My local airport is going through it’s annual change from a semi-average uncontrolled airport to the site of the National Championship Air Races. This change begins every year in the end of August. The permanent grandstands are joined by four sets of temporary bleachers. The area behind the grandstands slowly fills with vendor tents for everything from t-shirts to DVDs and dog earmuffs. Then the last few days before the races start, the food vendors fill all empty spaces, selling bbq, corn on the cob, hamburgers, hot dogs and all the requisite stuff on a stick and goop in a cup.
This year the airport manager has added more to the mix by scheduling some repaving of taxiways on the airport. This has not been just a project adding a layer of asphalt on top of the existing taxiway, but has involved digging down to the base layer, recompacting and then paving up to the previous level. Half of the airport was done three weeks ago and the half I am on has been in progress for the past two weeks.
It was pretty obvious that I wasn’t getting my plane out of the hanger during the process. We were advised that the project was going to prevent aircraft movement and were given the option of parking out on the ramp if we needed to use our planes. Since I have just spent the past month polishing the fuselage, I had no desire to leave it out in the elements.
Unfortunately, the mix they were to lay down as pavement didn’t pass the quality control test, so the project came to a standstill last Thursday, leaving this view for the past 4 days. Wonder of wonders, when I got to the hanger this morning, the paving was complete, so recently that it was still a bit sticky to walk to my hanger door. They ran up and down the new pavement with rollers for most of the morning. As I understand, tomorrow they make relief cuts and do some striping and then we will be back in business. Now all I need to do is finish my annual. I just talked to my IA and scheduled for September 1st. Yeah, that’s a while away, but I have a 7-day trip to Japan and Taipei that leaves Saturday. Besides, that gives me another full month on the annual, since they’re good through the last day of the month in which they are completed.
As I was leaving the airport the other day, I spied one of the home town Air Race favorites peaking out of it’s hanger. Rare Bear (Race 77) was purchased a couple of years ago by Rod Lewis of Houston, but he has elected to keep it hangered here in Reno and have LOTS of work done to it. Before it raced last year it had been completely overhauled. This year the crew has stripped it of all paint and bondo (considerable bondo according to airport rumors).
From the view in the photo it almost looks like a composite fuselage now. You can still see the old paint scheme on the rudder with the first of the 7s partially visible. I was sent a drawing of the proposed new paint scheme by one of the team members but was asked not to post it because the details of the final version have not yet been decided. It’s enough to know that it will not be the same as last year’s design which was often described as ‘sperm chasing a pilot.’
This picture is from the 2007 race season, “borrowed” from the Rare Bear Race Team website (now Rod Lewis’ Legends website) . Photo credit is shown in the larger version. Clicking on the small photo will take you to the larger version.
The in-progress photo was taken on August 1st, three weeks ago. At least a half dozen cars are at the Bear’s hanger every day and I see them cooking meals on a BBQ set-up each evening, so progress is continuous. I believe that they’ll be ready for the races, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the paint was still wet during the qualifying runs.