staying (along with about 1/2 of the race participants, as far as I could tell). It was actually pretty nice there - a bit hot in the bathrooms, but with a fan in our room (I brought one) it was pleasant, and we had internet hookup -). Since it rained 1 - 2 inches Tuesday night, we were glad to be inside a building.

I forgot to mention that on Tuesday, as I started fixing the Alternator cable issue, I noticed that Eric Whyte (head race coordinator) was standing in front of my airplane while some guy with a big video camera was asking him questions. I didn't pay a lot of attention, as I was preoccupied with trying to get my airplane working in a short period of time, but then Eric was done and the guy was just shooting video of my plane.

I got back over there and started installing the new cable, and the guy says that he's from Channel 2 in Dayton, and can he ask me a few questions. Being the publicity hound that I am, I said sure. He clipped a microphone to my shirt, placed his camera under the right strake, and started asking me questions - first, my name and address; then information about the plane (I of course put in a plug for Nat and the plans); then about what the heck I was doing in Dayton with a homebuilt aircraft, and then about why I hadn't left yet with all the other aircraft.

I did my usual pontificating for about 3 minutes, but I assume that they chopped it down to a few good sound bites. If anyone lives in the Dayton area and caught the news on Channel 2 that evening, I'd like to hear about it. I'm going to try to get a tape of it, and if I do I'll put it on the web page -).

I'm famous! At least in Dayton, Ohio. But I didn't quite get my whole 15 minutes yet -).

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