Home of Wasabi Air Racing

Elliot Seguin and Jenn Whaley's Formula One class air race team based out of Mojave, California. Pylon racing at the National Championship Air Races in Reno Nevada. Eight airplanes racing head to head around telephone poles in the desert. Mojave is the best place on the planet to build and modify a race plane, and Wasabi is lucky to have the best support in the business.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The polished wing of a fighter

By Elliot Seguin

The mission was simple, bounce the Tiger down to Chino to spend the afternoon with a couple friends from Allied Fighters and some steaks.  Jennifer had arranged it all, and distracted by work I hadn’t heard much after BBQ.  We left Mojave at 12:15 and taxied up to our friends hangar at 1:30 or so (otherwise a four hour drive, aren’t airplanes awesome).   I was met by a bit of a surprise; their mustang which usually sits casually under the cover of the hangar, was sitting on the ramp with that come hither look.  I tried not to let my imagination run away, but soon the cat was out of the bag –  today would be my first time in a mustang (a birthday gift from Jennifer).  
Allied Fighters' Mustang
Left foot on left tire, right foot on outer gear door bracket, right foot on the polished wing of a fighter.  Sitting in the airplane I noticed how high my perch was, like driving a car from a bar stool on the roof, it makes the airplane look much smaller.  Visibility was blocked maybe ±5ยบ on centerline, not much worse than Wasabi and better than an NXT.  Starter engaged, even with such a big airplane (~8,000 lbs) it was clear serious power had been summoned somewhere when the starter cranked those paddles over – as my dad would say “she sure swings a big hammer”.   The engine running and along came that ornery Merlin idle sound…this was going to be good.  We called the tower and were taxiing, king of the airport.  Mag check was done at 2300 rpm; the recently overhauled Roush Merlin seemed much happier at this power setting. I took advantage of the bubble canopy and looked over my shoulder at the small trees being pummeled by our wake, awesome!  As we came back on the power to taxi for departure, the Ornery Merlin idle was back, but I was now used to the bigger power settings and wanted them back.  

Took the centerline, on the brakes – the motor was happy again.  Two power advances, ~2300 rpm was good, but her older sister came over her shoulder 3000 rpm and 35 inches and things seemed to be falling into place.  Off the brakes and 45 inches, we are rolling and this new power setting was good; I thought, ‘well, there it is the big fighter power I have been imagining’, thinking that would be all the power I’d get today.  50 inches came next, on this fourth power setting he overshot, I think for my benefit. We topped at 55 inches and 3000 rpm, and the acceleration was phenomenal.  In wartime 61inches was used for take-off power, but gas is expensive and 55 is 10 more inches than the accepted minimum for safe take-off, thank you Jeff.  The acceleration pulled my smile tighter as we broke ground and I heard the hydro mechanical rumbles associated with the undercarriage finding its home in the wing root.  Shortly there after my new sweetheart, 55 inches, was replaced by 46 inches and 2700 rpm (METO) and it was all downhill from there.  After we got out of the pattern 32 inches and 2600 rpm gave us a cruise of 295 knots, and Roush’s motor ran like a sewing machine through an arsenal of mild aerobatics.  The available energy was impressive, afterall it’s a fighter.  I was tickled to hear the first of the common Mustang stall indicators at the top of a lazy 8, the scoop howl.  It was lower frequency than I expected and it reminded me that I was sitting on the radiator, so I reached down and could feel that warm Packard built horsepower weeping through the aluminum under my seat, grr.

The hop rounded out with the fantastic rap of the mains hitting their down locks (I felt the lateral acceleration in my seat).  The work load of the landing seemed to spike about the time the tailwheel was settling into the pavement and the air speed was barely indicating. It was a good day.  It may not have burner and wheel pants like white knight one, and it may not have been built to wrap around pylons, but I think I get why the guys like to take her dancing, and it was a darn good birthday present.