“A first time racer’s personal account”
“You have to go down to 350 feet for the flyby,” I reminded gently. “I am not going any lower“, pat came the response while Grace stayed steady at 400 feet. “We’ll be disqualified if we are not at or below 200 feet for the flyby,” I said a trifle forcefully.
It was a beautiful, pleasant day. The heat wave we were expecting hadn’t caught up with us yet. Earlier in the morning, fog over Santa Monica had cleared rapidly, affording us an early departure on our first leg to Merced. With luggage stowed in baggage compartment, cooler with ample water in the rear seat and neck strap comfortably around our shoulders to keep us cool from the heat, we had set off from Santa Monica with anticipation for the race ahead. This was the first time I was participating in an air race, but for Grace this was old hat, as she had flown the year before.
Skirting past the Van Nuys and Burbank airspace, we sped towards the Gorman Pass. Having scouted the area the previous day, we had no trouble finding the pass. Staying as low as terrain permitted, we raced through the pass and headed towards Merced which was the checkpoint for our first flyby. Once past the Gorman Pass, the terrain flattened out and all that lay ahead were green fields, haze and beckoning skies. The haze layer hung steadfast over the surface washing the fields below with gentle whitish hue. Staying high enough to avoid the airspace below and slightly above the haze layer, we made it to Merced in good time for lunch. The first flyby at Merced called for a pass at 350 feet MSL at full throttle over the adjacent taxiway. Grace finally acceded after realizing that the elevation of the airport was 156 feet and we nudged closer to 350 feet and sped down the taxiway at 110 knots. I could feel the rush inside me as my heartbeat quickened. This was racing indeed!
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