Tuesday, June 23, 2009

And Our Race Handicap Is....

Ok, so as a new airplane never having been entered in a race before, we had no idea what our handicap would be. Every airplane is given a handicap based on expected performance. For example, when Amy and I raced in 2007 our handicap was 108 knots in a Cessna 172R model. At race power we were usually getting about 120 knots. So that gave us a 12 point buffer to work with.

One the way out the Denver we were seeing a true airspeed of about 140 knots. Our indicated airspeed was around 130 knots. With the headwinds, our groundspeed was only about 125 knots. We were also flying at higher elevations than we normally do (normal being 3000 ft, this flight we had to climb to 7000 ft just to be at pattern altitude). It was also in the upper 90's, so the density altitude was very high. With all these numbers, it was hard for us to figure what would be a good handicap. The not knowing was killing us!

To determine the handicap for the Diamond, it had to have a test flight. Jessica and I got up early Sunday morning to head out to the airport with an Air Race Official and do the 30 minutes flight. It was described to us as flying a really big pattern. They would take into account density altitude, winds, true airspeed, and we were to be in race configuration. Only one of us could go for the test flight. I was trying to get over a bit of a head cold so Jessica was the test pilot. The flight was uneventful. Jessica was even able to take some nice shots of the Denver mountains. Upon landing, we were told that we would have to wait until that evening to find out our handicap.
That evening we had the takeoff banquet. It was a nice dinner. We sat with the team from Kansas State, who was excited to find that I knew their Aviation Department Chair, Dr. Barnhardt. We also sat with the team from Minnesota. The pilot had just graduated high school and already had enough flight time to get her commercial. Pretty impressive.

The dinner included recognizing of all the volunteers, and then each team came up for an introduction. It was nice to meet and talk to some really interesting females in aviation.

But finally we got to what we'd been waiting to hear ever since we knew we were entering the Diamond - our handicap. Our handicap is 123.59 knots.

Me and Jessica at the banquet.

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