Tuesday, July 7, 2009
The Golden Hour
Honoring a fallen friend
Up to this point, my experiences in Carbon Slipper always had been exciting and thrilling, mixed in with the fear that comes with test-flying, racing and dealing with emergencies. The aircraft has no cushions or air vents. It’s extremely loud, and I have to scrunch down to keep from hitting my head on the canopy. There’s a lot of vibration—in fact, it’s the most uncomfortable aircraft I’ve ever flown. That said, during a race, I’m usually so busy watching other aircraft and keeping the engine from tearing itself apart at 4,300 rpm, that I rarely notice the discomfort. This flight, however, was different. For the first time, I was able to relax and enjoy the light controls, the carefully balanced prop, the incredibly low drag (a bit of a challenge in formation) and the gorgeous view. Every once in a while, I’d clear the engine, because most of the flight was at 1,800 rpm and I didn’t want the carb to ice up, but I didn’t detect any problems with that. The fuel tank holds 8.3 gallons, and the engine at full throttle can burn about 12 gph, but since I was trying to go slow enough for Avid, we were able to stay up for more than 45 minutes, and I still had plenty of fuel left after landing.
Once Jim was satisfied with the pictures, he waved me off, and I had a chance to play a little. I pushed the throttle back up and shot away from the photo ship to feel the speed and hear the roar of the racer again. After a gratifying greaser landing, I shut down and sat for a few minutes soaking in what had just happened while I got the feeling back in my lower body. When the crew arrived to recover Carbon Slipper, there were smiles and handshakes all around for a successful flight. This was an enjoyable, strangely peaceful flight, and a chance for our whole team to honor a man we’ll never forget.
Ray Debs is a multi, single, glider, instrument and commercial pilot who lives in Boise, Idaho. Carbon Slipper N81XS is a custom Formula One aircraft. It placed 5th in Gold in 2006, clocking speeds up to 243 mph. It was going a bit faster in 2007. Visit www.aerophile.org.
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