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TomPenDragon last won the day on February 13

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  1. Fly with Eli One of the unfortunate side-effects of doing the Daily Update radio show was that it was rather limited in what I could report regarding my own flights in Australia. For one, it was radio, so there were no pictures. For another, the whole point was to talk about other people's flying, not my own. A lot of times, especially when there wasn't all that much else going on on the race course, I, and Claus and I, overindulged in the commentary regarding our own aerial exploits, I felt. Now that the Great Australian Air Gaggle has reached its official conclusion, these stories can be told. Let me start with yesterday's flight: 01 March, 2024. Cairns - Guam The party has wound down. I still have Iron Maiden echoing in my ears - what a fantastic show it was! No sets, no costumes, some really basic lighting, no central sound system, real guitars plugged into real amps. We weren't a large crowd - the fliers, their support crews, Claus and the Piper folks, off-duty airport staff headbangers, and folks from the Royal Flying Doctor Service, who we invited to thank for their support over the last month and a half. Tom PenDragon's request/invitation/polite dictate came at a great time for the band, as they're currently preparing both their Future Past Tour and Bruce Dickinson's "The Mandrake Project" - Bruce brought along his touring band as well. It was really more like a rehearsal than a concert, given the small audience and limited space. But it was still great, as was the catering. I don't know if our reputation preceded us, but they certainly brought enough food and drink for a party lasting a week or more. The service was exceptional as well, as there were nearly as many servers as there were partygoers. I was tired from getting the last Daily Update out and from flying eight hours that day. I made it through the podium ceremony, just barely, and then slipped out and went to my room. I didn't even bother getting undressed; I simply flopped on the bed and don't remember my head hitting the pillow. This morning, I woke to quiet - I was quite surprised that the party wasn't still going on. I showered, dressed, grabbed the rest of the cockpit munchies that I'd been accumulating over the past several weeks, and went out to pre-flight Sara. Everything's fine as far as the plane is concerned. Winds are light and variable; there are a few cottonball cumulus in the air. The active is 15. But I realize that this is the last time that I'm going to be in Australia for a while. It was the first time that I've spent any time here. I'm going to miss the place. My melancholy mood seems to be affecting my perception of things - has the lush greenery of northern Queensland faded overnight? Is it my imagination? Is it because I unVOZ'd? This is Cairns after all. How was I going to leave without those cute little puffballs turning angry and suddenly dumping a whole lot of wet onto my nice clean aircraft? Cairns on climb-out, including the marina where I rented Stormborn. The rain stopped as soon as my wheels left the ground. Coming around on YBCS again. Rain's back. I'm going to have to check my records to find out how many hours were on the plane when I arrived in Perth. When I picked her up in Lock Haven, she had only 15. The Hobbs on the tach read 243.26 when I preflighted her this morning. That's a lot of flying! Climbing out through the clouds. Up to my cruising altitude of 22,000'. I have her leaned to 56° LOP. She's showing 142 on the ASI and 221 over ground. The EIS is giving me a 3,000-mile range - almost enough to reach my second waypoint, Tokyo. We'll see. I miss the clouds, because now I can really see how alone I am. "Oh Lord, the sea is so big and my plane is so small..." It's been mile upon mile, and the fatigue of babysitting an aircraft who's perfectly capable of flying herself is taking its toll. I just noticed that the DME's come alive for Guam. And the clouds are back, just in time for descent. Breaking out of the clouds for my first glimpse of Guam. Of course it's hazy... The shadows are getting long, but I've got the airport in sight. Given the rather hefty hill in my flightpath, I'm glad I'm not arriving later in the day. Coming in low and hot. Sara seems to like this kind of approach. Now to find my tie-down spot... Uh, I don't think this is it. A second after this picture was taken, all three guys pointed up the ramp. They want me here, right by the Pan Am terminal. I'm not going to argue. The airline turned one of the old barracks building into a hotel, so I took a room there. It was a bit more basic than I like. The meal service was also basic, but well prepared and generously served. At 1829 miles, the Cairns-Guam leg of my return flight was the longest that I've planned. Just before I started setting up for my descent, the fuel computer was predicting that I could have made Tokyo with a couple of gallons still in the tanks. With the sun setting and only Iwo Jima as an alternate, I figured that it wasn't worth the risk.
  2. Here it is: It can also be found at the top of the Official thread. I posted a .zip to the Official thread yesterday with both the Guide and the Leaderboard in .xlsx and .ods formats, so if I can't make the next event for any reason, someone else can adapt them for the next race.
  3. No problem - it's about this time of day that I start drooling.
  4. Right now we have the return flights and any other flights anyone wants to tell us about. After that, maybe we could drop in on each others' home airports?
  5. One last thing: Attached are the source files for the Timing&Scoring spreadsheets used during the Gaggle, which are: GAAGLB - The Leaderboard GAAGSG - The Spotters' Guide I use LibreOffice, so the original formats are .ods. I've also converted them to Excel (.xlsx). GAAGSource.zip
  6. Let me jump in and take the first shot at PRT. Nearly everything. I really like this form of Timing and Scoring - it's as fair as an honor system can be, is auto-handicapping (no need to adjust scores for competition's sake), and is quite easy to maintain using the spreadsheets Melo and I developed. I had my reservations about the length and the multi-race format, but I think it worked out quite well in the end. I don't think doing just the Combined would have worked out, at least not in GA aircraft. The DU "radio broadcasts" were a completely different style of writing for me. I've never been good at meeting deadlines, but the DU forced me to develop a writing discipline that I've never had before. I really liked the role. I think I prefer Free-Flying over having to set times or keep to a route. I think I actually flew more than I would have had I been racing. When I left Lock Haven, the Saratoga had 15 hours on the Hobbs. I looked at it this morning and it had 243. And that's not counting the time I spent sailing or in other aircraft. And I still have to fly Sara back to Lock Haven. Mainly, though, what worked was the people flying the GAAG. The discipline that all of you showed in your Timing PM's made maintaining the spreadsheet almost effortless. Your great stories and scuttlebutt filled the DU every single day, to the point that I wasn't able to develop Claudine's and Elias' stories the way I would have liked (but don't worry, I've got plans for the both of them) or complete the interview series. UnVOZ. I spent enough time in IT to be of the religion, "Jesus Saves, coz he uses Microsoft," so I faithfully backed up my entire Scenery, Addon Scenery, and Texture directories before installing VOZ. I changed texture areas in VOZ a couple dozen times in the nearly 2 months I've spent here, and I noticed that sometimes it took a scenery backup before changing sets. This morning, first it told me that I couldn't UnVOZ because it wasn't installed, then after VOZing to the Northern texture set it told me that it UnVOZ'd correctly but did nothing. I restored from my backups and so far everything looks fine. Should that change, I'll let you know. The length of the race, both in distance and in time, were daunting. In my unique position in the Gaggle, it oftentimes felt like a full-time job. I'm feeling a bit exhausted now and I'm reminded that I'm way too much of a huevón to work so hard. I do like these grand, monthlong-plus endurance events. I'd just like some time before the next one. Maybe we could hold 3-4 major Gaggles throughout the year, spaced 3-4 months apart, with smaller events or Fly-In Challenges in between. If you'll have me and if RL circumstances permit, I'd like to reprise my role as TSO and Radio Chachapoya. Yeah, it was tough, but a whole lot of fun, too.
  7. We have one last item of business for this Gaggle: Post-Race Tech (another Radio Lemans thing). Before discussing the next event, let me ask three questions: What "worked" for you about the GAAG? What didn't work for you? What would you like to see next time out? My original thought (back in January) was to set up a separate thread for Post-Race Tech, but I think we can handle it here in the FBO, unless anyone has any objections. Let's keep this discussion brief - weigh in by your end-of-day Sunday the 3rd, if you have an opinion. Then I'd like to keep the FBO open during the return flights of those who choose to do them and open up The Next Challenge to figure out what we're doing next. Thanks!
  8. Good morning everybody! Thank you all so much for a Gaggle that far exceeded my wildest expectations!! You made Timing & Scoring easy, and the Daily Update a pleasure to write. It feels weird to log on and not immediately start scouring the FBO for material for it and checking my PM's for timings. For those who have had kind words for the Updates throughout the Gaggle, thank you so much! Those sustained me on those rough days when I was tired and RW pressures forced me to "do the show" in a rush. Who knows where we'll go from here? But where we've been has been pretty damned special. Thank you for that, guys!
  9. The Daily Update (Cue “She Sells Sanctuary”) EP: “Hello and welcome to our final Daily Update. It is now the 29th of February, 2024 back home. I’m Elias Pacheco for Radio Chachapoya, Claus Ullrich, and the magnificent team from Piper’s Performance Planes. Their Howard 500, that Bill Piper the Fourth procured for the division as an inspiration, is all packed and ready to go. I’ve spent the morning dealing with the airport, the caterers, and the headlining band. It’s been raining on and off all week, but the skies over Cairns cleared just about an hour ago. “So, thinking that Melo might need a ride from Darwin to Cairns, or at least using that as an excuse, I’ve got Sara up for one last Australian cross-country. I realized that I was only getting in everybody’s way anyway. Rodg Carter from Cezium gave me a not-so-gentle nudge out the door when he told me that they’d have something for me to look over in about eight hours or so. That’s about the time it’d take to get the Saratoga to YPDN and back. And if I’m not in an aeroplane, I’d just be fidgeting. “On the 7th of December of last year, ViperPilot2 reopened, ‘The Next Challenge.’ The next day, at 20:20, he said, ‘There's been some murmuring about a possible Australia Air Rally, recreating the 1976 Route.’ Rather fateful words, I must say. During that month, Club Chachapoya members settled on a re-creation of the ‘76 and merged it with the backcourse of a route proposed by AirBasil_1 to form a 25-leg, 3,500-mile long behemoth we called the Combined. They even developed scenery for places in which there were no airports, such as Caiguna. “Behind the scenes, Melo and I developed the Leaderboard and the Spotters’ Guide spreadsheets with the goal of providing maximum flexibility to the timed participants. They could run the ‘76 as a standalone race, run the Eastern standalone in a different aircraft, or run the whole, 3,500-mile Combined Route. They could even set a time for the ‘76, switch planes for the Eastern, and then go back and complete the Combined in their ‘76 entry. “The planning thread was so active that I could not systematize the Rules until the weekend before the race. I was in the air already, having left Cuernavaca in a Seneca II on New Year’s Day, and having picked up the Saratoga from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, for a flight to Goose Bay, Canada, with the Piglets’ Howard in tow. “I wasn’t the only one flying from my home airport to the Gaggle’s starting point in Perth. jgf flew his Staggerwing from Cleveland to Australia, flying against the wind and milking the last iota of fuel mileage out of his Beech in the process. Bossspecops set out from EGDF – Dean Forest – on the Severn, heading east. “Other aircraft rode in style. defaid was in Toronto for AirBasil_1’s fly-in challenge. The aircraft that he had chosen for the Gaggle, a 1979 Piper Arrow T-Tail, was in Cardiff. He, dj, and his crew loaded themselves into a C-130, flew it to Scotland, loaded the Arrow onto the transport, and flew the rest of the way to Australia. An Archangel conveyed VP2 to Australia. He and his Lady flew in a C-17 and a senryú. And a flight from Bremerton to Williams Lake in his Chipmunk disabused Melo of the notion of flying it to Perth. He prevailed on some friends of his in the military to give him and his Chippie a lift to Darwin, took forever to get his aircraft repainted, and then flew his race plane down the coast to Jandakot. Although not entirely, as fuel system problems forced him to change Chipmunks along the way. “Others either lived in Australia or got themselves to Perth, and picked up their planes in-country. ScottishMike found a nice Mooney, Tao a Twin Comanche, JSMR a Cessna Centurion, and MAD1 a 182RG. PhrogPhlyer obtained both helicopter and ‘76 race pilot from the RAAF. “AirBasil’s company sent down a Citation air ambulance. They and the Royal Flying Doctor Service watched over us. Fortunately, their services were never needed. “And then there were those who wished they could have joined us. Sirrus had planned to, but had to have major surgery and is now on the slow but sure path to recovery. He followed the goings-on of the race from the FBO, and has recently felt up to posting. Hopefully he can join us for our next major event. And Rupert’s wife, Molly, unfortunately fell ill, and he had to care for her. He kept up with us as he could. At last report, Molly was on the mend and looking forward to celebrating her 80th in February. Happy birthday, Molly! “As the start of the race approached, most of the participants spent their days testing and surveying. Many also worked on turning Caiguna into a usable airstrip. If only it had had a usable restaurant… “Before we knew it, Race Day was upon us. defaid and dj were the first to start. They were quickly followed by Bosss, ScottishMike, and VP2. A new publication sprang up around the race: Chachapoya Chronicle helped us to get to know the places in which we were flying with a personal heart and exquisite prose. “Just a couple of days into the Gaggle, we realized that the thread structure wasn’t working for us. So we changed it. “It was around that time that signs of strain began to show in ScottishMike’s Mooney. What was supposedly an academic mission by his sponsors soon revealed itself to be something else. The something else ended up with the suspicious death of one of his passengers and the disappearance of the other, and a mystery involving a triangular formation of cairns by a hole, close to where the man died. “It wasn’t until five days into the race that the paint finally dry enough on Melo’s Chipmunk for him to fly out of Darwin toward Perth. “Some entrants flew in spurts, several legs and then spent some time in a place. Others did one leg at a time. Captain Dirk Doovalacky started for the PhrogPhlyers, as did MAD1 and jsmr. Tao and jgf enjoyed just flying along, keeping pace with the racers without the hassle of timing. “This is endurance air racing in classic aircraft. Some teams had mechanical problems. The PhrogPhlyers were the first, with a tail rotor gearbox failure that fortunately they caught on the ground. The Bosss and his Sealand were grounded in Warrnambool with control issues. A 70-year-old radio correspondent had his medical temporarily pulled. “Despite their problems, the PhrogPhlyers were the first to finish the 1976 Australian Air Race, on the 1st of February. Their CV of 7 proved vulnerable, however; they finished the 1976 in last place. Eleven days later, defaid and dj finished with a -2. Two days after that, ScottishMike finished with a +2. On that same day, Melo won the race by finishing with a 0. “defaid and ScottishMike sat 2 and 3 on the podium for six more days, but then the Bosss and VP2 both finished with 0’s to share the silver, send defaid down to bronze, and knock ScottishMike off of the podium altogether. And on the 21st, JSMR took the bronze with a 1. “By this time, jgf had already nearly completed a circumnavigation of all of Australia. “PhrogPhlyer flew a Vampire on the Eastern Route, finishing with a -20. Frustrated by this, he took the controls of his team’s Bell 206 and won the Combined on the 23rd with a CV of 0. On that same day, Melo ran the Eastern in a Canberra, setting a -2 that was all the more impressive because it had to be quite a change from the Chipmunk. VP2 finished the Eastern with a +2 two days later in The Lady, which added to his +1 to Coff’s Harbour gave him a +3 for the Combined. “After his co-second-place finish in the ‘76 in his Sealand, the Bosss decided that he would complete a circumnavigation with it, and while that was being fitted with additional tankage for the longest leg of his planned Pacific crossing, Free-Fly the Eastern Route, switching seaplanes at each port. He made it as far as Rockhampton, where his Russian Beriev would fly no more. Added to that, he was told that there were major issues with his Sealand. He was stranded and needed a lift from ScottishMike and his flying companion, Suzanne to get to Cairns. “This just in: Club Chachapoya’s 2024 Great Australian Air Gaggle is officially over! It has now passed midnight in the UK, and since the last remaining racers were from there, we can now release the final results: “On the third step of the podium for the Eastern Route are the PhrogPhlyers with a -20. They win $6,250. On the second step is ViperPilot2, finishing on the 25th with a +2. He wins $12,500. And on the top step, winning the Eastern overall, is Melo965, finishing on the 23rd with a -2. He takes home $25,000, which added to his first-place winnings from the 1976 Australian Air Race gives him a total of $50,000 for the Gaggle. “Now for the Combined, winning the Silver is ViperPilot2, with a +3. He takes home $25,000 for second place – since there was no third-place finisher, the $10,000 prize for the Bronze is split evenly between the other two finishers. And the PhrogPhlyers take home the Gold with their perfect CV set on the 23rd, and $45,000. “The total winnings for the Gaggle, then, are: “The PhrogPhlyers in first place with $51,250. “Melo965 in second with $50,000. “ViperPilot2, the only team to earn podium finishes in all three events, in third with $43,750. “Bossspecops and JSMR share fourth place with $6,250 each. “And I am so proud to present the Spirit of the Race Award to Bossspecops! “As for your humble correspondent, I am feet-wet on my way home – back to Cairns, sorry – after filling up in Darwin. I’ll see you all at the party in a couple of hours. I had planned to finish my last regular broadcast with some profound words. At this point, I’d settle for some profane ones, yet none come. Maybe I’ll find some by the time I see you in Cairns. Maybe it’ll take a few more days, I don’t know. The final Leaderboard has been tallied; the final Daily Update has now concluded. For now, Sara is humming along at 15,500’ The comm frequencies are quiet; the sun’s going down; it’s just the sound of the engine. “Nothing left to do but fly…”
  10. Official end of racing in the UK. Official end of the race.
  11. Quick question: Is anybody planning on flying a timed leg today (aside from Melo's 5 minutes, Darwin to Cairns)? If not, we can declare the race over and I'll post the final results in a little while with my last Daily Update. Can we leave this question open for an hour, and if no one says that they're flying timed, the Gaggle will end and the party will begin. Thanks!
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