The Hayward Proficiency Air Race

Copyright © 2001 Beth Christian

I flew the Hayward Proficiency Air Race in 4312R for the fourth year in a row. The word “race” is misleading, the word “proficiency” is not. This proficiency race provides an opportunity to practice aviation skills… cross country, planning, navigation (No GPS, DME), fuel consumption, whiz wheel, slow flight.

On Thursday we received our course complete with latitude / longitude. The route zig-zagged from Hayward to Bakersfield, then across the desert to Laughlin. Some checkpoints were easy (?) like San Luis Reservoir, others obscure like Kelso, a desert sand dune which has two towers …the second is only visible when one completely orbits this checkpoint.

7 a.m. Friday we received a weather briefing, coffee and sugary donuts. We handed in our time (seconds), fuel consumption (tenths of gallons). Whoever comes closest to their estimate wins. First plane was off at 9 a.m. Faster planes launch first, then slower ones. That hour before we start engines is the longest imaginable. The last 3 years I flew this race with Marilyn Schuyler. She and Jackson (2 weeks old) came to the airport to watch Anne (Marilyn’s substitute) and I take off.

After take off we headed for the first checkpoint, Turlock. Then we headed to San Luis Reservoir. We orbited the island off the boat ramp and with the binoculars spotted the water tank. There are questions about each checkpoint which must be correctly answered.

Using the stop watch to provide an accurate accounting of our elapsed time, we tried to cross the timing line at our exact estimate. Oops…We flew over that checkpoint a bit early without seeing it. The ground crew saw us fine as our race number 99 earned us the trophy for the best race numbers.

Landing at Laughlin was a challenge with 20 knot headwinds. I landed ahead of a 737, missed the first taxiway, and the tower kept requesting me to taxi faster (any faster and I would have taken off…) Later a tri pacer (not one of the air racers) declared an emergency, and made a dead stick landing. So that evening there was much to discuss in the hospitality room.

Saturday we relaxed with a boat tour on the river, while others flew over the Grand Canyon. That evening we enjoyed a superb buffet dinner and awards banquet. The evening ended with a concert by the Kingston Trio.

So, how did we do? We were right on our fuel consumption on the first leg, 3 gallons off on the second. We placed 27th out of 54. Our time was off by about 3 minutes for both legs. We had fun and Anne and I are still looking forward to our next race next month…a cross country from San Diego, CA to Battavia Ohio.

Sunday’s flight home was much faster. After fueling at Kaiser Air, both radios quit. I called the tower on my cell phone. They directed us halfway to the old T’s, cell battery died, we followed an airport truck the rest of the way.

They will do this again next year and y’all come! The Hayward Air Race committee does a superb job, keeps the cost down, provides a safe, fun event guaranteed to improve your piloting skills. We all got Wings seminar credit for flying the race. We had a super time, good flying, good food, great trophies…even a GPS was raffled at the banquet. Marilyn and I plan to race in 4312R. It would be great if all the club airplanes participated in this event. When you sign up, please tell them I referred you — they give awards for referrals.