Wow, what a ride!
It’s been quite some time since I’ve been outside the US, and it felt good to do some traveling. Walking into the salt mine alongside my dad for the first time was as surreal experience as everyone says it is. Pictures notwithstanding, nothing can prepare you for the sight of that distant, catwalk-lined ceiling. Similarly, nothing can prepare you for the fact that you can walk comfortably into the mine in a single long-sleeved shirt, but be shivering under three thick layers after six hours down there.
I arrived with enough time for three days of practice (Otto Hints + practice day) and found that while my planes flew fine, nothing would make them climb correctly. In the end, only one prop showed promise and needed a major modification to get it working correctly. High-ceiling cold weather flying is a different animal and requires clean climb trim to attain altitude as fast as possible during the power burst. I never did reach a satisfactory level there, but did at least manage to make it into the low 20’s. The whole process taught me much about flying F1D by revealing problems which simply do not emerge in warm, buoyant air.
My team mates, John and Brett, as well as Kang provided a great deal of help for this nervous newbie to the salt mine. I couldn’t have gotten to this level without them. Nick Ray did a great job as team manager, and Dad did a great job of keeping me fed and rested and reminding me to trim for the flying site rather than the way I normally fly.
This contest was truly the most exciting I have ever witnessed. Kang’s spectacular comeback from all his difficulties to become a two time world champion was simply amazing. I made friendships at this event which will last a lifetime and saw a truly beautiful part of the world. It was a true blessing to be part of it all, and I cannot wait for the next world championship in West Baden!
Finally, a big thank you to Bud Layne for his sponsorship of the US F1D team. His help was an unexpected and highly appreciated blessing for all of us.