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It’s amazing how many of our friends race at Reno.
Reno is the Grand Prix of aviation, and it’s a great privilege to be made so welcome at the field. So it was a no-brainer to pack The Mary’s little Mazda full of survival stuff and hit the road. It’s quite a ways in a little car.
We took the US I-5 south through Seattle to Cresswell, just past Eugene, OR, and found a comfy Best Western. Then inland over the scenic Cascade Summit, past spectacular Crater Lake, through Klamath Falls to a dusty arrival at the vintage Frontier Motel in Alturas California, a genuine frontier town, were we enjoyed a genuine frontier Thai dinner at the Nipa Café next door.
It was then a long drive south on highway 395 via the mythical Honey Lake, which may, or may not, have water in it. We couldn’t tell! And on to the welcome comfort of the Reno Airport Hotel.
Arriving at the field next day, we were dismayed to hear that tragic accidents threatened cancellation of the event. However, the family, friends and fellow pilots insisted the races go on to honour those so tragically lost. It was an emotional time.
We both suffer walking problems in the heat, and it was a huge effort to visit all our racer friends. Keith McMann, Bud Granley, Adrian Cooper, Mary Dilda, Howard Pardue, and of course, Dennis and Tami Buehn with their T-6 Race 43, Midnight Miss III, with the old P/W Wasp that sat on our Barn floor for over thirty years.
OLD FAST FRIENDS
Visiting around was complicated by efforts to meet up with COPA luminaries Kevin Psutka, Frank Hofmann, and his son Doug. We thought we knew where everyone was going to be, but it took awhile. Never thought to exchange Cel numbers.
Eventually we met up, and spent time in the stands with Kevin and his flight crew, and had dinner later with the Hofmanns.
Mary was delighted to enjoy a good laugh with old friends Bev and Chuck Greenhill, from Kenosha, near Chicago, venue of her great dive-bombing triumph. Their incredible Grumman Duck restoration won top award at Oshkosh this year.
It was good to see Canadian senior aviation icons CWH’s Dennis Bradley and Jerry Janes enjoying the razzmatazz of the big show.
As for the racing! To his chagrin, in the T-6 class, Keith McMann’s Harvard at 213 mph was bumped up to the Silver, to be outclassed by Tinker Toy at 224 mph.
Our Formula 1 Silver race hero, Adrian Cooper, was totally thrilled by his first race experience, not at all fazed by bringing up the rear at a modest 174 mph in his Cassutt, Miss t’Witchy, and is rarin’ to go for next year!
His crew, Jack Parmaleau, Chris Cox, Donna Fort, and Rosie the Riveter were over the moon.
Winner Doug Bodine’s Yellow Peril steamed around at 228 mph, and the Gold winner made 245.8 mph.
Our old friend Texan Howard Pardue, after a bit of tweaking by his engine guy, won the unlimited Bronze in his venerable Bearcat at 389 mph, and took 4th in the Silver race. Rare Bear won the Gold Unlimited at over 478 mph. The speeds are interesting.
The Jet Gold was won by Rich Sugden in his T-2 Buckeye, at 489.5, which I believe to be the Oshkosh Warbird Award winner restored by Victoria Air Maintenance a few years ago. Lee Griffin’s T- Bird was third at 477.5 mph. Back in my Gimli days we used to flight plan them at 420 mph
GOING FOR GOLD
Of course the big deal for the Mary and I was the Gold T-6 race, and cheering Dennis as he balls-to-the-walled our old barn engine round the pylons a squeak ahead of the dreaded Six Cat!
It was tremendously exciting. Dennis taxied in and wife Tami jumped on the wing for a big kiss. Everyone cheered and applauded. The official vintage fire truck picked up he and his crew up for a triumphal tour of the stands.
THE GOLD! WOW! Mary went to hug Mary Dilda who came fourth, before joining me in the pits to wait for Dennis.
Tami went off to arrange a tow in for Midnight Miss.
Suddenly Dennis arrived, and grabbed Mary in a celebratory hug. The guys went wild and broke out the Champagne. Corks popped way over the hospitality trailer. So there was my Mary, hugging the gold winner, as the paparazzi went crazy. It was a marvelous moment. Then Tami turned up and hugged her too. It was fantastic!
For us, the race was over. What a great weekend. Even a fancy Italian dinner with the Cascade Warbirds. Spaghetti and meatballs!
I was delighted to have Kevin Psutka meet many of our Reno friends. It was wonderful that the great Howard Pardue jumped up and pumped Kevin’s hand, urging him to keep up the good work at COPA.
It is gratifying that an enthusiast of Howard’s stature understands and appreciates the effort constantly applied by all aviation groups to preserve our way of flight.
Next day, Monday, we headed west to Fort Bragg, and drove home via the spectacular coast road, with overnights at Garberville, Port Orford, and the wonderful Cliff Top Motel at Oceanside, near the fabled Tillimook. Thus ended the great Reno Gold Adventure!
The next Saturday was the Farewell Celebration’ for a most gracious sport aviation enthusiast, Gogi Goguillot, at the Canadian Museum of Flight, at Langley Airport, a most appropriate place.
Gogi’s benevolent spirit pervades the place. Well over 200 people joined the family to reminisce, see the vintage flybyes, watch the slideshow, and enjoy a convivial meal. It was amazing to see who turned up.
People not seen for years. Goge’s brother Duncan kept things moving along, and the slide show of Gogi's Delta personality reminded us what a wonderful man he was. Thanks for coming. The family really appreciated it.
PENHOLD NATO REUNION
Meanwhile, at Penhold Alberta, a small group of ex NATO Trainees gathered for a reunion of NATO class 5516. Two came from Australia, two from Norway, one from Denmark, the rest from the UK.
Once again they breathed the Prairie air and experienced the feel and roar of the Harvard. Kindly provided by Bert Davis of Wetaskiwin.
The Eight 1956 trainees and wives spent the night in the old barrack block, hosted by the local Harvard Historical Aviation Society. Meals were by Tipitinas close by the Red Deer Flying Club.
They showed pictures and video, even T-33 formations at Gimli, which they kindly donated to the Heritage Centre. They spent hours spinning tales of life at Penhold, some of which we captured on video. A great evening. As reported by Gary Hillman, V.P. The Harvard Historical Aviation Society
Except for the September Sunday Breakfast, things have been fairly quiet the last few weeks. Or maybe it’s just that we’ve been away and missed everything! But the weather being fine, there was a great turnout for the breakfast, with quite a few flying in.
So I guess that’s it.
Fly safe! Tony Swain & The Mary …retired COPA guys.