WMU News

2001 Air Race Classic 'flight log'

by Jo-Elle Warner

June 20, 2001

FORT SUMNER, N.M. -- Grettings from Fort Sumner, New Mexico (home of Billy the Kid's tomb)! Michelle and I safely arrived here last night via Hot Springs, Ark., and Pratt, Kan. The trip has been so much fun and a great learning experience.

Yesterday, we departed Fayetteville, Tenn., for the 324 nautical mile leg to Hot Springs.

We have a most exciting story to share with you. We were cruising along, and Memphis Center asked us if we'd ever seen a C-130 from 10,500 feet (our current altitude). We replied, "not as of yet." We were told to wait one minute and look 500 feet low and to our left. Sure enough, she came into view and what an awesome sight she was. In our excitement, we didn't even think to take a photo until she was almost beneath us, so we'll see if she shows up in the photos.

Hot Springs was a quick layover due to forecast weather. We stretched our legs and then got in the air again for a bumpy 335 nm leg to Pratt, Kan. Here we were greeted with 20,000+ beef cattle on the approach to our runway. Thank goodness we were upwind from them! We did get fuel here and even took the courtesy car into town for a bite to eat.

With more storms on the way, we decided to go on to Fort Sumner, N.M. Looking at today's radar, that was a good call as there are storms in the area from which we just came.

We had a nice overnight here in Fort Sumner at Billy the Kid Country Inn. Our gracious hosts, Gary and Elaine (owners/operators/tenants for 23 years), picked us up at the airport and even gave us the two-minute car tour of the town. As Michelle was landing here last night, we saw something on the runway that we thought might be a coyote. Turns out, it was just the local tumbleweed. FYI: it was dark.

The plan for today is to fly the 233 nm leg to Gallup, N.M., and then fly the 167 nm leg to Williams, Ariz. We anticipate some high flying on these legs for terrain clearance. Thanks to Mary Creason, veteran air racer of Grand Haven, Mich., [and WMU alumna] we have oxygen available to us for use at the high altitudes.

Tonight, at Williams, we will plan for our noon arrival tomorrow in to Phoenix Sky Harbor International, where we will meet with about 30 WMU alumni and friends.

This has absolutely been a fabulous adventure thus far. At every stop, the locals are very impressed with our racebird, one of WMU's five Mooney Ovations. She has been very good to us thanks to our excellent maintenance staff at Western.

We appreciate all of the prayers, encouragement, and inspiration. We'll be in touch. We're off to chase tailwinds and blue skies.

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Jo-Elle Warner is a flight instructor in College of Aviation and a graduate of the WMU aviation program. She and Michelle Homister, an April aviation graduate, are competing against more than 30 teams from around the nation in the 2001 Air Race Classic, June 26-30, beginning in San Diego and concluding four days and more than 2,200 miles later at Sporty's Airport in Batavia, Ohio.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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