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2017 STIHL National Championship Air Races on NBC Sports – Part 2 of 3

NBC Sports Network created a program that takes viewers behind the scenes and into the cockpits of the 2017 STIHL National Championship Air Races. This program originally aired April 8, 2018.

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Written by Bill Muszala

The T-6 Race Association has been directly engaged in Air Racing for many years now and through those years there has been a continuous effort to establish and enforce a set of rules and guidelines that will first of all keep safety at the for front and allow creative minor modifications to increase speed without compromising safety. Our rules are published on our website and can be down loaded for a hard copy if required. Now as I mentioned we have rules and we have guidelines and the enforcement or let’s say the “Encouraging Body” is called our Tech Committee, the Tech Committee is responsible for adherence to the rules and guidelines, but their main focus is on safety. Now you might ask why or how a Race Association is able to keep up with the creativity of its racing members, and that’s because we have a trained inspection staff that all have a tremendous amount of T-6 hands on experience. Nate Martin is currently our Chief Inspector, Nate is a T-6 pilot, rated as a 737 Captain, and flies in Alaska for a living. Nate also has a lot of DC-6 experience and has been on the other side of the fence as his father raced in the past for several years and Nate has been on our Tech team for at least 8 years. Rob Wissler is our number two man, and Rob also served on Nate’s Dad’s race crew and has an extensive background in auto racing. If an issue or a problem is discovered the Tech Committee reports to the T-6 Race Association Board, and I as a Board Member directly involved with Tech, analyze the issue and discuss with the Tech inspector and if we cannot resolve the issue, then as we have in the past we involve the entire Board to come up with a solution. Our inspections are conducted in a fashion as if you were doing an annual inspection except there are certain areas that get more than a glance over for example, it has been reported that in the past people’s creativity shaved their fuselage to wing attachment blocks to alter the angle of incidents of the wing relative to the fuselage as T-6 tend to fly nose down in cruise, and if you change the angle of incidents it reportedly makes the wings flatter and therefore increases the speed and we all know that speed is King in racing. Now I should mention that several of our racing T-6 are approaching 250 M.P.H. on the course on a regular basis, Nick Massy, Dennis Buehn, and last year’s winner John Lomar, all have been very competitive in their quest for being first. Some of their modifications involve Bondo of the wings to make them smoother within our rules of course, propeller modification within our rules of course, and lots of other clever changes to the airframe such as limiting the amount of air passing through the aircraft and even placing rubber Gap seals in their wheel wells again within the rules of course. Now for myself I prefer the not so traditional approach to Air Racing my goal in 2017 and I achieved that goal, was to be last, not first, but last. So let me explain, last year was our first year racing in our new class called, The Classic Class, no more Bronze or even Medallion, but a whole new class with new rules, that way a completely stock airplane could race and be competitive. The Classic rules are written to prevent modification to the airframe, engine, and propeller. It’s a perfect Class for those of us who want to race, but do not want to spend the money or the immense time and devotion it requires to be up with the 250 Boys, but at the same time we are racing. In other words, we have two sets of rules for the Real Racers and the Classic Racers, it’s actually very simple, in fact all the required safety equipment is the same only before you enter in the Tech Inspection you have to decide which class you’re going to race in, Classic or modified within our rules. Then you sit back and apply some wax and your set to go. Last year we had 6 Classic Racers and all of us had a great time, Mike Pfleger and Ralph Rina set the pace for the Classic Class as they are both very experienced T-6 Race Pilots and I might add very competitive with each other, their best of friends except when it comes to the winner getting to ride one the Harrah’s Fire Truck, that’s what so great about our association, we all compete, but we seem to all stay friends for the most part, but then that is why we all love T-6’s isn’t it? All of us T-6 people share the same love for “The Trainer of Trainers.” Well, back to the Races as they say. Our Classic Class hopefully will allow an entry level opportunity to gain experience and at the same time save some money as again it is geared for Stock everyday T-6’s. When I say T-6’s, that includes Harvard’s and my favorite SNJ’s ,we changed the rules from what you are able to change to what you’re not able to change, but as I mentioned all the safety equipment required for the T-6 Class is included. Our forms are basic however, the Inspection is very thorough, the Tech Team are there to ensure the safety aspects have been covered , but they may also point out items you will need to fix before new year’s rolls around. Now my experience with the Class has been nothing short of exciting, I was invited to be part of the Tech Team, and the first year Woody and I did everything outside with just a few special tools, now we have a Borascope, laptop, a lot more special tools, and we have been so fortunate to be able to do the inspections inside a hangar. The Tech Team keeps a journal on each aircraft and we have a photo selection to reference for such things as Blowers, Airframe creativeness, you know those gray areas that pop up each year, but I have to tell you, I personally have learned a lot more about T-6’s in the past several years and as far as flying goes, Racing at Reno topped my as they call it, bucket list for aviation. I have been fortunate to be part of many great things in aviation, but none compare to the experience and excitement of being part of the T-6 Race Association, both on the ground and in the air, there is nothing out there to compare to it, so I am excited about Reno 2018 to say the least, just have to get my airframe changes past those Tech Boys in September, just kidding, remember the Classic is all stock .
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