2010 marks the 32nd annual Okie Derby and the 4th consecutive year for Team Wild Mama.
Follow the team from FL to OKC and back in a challenging but very fun event!

Okie Derby Photos

Pre-race Preparations: With less than one week before the Okie Derby, Wild Mama has had a malfunction. We had been extremely happy with the new fuel flow transducer and were remarking on its accuracy .... that is, up until it failed on Sunday on the way home from TN. Vern has ordered a new transducer that will be installed on Tuesday but that leaves precious little time to get the proper calibration before leaving for OKC. How will this impact the race? Stay tuned to find out.

OD101.jpgDeparture Eve:  Vern got the new fuel flow sensor installed and Terry made a trip to the Keys for a test out. The sensor is working and fairly accurate. We need more testing but with no time, it will be tested tomorrow enroute.

We hit another small (furry) snag: it seems that Miss Stubby caught wind of the planned departure when Terry laid out her clothes for the next day. Stubby proudly pronounced: "So you think you are wearing this tomorrow???" Busted again!

Westward Bound: Wild Mama was airborne shortly after 0600, departing in a crystal clear pre-dawn sky. While we were in the clear we could see the build-up off to the eastOD102.jpg through the haze of sunrise. The burning orange sun reflected in the smattering of clouds off to our west producing a pleasant mix of primary colors in the sky.
As we neared Cross City there was an ominous buildup ahead of us sporting severe to extreme precipitation and convective activity. We diverted to Greenville to avoid the monstere ahead of us and soon enough got back to the relatively clear skies filled with the Florida summer haze.
By the time we approached Andalusia, the ground was solidly covered with fog and we began to look at landing alternatives and approaches. We were set to visit Linda at Quincy, Clarke Co, MS. She is always great to visit and this has come to be a semi regular stop on the route to OKC. However, with the cloud deck approaching unapproachable, and there being no approach at Clarke Co, our option might be Meridian with 200 and 1/2 on the ILS and the WAAS approaches to runway 1.
Things stayed pretty much fogged in until we approached Clarke County when the fog broke apart just ahead of us. We dropped down in for a visual landing on 16 and we were met OD103.jpgby the always cheerful Linda, the airport manager for the last 10 years. It is always a pleasure to sit and chat with Linda for a bit before heading on. We got the cheapest fuel in the south, checked the oil and realized we needed to add more than what we had in the plane. As Linda was out of oil, we dashed off to Key Airport to the north in Meridian MS. A quick stop for oil, a hotdog, an amended flight plan and "the friendliest FBO in the south" and we were back in the air on the way to OKC.
The speed coming in to Clarke Co had dropped off significantly from our departure speeds but we managed to find the wind avoidance altitude heading more westerely now and managed to stay in the 140's for a bit. Anything above 140 when we have a headwind is good.
It seems we were just here not too long ago but heading east. . . Perhaps we are passing ourselves coming and going. We have managed to avoid the flooded areas. Everything here in MS looks lush and green and was not suffering any ill effects at all from the flood waters that have ravaged other areas nearby.
Somewhere near Broken Bow Lake we hear a familiar tail number. N836TB was out flying around. The voice was familiar and Vern remembered Joyce Wilson as the pilot of this aircraft. We said a quick hello from Classic Racer 11 to Classic Racer 24. It is fun to hear our friends out and about.
N826J soon chimed in. Hmmmm, that sounds like Mae Marquet heading toward OKC, too. We heard her get handed off to 128.1 and figured we could get the same. We did not. We remained on the same frequency until we were handed off to OKC approach. As we signed on with approach, we heard Mae get handed off to PWA tower. We would have to wait to see her as we were stopping at Perry for some more cheap fuel - $3.46/gallon as opposed to over $5.00 at PWA. While the price of the fuel was good the fuel flow sensor is stll not up to par. We will have to wing it tomorrow.

By now the winds were howling and we had a 40 kt crosswind. We came in to land at Perry and the wind on the ground was 190 at 19 gusting to 26. We came in on runway 13 andOD104.jpg made the first attempt as a go around. We made it in on the second try but it was a fight to the finish. The run to PWA was quick. Throttled back we were whipping along at 160 kts, dropped in to PWA and started to see all of our friends again.

There are quite a few racers here – Mae Marquet, Vicki Hut, Trish Minard, Janet Yoder and Jeanette Hackler – plus the complement of OKC 99s: always a  lively bunch! We attended the briefing, got the route and headed back to the hotel for the plotting and planning. Race day starts early tomorrow morning.

Derby Day:We needed no paw to awaken us this morning: the excitement of the Derby Day was sufficient; but 0500 came early. We wandered downstairs for breakfast at the hotel but it was not yet time so Vern and I wandered out to the local Circle K for some cappuccino. Luck was on my side as this one had a favorite: cinnamon flavored. The second luckyOD203.jpgsign came just a minute later: a lucky peny - heads up - at the car door. My penny from heaven from Mario. It was his way of saying "Good Luck" to Vern and I this morning. Back at the hotel, we met up with Trish, Janet Yoder, Vickie and Rocky, another racer, for some pre-race banter.

The briefing was brief - the OK 99s have this down to a science. A twist this year was introduced: scavenger hunt like questions to make sure we cover the whole route. This should be interesting. All 24 race teams headed for the planes and the first plane was off shortly after 0800. Our turn, as Okie Racer 4 came about 10 minutes later. We had 1:34:17 to make trip and we estimated 22.1 gallons of fuel for Wild Mama. We hope it is OK. The winds will be high aloft and they will be shifting making the time element difficult to master.

Our first check point at Guthrie came quick. With a tailwind, we were lke greased lightening to get there; made the flyby then could not count the number of tanks without a safety compromise being unfamiliar with the area, the town and the surroundings; plus there was other traffic in the area. We wrote 3 and moved on. This was not to count against the score; it was to prove you were there. We had SPOT on so we can prove we were there. Flyby 2 was at Prauge. We hadOD202.jpgto count the number of stacks on the power plant enroute to Prauge so the flyby there was quick and easy...then came the headwinds. At one point on the next leg to Purcell, we were flying 108 kts with a 38 kt headwind. Oh, no. We are falling fast behind in our time but there is nothing we can do at this point lest we mess up the fuel burn. We press on.

Now on this long slow leg we are looking for writing on the water tower. How many tower have the city name written on them? Well, there are 4 water towers but we are too far and it is far too bumpy to read the farthest tower. Oh nuts: no time to go look. WE make our last 2 flybys at Purcell and Andarka and turn for the home stretch, picking up the full 30 kts of tailwind. Now, like greased lightening again we pass our target time and are running way early. We drop the gear, deploy the flaps and get the time a bit back in sync. Coming in to Wiley Post, we check the altimeter setting and adjust upward, necessitating a drop in our altitude to remain below the Class C airspace. Now we pick up too much time. We re-deploy everything but it is time to call the tower. Flaps to 20 degrees; then 40 degrees. We are still too fast. Time to practice slow flight. We make a VERY square pattern to kill as much time as possible. Nose up, the stall warning goes of as the airspeed drops below 50 kts. Time! Too early. We blew it: we are 25 seconds too fast. OK, nothing we can do about that now. We check our fuel burn and have only .2/gallon to land, par and shut down. "Cleared to land 17L" We are already low and slow so we cut a tight pattern and drop in using as little fuel as possible and make a quick taxi in, shutting down as soon as the starter gives us the sign. We are done.

The other racers ahead of us have parked and we watch as the fueling is accomplished. Okie Racer 3 is the one to beat. The Townsend brothers are good and consistent. They have won before. The are .1 gallons off of their estimate. That is tough to beat. t is our turn. Vern and I confer in case the meter is EXACTLY half way between 2 numbers. We agree on "down" and Vern gets to work fueling. We verify 00.0 and he begins.  I stand by listening to the drone of the fuel pump. Vern must fill her up completely and be verified before they reveal our actual usage. I am getting nervous as it seems to be taking a long time and it MUST be using more than 22.1 gallons. *SIGH*  The fuel judges lifted the towel and are OD201.jpgconferring. DO they get a call or not. No. It is clearly just below the half-way line to the next number. They ask our estimate and reveal. Twenty-two point one. We are dead on the money and quite pleased; but is it enough. Our time is not good. We watch other racers, including Trish and Vicki, as they come in. Nothing else we can do but eat.

Cirrus sponsored a BBQ Lunch at Atlantic Aviation and we are hot and hungry so it was the perfect thing. We head over there with the other racers not being able to bear watching all of the others coming in. Three of the first nine racers are .1 gallon plus us. This year will be tight. We hear many racers complaining about their poor times; but then some are only 4 or 5 seconds out. Gulp!

Dinner and the awards banquet is this evening. We have to wait.OD206.jpg

OD205.jpgThe Okie Derby was a tribute to Bob this year - Phyl's husband who pased away in January. He and Phyl started the race 32 years ago. t is also the opportunity to award a $5000 Oklahoma 99s scholarship, this yeaaaar awarded to Susanna Hayworth. We found 8 Air Race Classic racers at the banquet: Trish Minard, Janet Yoder, Vicki Hunt, Mae Marquet, Jeanette Hackler, Wyvema Startz and Charli Lamb. Then came theOD204.jpg awards ...... Team Wild Mama did well: Best 99; Best Out of State; Best Fuel (Tied) and Second Place overall. I was a good night!


Heading home: Although the morning here in OKC was stellar, there were storms already in Mississippi and they were forecast to build. We wanted to make a quick VFR departure OD301.jpgbut with the best winds in the higher altitudes, IFR was required. We mapped a quick route, filed and managed to get off the ground with our clearance by 0630 local time. With an 8 hour trip home, it was still "late" as it puts us in the pile of afternoon thunderstorms through FL.
The sunrise snuck up on us through the distant morning haze then came out with a vengeance almost blinding us instantly. We were sporting a nice little tailwind and cooking along around 160 kts ground speed giving us 4 hours until our planned stop at Andalusia. Checking the weather ahead, we see that the rains storms through MS are relatively light but FL is already a mass of colors on the radar. We may, or may not make it back home this afternoon.
The weather, haze and tailwinds were holding out through Arkansas. The radio remained relatively quiet as there were not too many planes out plying around IFR on this beautiful morning. We were commenting on the radio being quiet. We waited for our hand off from one sector of Memphis Center to another it never came but we waited. Finally near Star City, AR another aircraft contacted us to advise that ATC lost contact with us and to contact Memphis Center on 135.875. We regained contact without incident but it was strange that we never received a call as the radios were working perfectly well and we did not fall asleep!
We were anticipating a shift in the wind as we approached Alabama but it looks like it came a bit early more on the west side of Mississippi. That is way too early as it cut our speed between 5-8 kts with 2 hours remaining on this leg. We were aiming for a long first leg to get past any storms that might blow up and to get as close to FL as possible before having to put down for adverse weather. It is still too early to tell what the outcome of the afternoon storm dodging will bring. Then we made our usual milestone: crossing the Mississippi River at 2:12 into our journey. This section of river is looking so familiar now as many times as we have crossed in this particular spot. There is one lone massive barge pushed by aOD302.jpg tug heading down river but another smaller vessel farther to the north. Many barges are at the mouth of the inlet to Greenville and some are moored up to the sides. You could see the tugs working the moored barges, pushing hard to keep them lined up against he sides.
We made an uneventful approach into Andalusia. The gas price is great - only $3.77 - but I had forgotten why I do not top here on Sunday as a general rule: the airport FBO was closed. It was not closed to all except those with the secret code. It was closed, closed. No bathrooms, no computer, no phones, no facilities. There was not even an exterior port- o-john, so we improvised with the "note to self" to send a PIREP to AIRNAV to warn future pilots. We were re-filed and back in the air in no time for the last leg to LaBelle. We climbed OD303.jpgout through some scattered clouds at 5,000'. The weather was still looking good except right at home; but there is another 2.5 hours to go.
Our cloud-free condition crease at Crystal River and we bumped our way through a small patch of clouds, thinking that would be it for a while; but the monster lurked on the other side. As we emerged from the first build up the larger one was off our right wing. We took up the suggested heading if 125 degrees and ran parallel to the worst of the build ups for about 40 miles. ATC called to ask if we needed help or if we were OK on our own. We are making a go on our own with 2 Nexrad systems and a storm scope on board. We can always ask for assistance if we need it.

Tampa said it was looking clear south of Lakeland. I am not sure what radar he was looking at but mine did not concur. Although we made the meander through the cloud to Lakeland in fine fashion – it actually looked much worse than it was – the plethora of colors lighting the NEXRAD all over the southwest Florida area was a bit more concern: more reds and oranges and lightening. We pressed on, seeing that Punta Gorda and Arcadia were both in the clear to come back and land if need be.

We were handed off to Miami and we requested the GPS 14 approach in to LaBelle. Miami deferred that request until we got with Fort Myers approach. Fort Myers gave us theOD304.jpg approach with the QUNCY transition. We look at the NEXRAD and see a hole open up in our path. We hope it stays open. As we descend down below the cloud deck we can see the downpour below; and, sure enough, we only have light rain in our path. We set up for the approach and watch as a wall of water steadily marches toward us at the departure end of the runway. A missed approach would not be possible – we have to stick the landing…and we did. Home at last.

Wild Mama will go in to the shop for a while now – her spark plugs need replacing and there are some other minor squawks that need attention. Stubby is happy to have Mommy home for a while – let the purrfest begin!