|AAFO.COM UPDATE 09/19/98
As we reported in our last article, the action in the pits has been almost as exciting as the action in the air. Much speculation and expectation..... Today's Unlimited Gold heat race brought together again the same cast of characters we spoke of last time. This event would not be an easy one for two of the main players.........
As the call came from Steve Hinton, in the aafo.com sponsored pace plane, "Gentlemen you have a race", seven planes vie for the best spot to begin the run around the pylons...Gary Levitz, in Miss Ashley II, playing right where he wants to be at the start, in the thick of it, up near the front.... Dago Red holds the lead from the beginning.... But, before we can even begin to sort out the pack, the call comes in from Bob Hannah in #5 Voodoo...."This thing just bucked BIG TIME" ...Then.... "I'm not out of it yet...this thing just bucked on me...I don't know".... What has happened to Bob in the "bondo bandit", Voodoo, is unknown at this time.......*even* to Bob!
Shortly before the first call from Hannah, he had abruptly pulled up from the pack, then began a slow descending turn back to the race course.... Problem was....Bob was NOT flying the airplane! Voodoo was flying herself. Bob Hannah was sitting in the cockpit unconscious from the 10+ g. load he had just endured when the control rod for the left half of the elevator snapped as the elevator trim tab fluttered and departed the airplane, causing the very sharp pull up! The confused conversation coming from Bob was an indication of his condition as he awoke from the momentary lapse of consciousness. He was in trouble...
As the situation in Voodoo was unfolding, another call went out...this one from Sherman Smoot, in the, now smoking, race #86, Czech Mate...."Race 86 MAYDAY MAYDAY!" followed seconds later with the now very awake Bob Hannah calling "five's a mayday"...... Both pilots found themselves in very deep trouble....
Sherman had the most immediate problem, with the smoke pouring out of the right side of the Yak now turning into fire. He needed to get down and get down now! We followed him with our hearts in our throats.... It did not look good for Sherman as he headed down..... very fast! From our vantage point at the edge of the deadline in the "Valley Of Speed" it was quite hard to tell if there was a runway under where Smoot was headed. Fortunately, there was...but it was a very steep, very fast approach the crippled Yak was locked into and if he did manage to get her down...stopping was going to be very hard..... Sherman managed to get asphalt under him, but indeed, was quite fast and ran out of runway...the cloud of dust as he rolled out told the story....
Meanwhile there is still a race on!... Bruce Lockwood, in Dago, holds on to first, with a determined, Dennis Sanders, flying Dreadnought, in HOT pursuit. Farther back in third, is Miss Ashley II, with Gary Levitz throttling back, safely ahead of fourth place, Bill Rheinschild, in Risky Business. Brian Sanders bringing up the tail end of the pack in Argonaut.... Levitz throttled back even farther as the last lap of the race wound down, saving what he has for the competition for tomorrow... The finish was as above Dago-Dreadnought-MA2-Risky Business-Argonaut........
Back at Stead, a very lucky pair of pilots are shaking their heads....(and maybe a knee or two).... How close had they come to really big trouble..... VERY close!!
When Hannah lost elevator control as the trim tab departed the airplane, he found himself pointing straight up with a power setting of 145 inches on the Merlin powerplant, asleep!.... as he awoke, he was confused and unaware of where he was. He had very little control of the airplane as slid the canopy back in preparation for exiting the airplane... But he soon realized he was too low for this....he would have to land the crippled Voodoo...... The gods were with Bob as he brought Voodoo in.... he landed safely.
Not so for Sherman Smoot. The Yak 11 does not glide well and Sherman's 170mph speed carried him past the end of the runway. The result was a very rough ride across the desert and very nearly over the edge of the bluff that is at the end.....The gear folded (the wrong way) and the wings crumpled, a very grateful Sherman Smoot walks away from this one, unharmed!
But the story of this race....and perhaps tomorrow's, does not end here.... A walk through the pits finds Dreadnought minus prop with a failed prop governor and broken exhaust header....... Does all this mean we're down to a "two plane" race for the gold on Sunday?.... Read Mark Kallio's assessment of the situation......
story by: Wayne Sagar
footage of the downed Yak 11.
Video tape provided by AAFO.COM
correspondent Bradley Haskin.
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