Last week-end was the Palms to Pine Air Race, and I was lucky to be one of the participants as pilot in command, I was Racer # 16, I took one of the Airspacers Cessna’s 172, 73262 for the ride. For those who haven’t heard of the Palms to Pine Air race this is an Annual Women Air Race sponsored by the Los Angeles Palms Chapter of the Ninety Nines, and this was the 37th edition; and the name says it from the palms of Santa Monica California to the pines of Bend , Oregon .
That was the most thrilling flight but also probably the scariest one for me; that was my first Air Race.
20 airplanes were ready for take off, and Michael Evangelista, Tower Manager, for those who know him was at the pilot lounge at 8am, giving us a weather briefing and wishing us all good luck; then he was back into his tower helping us to take off smoothly by holding the jets away from us. It was his last “Palms to Pine Air Race” and his last call “Racer # …Clear for Take Off Runway 21” before retiring the day after, Saturday.
We took off from Santa Monica airport on Friday at 10am; 1 hour later than anticipated since the ceiling was too low, heading straight for Merced for our first leg and our first fly by. I did not quite understand what a fly by was until I had to do one, and I am telling you, this is not how I envisaged a fly by in a race to be …We had to fly full power at tower level so the timers sitting in the tower can take our time, otherwise you were disqualified from the race.
My hands were white….my face was probably blue, as I forgot to breath, too much concerned about that runaway a few feet below the belly of my aircraft way too close for me at that speed….and I only started to feel “better” when I was able to let the nose naturally come up and then I lowered my power with such a relief, the first leg was over… I got back at a pattern altitude now I was ready to land for a full stop to refuel and have lunch. Yes, I was starving no kidding; this emotion and rush of adrenaline had just put a hole in my stomach…
Then we were off in the air heading to Red Bluff for our second leg and our second fly by with an overnight stay ; now that I knew what to expect it went smoother, not better or less scarier, but smoother… I was able at least to breathe almost at a regular speed, but my hands were still white during the fly by due to the pressure I was putting to keep the nose from going up before I passed the tower.
I was happy and relieved when I landed and turned the key off …we were greeted at the airport and a few nice guys were waiting for us at the airport to give us a ride to our hotels in their old classics cars, I was riding in a beautiful Lincoln; what a treat.
Then, at 8am the morning after, we were all ready in our cockpit with the engines roaring, yes we were ready for the third leg; we took off from Red Bluff to our final destination Bend, Oregon. We had to do a fly by again before landing; then spent the night by the Deschutes River , where we stayed until the morning after for the breakfast and trophy presentation.
That leg was not the easiest one I was sure I will not be able to do the fly by, I was flying so fast, I did not have the airport in sight in time, I tough it was a straight fly by and no the airport was at 40 degree angle and I barely made it, but I made it. I guess the first fly by was scary the second one was training and then I start to understand how it worked, and then it was a “ah ha “moment …I understand fast but I need a little time …,
And here I was yesterday morning at the breakfast trophy presentation listening at Cecilia our Race Officer announcing the winners of the 37th annual Palms to Pine Air Race I was listening but I did not hear her saying “winner of the best third leg is Racer #16, Nora Feddal” he did not even click in my head, it was the person next to me who said “Nora, it’s you congratulation” … I never even thought that I would come back home with something other than great memories and some cool pictures.
I came at the 11 place over all; that was not bad at all for a first time racer and not bad knowing how fast 262 can fly without getting into the red line. Therese, I should have listen to you and take 96H instead of 262, I would have bring more trophies home.
So we had a full afternoon to spend in Bend before getting together for the dinner, since I did not have enough excitement, I signed up along with 9 other pilots for the white river rafting, I never had a chance to go rafting before, and that was such a great moment of fun, except the water was cold, I was soaked but I did it, I went rafting…
I also bought some raffle tickets at the take off banquet the Thursday before the race to help raise funds for the Palms Los Angeles Chapter, and they draw some prizes when we were at Bend, and I came back home with 7 prizes (luckily all really light in weight) the best prize I won was the registration fee certificate for the 2007 Palms to Pine Air Race; well I guess I have to do that race again next year…
I want to thank all of you who helped me make this happen in such a short notice of time; less than a week to get the airplane ready and insurance taking care off and most important I want to thank Griff and Norm for their help to make sure that I was ready to go safely for this journey.
Nora Feddal - Racer # 16
Monday, August 14, 2006