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First Flight to "World Of Flight" – In One Big ol Hurry!

by Frank Pullano Jr.

[əd vénchər] noun (plural ad·ven·tures)
     1.  exciting experience:  an exciting or extraordinary event or series of events
     2.  bold undertaking:  an undertaking involving uncertainty and risk

nos·tal·gi·a [no stáljə, nə stáljə] noun
     1.  sentimental recollection:  a mixed feeling of happiness, sadness, and longing when recalling a person, place, or event from the past, or the past in general

Many reading this have set out on the adventure of building and flying your own airplane. You have taken your admirable task a step further and built a rather strange and exiting airplane - you built a canard pusher. Tackling this daunting endeavor head on demonstrates that among the words defined above, you are indeed sanctified with scores of fine skills and some - well - serious tenacity.  Of course, there are many of us that have taken part in a canard project and or simply purchased the results of another’s sweat and skills.  I am a member of the latter group.  I purchased a VariEze.

You may be a member of both categories of aforementioned pilots but I'm willing to lay a wager that we all fly canards for comparable reasons. We simply love the sexy lines, the higher performance, the efficiency, and the unique design. Either way, at one time we found the prospect of owning and operating an EZ as a distant and magnificent dream. So, how best to share your dream with others?  Well, I was introduced to a very special event that couples the grass roots of aviation to the modern advances in today's technology. The event - The AirVenture Cup Race.

This year marked the 5th running of the Air Venture Cup attached to the 50th Anniversary of the EAA's Fly in (Oshkosh). The race is a 1000 mile cross country race with a start launching out of Kitty hawk NC, an overnight Pit stop in Dayton OH, followed by a feral finish at Oshkosh.  I'm confident no one reading this article requires a history lesson but for the benefit of those who do, I'll touch on the significance of each location. 

Of course, Kitty Hawk was the site (sort of) of the Wright Brother's first flight nearly 100 years ago.  Dayton is the hometown of Orville and Wilbur (two names which have thankfully faded into history), and of course Oshkosh, the home to our very own EAA and the annual convention colloquially known as AirVenture.

So let's get into the nuts and bolts, the pros and cons of the race as an event.  The cons...  Give me a second...  No, better give me a minute...  You know, there aren't any adverse points to the race unless you really despise finger and nose prints on your canopy… come to think of it, there is a $150 entry fee. 

The Pros:  Rob Martinson (Race 66 - 1st Place Sprint Class) got it right when he said "Think V.I.P." The $150 entry fee pales against the shower of perks bestowed upon our flock.  Eric Whyte and his band of merry men led the event.  Eric’s small army of exceptionally competent and enthusiastic volunteers kept us fed with great food and drink (both soft and the frosty gold variety); there were banquets, awards, laughs, and a week's worth of admission to the big show.  The staff even filed, activated and closed our flight plans. They handled virtually every conceivable logistical obstacle imaginable.  We had priority arrivals and departures any time we flew in either the air show showcases or photo sorties. There wasn’t any of that “Ripon/Fisk” foolishness for the racers. We were parked directly on show center with our very own hospitality tent including cold refreshments that thankfully remained available for the entire convention.  We each received a wonderful award just for flying the course.  1st through 3rd place in each class received a trophy with their name, plane and time engraved as if a monument.  There was a gorgeous race program with a full-page write-up on each plane and flight crew.  The list could go on, but those are many of the high points. 

The term RACE seems to turn most folks away from the event, as many people do not wish to push beyond their comfort level. The good news - you don't have to.  The race is becoming a family event. There were nine father and son teams, and three husband and wife teams. Sure, the spirit of competition was in the air (mostly between the glass and aluminum camps), but safety, camaraderie, and just plain old fun were the orders of the day. Some pilots flew on the deck, and some in the flight levels; it is up to you and your style.  I felt rushed on a few occasions and each time I profoundly stated my signature “If I don’t have enough time to preflight – I don’t have enough time to fly!”   My personal goal set (in no particular order) was to finish the race, to make my first trip to "Air Mecca", to see some old friends and to make some new ones. I achieved all of the above and so much more!  I wanted to see Kitty Hawk; I wanted to see the Convention.  Turns out we not only saw these places, we were all enveloped by the ambiance of the experience, as we became a part of the show.

If you made the trip to AirVenture, you may have met up with five of your fellow Canardians at show center.  Let's see, there was Jay Blum in his Long-EZ, Tim & Wendy Freeze in their Cozy III, Rob Martinson in his notoriously speedy VariEze and then of course there was Lil old me.  Within our group I found something rather appealing.  We (the Canardians) had a connection that none of the other pilots seemed to have.  The RVs, The Lancairs, The Glassairs were sociable folks, but they just didn't seem to have that bond.  We made a point to park all four canards together in the race area - it was important to me anyway. I suppose I'm trying to say that my experience was enormously gratifying as things went and I could imagine how much more wonderful it could be if we were able to show more canards in the pit next year.  Now before you say it - I did talk with many people on the Canard Aviator's Email List and members of CSA.  Most of you seemed to have an interest in the race but I heard the same statement each time.  "But my airplane isn't very fast."  NEWS FLASH - neither is mine.  In fact, most of you have much faster airplanes than I do.  The point is, you are invited to be part of something very special indeed.  In my very humble opinion, there simply isn't a more appropriate method to illustrate your passion and love for aviation.

Next year's race (July 2003) will occur during the Centennial of powered flight. I just can’t think of a better way to share my dream?  Don’t miss out.  Yea, like I said before when I started this article, two words sum it all up - adventure and nostalgia!


Race Results for canards:
Formula FX Class:
4th Place - Jay Blum             Long-EZ   - 216.13 Mph
7th Place - Tim & Wendy Freeze   Cozy III  - 181.70 Mph

Sprint Class:
1st Place - Rob Martinson        VariEze  - 192.49 Mph
3rd Place - Frank Pullano Jr     VariEze  - 164.35 Mph


-Frank Pullano Jr
 Mondary Veze N500EZ