Monday, July 27th, two days before the EAA AirVentureOshkosh 1998 convention even opened, the sound of airplanes atfull fury filled the air at Oshkosh Wittman field. Ten very special,very speedy airplanes wrestled for the finish line on the southend of runway 18-36, ending a 822 nautical mile cross countryrace.
Though there have been air races at Oshkosh before,this is the first year of the EAA-sponsored AirVenture Cup, arace designed to showcase experimental airplanes and recreatethe excitement of the old Bendix Trophy races that began in the30’s. Participants receive a special commemorative plaque andthe names of all the winners will be placed on the AirVentureCup, on permanent display in the EAA Air Museum.
Racers began at Manteo, North Carolina’s Dare Countyairport, swooping down the starting line on the runway at KittyHawk, North Carolina, aviation’s birthplace, then headed northacross rugged terrain, negotiating weather and special-use airspacealong the way. Each aircraft had to fly around a pylon at theAurora airport, near Chicago, then down the home stretch at Wittmanfield at Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the finish.
Three classes of experimental aircraft entered therace: Formula FX, comprised of any piston aircraft with an enginedisplacement of up to 360 cubic inches and fixed landing gear;included in this group were an RV-4, Long EZ, Skybolt and evena Whittman Tailwind.
Formula RG with he same engine displacement, butretractable gear. This was the smallest class with a GlassairIIS-RG and a Berkut, which suffered a gear collapse at the startof the race.
Finally, the Unlimited class, which, as the namehints, is open to any experimental aircraft of any power. Thisis where the Lancair IV-P’s, Questairs, and even a 2800 horseHawker Sea Fury thrashed it out with brute force and avgas. A2800 horse Sea Fury competing with the 300-400 horse Questairsand Lancairs?
About 150-200 spectators cheered the racers at thestart line at Kitty Hawk and an equal number met the racers atthe finish line in Oshkosh.
As you might expect, the mighty Sea Fury pilots byHoot Gibson crossed the finish line first in 3 hours, 11 minutesand 9 seconds, but the 420 horsepower Lancair IV-P, piloted byJim Rahm, was only 6 minutes behind the Hawker. A Long EZ, flownby Gus Sabo was first in the fixed gear FX division and ThomasTaylor, flying his Glassair IIS-RG was the uncontested winnerin the Formula RG class due to his only competitor’s misfortunewith the landing gear.
A special program will be held in the Theater inthe Woods on Wednesday evening, honoring the racers.
Unofficial Results (as of 7/8/98)
|Rutan Long EX (N20GJ)
|Vans RV-4 (N120CT)
|Riley Long EZ (1701X)
|Wittman Tailwind (N4JB)
|Glasair IIS-RG (N24TX)
|Hawker Sea Fury (N62143)
|Robert (Hoot) Gibson
|Lancair IV-PLC-30 (N420HP)
|Questair Venture (N48VR)