The weekend of the 23rd and 24th April saw the running of the Royal Aero Club Records Racing and Rallying Association Air Race School at Popham.
For those who don’t know, the Royal Aero Club Records Racing and Rallying Association, or 3R’s for short, run a handicapped air racing championship every year. The principle of this type of racing is that aircraft are handicapped according to their speed thereby levelling the playing field amongst all types of aircraft. So, you could have a Beach Baron competing against a Cessna 152 on equal terms with the Cessna starting before the Baron but theoretically finishing at the same time if all else is equal around a four or five lap course which totals about 80nm.
The race school course was identical on each day to enable people the flexibility to come on either the Saturday if the weather was unsuitable on the Sunday or vice versa. Both days started with an introductory talk by the 3R’s chairman Simon Tilling giving an overview of the club. This was followed by a presentation by air racer and twice British Champion Jonathan Willis on the rules, techniques and format of air racing followed by a talk by Matt Summers on the rather complicated handicapping system which only he seems to understand (but it does work very well!) as well as presentations by Cliff Hawkins on a Vintage series, race start protocol by John Tansley and a full procedures brief for the day’s flying by the Clerk of The Course Sean Robertson.
Lunch followed and then the fun part started. Those Race School trainees who had flown in were paired up with a check pilot and future mentor. Following a race style take off, they flew to a practice racecourse 19nm North of Popham. The turn points of the course were marked out by orange tents which had been put up by our ever-hard-working chief marshal Ian Scarborough.
The check pilot coached the trainee on how best to fly the course and after a few laps they departed to another area to carry out some general handling exercises. These were to confirm whether the pilot’s handling skills were sufficiently competent for them to be allowed to race. These included steep turns with a height tolerance of + / – 25 feet and flying straight and level with the same height tolerance and a heading deviation of no more than 5 degrees. An exceptionally good look out throughout the whole flight also had to be demonstrated. In fact, the premise behind this, is that the navigation from one turn point to the next should be via the use of external ground features and not the magenta line on a GPS!
After the afternoon’s flights, everybody had a de-brief and then on the Saturday, the club social secretary Julie Scott, organised a fantastic evening which included a delightful meal at the airfield café followed by drinks at the Wheatsheaf pub which was attended by many of the trainees and club members. It was beautifully sunny on both day if a little breezy. The course was free to attend and was a fantastic success with a total of 9 pilots being checked out in aircraft including a Turbulent, Supermunk, some RV7’s and a P210!
Popham’s airfield manager Mike Pearson was tremendously helpful and judging by the feedback that has been received so far, the participants thoroughly enjoyed the event!
More information can be found at: https://www.britishairracing.org
Photos by Chris Hall
Richard Parris carrying out a simulated race take off
Simon Tilling going around a turn point (orange tent in bottom left corner) in his Yak52
Race marshals practicing their pointing technique