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2008 Air Race Classic 'flight log'

June 26, 2008

by Meghan Burlager and Betsy Taylor

FRANKLIN, Pa.--Greetings from Pennsylvania. We only finished one leg today, which was frustrating, but that is all most of the racers were able to do, so we don't feel too bad.

The weather out of Frankfort, Ky., finally broke at about 10 a.m., so we were able to take off for Franklin. The weather turned to crap quickly, and it was an interesting ride. It was our longest leg by far, and it was a stressful one.

The clouds moved down quickly and turned into a broken layer low enough that we had to fly lower than we usually do on a normal day in Michigan. Betsy was flying this leg and had to dive down quickly to find a hole so we wouldn't be above an overcast sky, which is illegal under FAA regulations.

There was traffic at our altitude--no one could be higher or lower because of the terrain and clouds--and right in our path. We had to be extra vigilant to find traffic through the thick haze. Our traffic advisory was constantly chirping at us because of nearby traffic, and it was a stressful ride. Coming into Franklin (named for Benjamin Franklin, of course), it was difficult to find the airport. It's nestled in a little valley, and you can't see it at lower altitudes until you are right above it.

Luckily, the only other plane out of the 32 other competitors that is faster than us, a Cirrus SR-22, screamed ahead of us, and we followed it to the airport. At least we didn't have to worry about overtaking them on the flyby, they were much faster than us. Traffic was crazy as always in the pattern. Coming back to Battle Creek will feel like a piece of cake.

We got into Franklin at about noon, and sadly, we are still here. Our motherbirds joined us for lunch to wait out some weather along our route.

Some teams decided to leave. We recently heard that the conditions into Saratoga Springs, N.Y., were too poor that they had to either divert, or were disqualified for filing an instrument approach to land.

Thank goodness we didn't leave, although we were tempted by our weatherman and our own desire to continue. Instead, we stuck it out with about 20 other teams. The deciding factor was when we realized that the four teams based out of Pennsylvania were in "no way heading out in this weather." The Pennsylvanians know what happens mid-day in the summer here, and we felt we should listen to them. Good choice. After about an hour, it began storming.

Hopefully, the weather will be favorable on our last day, and we will make it into Mansfield, Mass., safe and sound, and without being disqualified. The deadline to arrive in Mansfield is 5 p.m. Friday [June 27]. The results will be announced Sunday night at the closing banquet.

We were told today by Margeret, the first female WWII pilot, that having the courage to enter a race such as this makes us all winners. A little cheesy and Ms America-ish, but it still makes us feel good about ourselves.

Meghan Burlager and Betsy Taylor
#32 on the tail and #1 in your hearts

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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