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Sawbones 2015
September 16-20


"How was your race?"
"Curt ran well."
"Great, good going," the hotel security guard commented.
"Say, if I might ask, what's with people dressed up like pirates?"
"Oh, that's for the annual Reno pirate crawl."
"Pirate crawl?"
"Yeah.  People dress up like pirates, get a cup, and go to select bars and get drinks at reduced prices."
"Really?" I replied doubtfully.
"See, Reno has to reinvent itself all the time, so this is one of the attactions."
    "Of course, some people literally crawl home in the morning."
"We also have a St. Patrick's Day crawl and a Santa crawl.  Hey, with that beard you'd fit right in."
    "I think not."
"Normally people are good, but I did have to call the cops once when an elf punched out Santa."
No question, Reno's a different world. 

It's been a great week of racing with no real drama except in the air.  Blue Thunder, a Sport class racer, qualified earlier this week at 397 mph.  It looks like a mini-Mustang, sounds like a Mustang, and is faster than some of the real Mustangs.  I learned from one o crew member that it's got more power in reserve.  And nitrous oxide!

Yesterday's Jet class was won by a WW2 design, a two seat
de Havilland Vampire, that topped out at a shade over 500 mph.  He came from back in the pack to win.  And yes, the crowd went wild.  As a side note, the Vampire has a wooden fuselage like its famous grandfather, the Mosquito.

The Unlimited race was won by Hoot Gibson in Strega.  The lead seesawed until near the end.  Curt and Sawbones finished 5th. 

    The crowd has increased - sales are excellent, some sizes, colors, land styles are already gone.  Bringing home empty bins is good.  Bringing home another trophy well be great!

T. Lymburn


We collected the Sentra at 0634 from the nose bleed section of the parking ramp.  Back out and enter a left spin, leveling out with a right turn onto the street.  A left turn on Virginia and we head north past ancient deserted motels, some boarded up, and a 1950's Goodyear dealer.  Across the bridge we go, up the hill through the sleeping college, past the sleeping dorms, watching out for joggers and the white sheriff's car.  After passing through the last, but one, stop light, it's up into the scrub with the railroad track snaking through the gulch.  Up to speed, merge with the northbound I-395 traffic, headed for Stead.

   At Lot 3 the orange vest with the straw hat waves us in, he knows me by now, and we park by the dusty U-Haul truck.  My Rockports have turned gray with gavel dust.  The security guard is a Sawbones fan.  He's wearing a Sawbones shirt.  "Ya run good, yesterday," he comments. 

    It's like setting up for a performance.  A play - a musical.  You build the set, block the scenes, rehearse the music and lines, get the costumes fitted, and begin the dress rehearsals.  The team as cast. 

It's Saturday.  The weekend means the real performances start.  All the actors are in place.  We can adjust as we go, ad libbing like jazz musicians.  Another variation on a familiar riff.  The audience has gathered, including Section 3, the pylon judges, old friends from Minnesota, and our sponsors. 

The stage is set.

T. Lymburn

1124 Friday

One of the coolest sights is the early morning take off of the Biplane class.  They claw their way into the air like a scene from an old black and white movie - remember Dawn Patrol or Wings?  You do remember black and white movies, don't you?  Or the Edsel or Studabaker?

The jets are flying now and Curt has finished conducting class with students from the U.S. Air Force Academy.  Curt is an Academy grad and each year a delegation comes to the races and stops at Sawbones' pit.  And it wasn't just the cadets who stopped to listen - he drew a crowd.  He's a natural teacher.

If you missed yesterday, you missed the Fury Heat with four Hawker Sea Furies, each with a different engine.  (Tony is singing right now, so it's hard to concentrate.)  Dreadnaught runs a P&W R-4360, Sawbones a Wright R-3350, 924 the original sleeve valve Bristol Centaurus, and Argonaut a P&W R-2800.  If you dig the music of round engines - that was a treat.  Sawbones finished second.  Today Curt is running in Gold with Rare Bear, Strega, Voodoo, and Dreadnaught.

You gotta check out our new pitot tube cover.  It stops people in their tracks.  Sometimes it seems like more people stop to take photos of the mini-tug and the pitot cover than the plane.  You'll have to check out Brent's photos to see what it is, but let's say this - it fits with Sawbones' logo.

Sales went very well yesterday.  Some of our new designs are going fast.  And once again, some people are buying the orange can covers for cellphone protectors!  We have regular customers who stop every year, some for replacement clothes they've worn out, some for our new designs, and others for kids' stuff that has gotten too small!

More of our special guests and sponsors have arrived.  Check out the list of sponsors on this site.  Thanks to all of them for helping make our trip to Reno possible.

T. Lymburn

1452 Thursday

Ah, the sun's out and there's no windchill.  Significant others, sponsors, and Fox Hollow denizens, including Chuck Cook, have been arriving. 

The Unlimited races have started with a Mustang heat with a
Yak-11 tagging along for good measure.  A look at the Yak's registration showed it to be N25YK, a bird once operated by Bob Pond's Planes of Fame-East at FCM.  I helped put it back together years ago after an engine swap with a DC-3.

I changed gears for part of the day and reverted to journalist/photographer for the Minnesota Flyer.  I've written for the Flyer for 14 years.  I had a good hike to the far end where the military display sits - a huge C-17A from Hawaii, a weathered
F-15 from Oregon, and Reaper with rockets under the wings.  Don't call it a drone, it's a remotely piloted system.  Drones are meant to be shot down.

I also connected with Jim Dale, once of FCM, who got me started with aircraft restoration and annual inspections 25 years ago.  He's flying a B-25 Mitchell in the show this week. At another stop, I talked to WWII figher ace Bud Anderson who flew a P-51 called "Old Crow."  I'd previously met him at Oshkosh.  A big part of Reno is the amazing number of aviation heroes you meet.

    The Rolls Royce Heritage display featured a Steaman Commercial that flew in the 2003 National Air Tour that was the brainchild of Greg Herrick and utilized the organizational talents of Craig Schiller, a Sawbones' crew member.  I refrained from drooling over two Stinson Gullwings and a pair of WACO biplanes, one of which was restored in Faribault, MN.  Another classic was a Mustang called "Berlin Express", complete with
D-Day invasion strips and white walled tires.  (Yes, white wall tires are correct for that aircraft.)

One of the more unusual contestants in the Jet Class is a
de Havilland Vampire trainer.  The Vampire first flew during WWII, but didn't enter service until after the war.  It's most unusual characteristic is the wooden fuselage pod, inherited from the famous Mosquito.

Gotta go, time for the Sea Fury (and one Mustang) race!

T. Lymburn

1101 Wednesday
Let the races begin!

Yesterday was mega windy - dust devils everywhere - on the course, in the hills, even making surprise appearances in the pits.  And it was cold, at least for the air races.  A nice comfortable 50 to start today.  Makes a Minnesotan feel right at home - if it was November.  Supposed to back to 90 for Sunday's races.

One of our Sawbones visitors yesterday was Reno airshow announcer Roy Hafeli.  Roy is a former member of  the RCMP and worked in radio.  Sue and I met him at Cafe Central earlier in the week.  Roy and I swapped airshow announcing stories for an hour.  He also bought a Sawbones tee shirt and a small shirt for his grandchild.  It was nice to add a face to a voice.

Curt qualified yesterday at a bit over 417 mph.  He described the course as very turbulent.  This morning he gave us a weather lesson pointing out the lenticular clouds that forecast potentially nasty winds aloft.

Talked earlier today with a retired USAF pilot who had flown the Lockheed U-2.  I've seen the Dragon Lady fly at airshows at Offutt AFB, at Oshkosh, and at Reno, but never had the opportunity to hear about the legendary recon plane from a pilot who flew them.  That's another of the joys of the air races.  It, like Oshkosh, draws from a wide variety of aviation experience.  A great classroom - history, tradition, and technology - hangar flying at its very best.

The race crowd has been driblbing in slowly this week.  Miki Matsuda, a Japanese artist and photographer, made his annual appearance at our pit, as did Bryan Greene and members of Section 3.  Minnesota might be the theater of seasons, but events like Reno and Oshkosh are a theater of nations.

 We did over $400 in sales yesterday, not bad for a non-racing day.  The new sweat shirts have been a hit.  It did take until today for Sue to get the sales permit - usually they're ready on Monday.

Today it's RACE ON for all but the Unlimited catagory.  So far, biplanes, sport class, T-6, and Formula 1 have run.  There's no mistaking the raspy sound of the T-6 class.  And some of the sport class - seriously fast.  It has the largest number of entrants.

Tony hasn't had any new motorcycle adventures today. Of course, the day is still young.

0920 Tuesday - Battle of Britain Day

We can see the mountains today.  The wind scoured out the smoke, at least for now.  We can actually see across the race course to the far pylons.  Nice.  Our Road Warrior, Tony, has returned.  According Eddie, it would make a good reality program!  Curt plans to qualify today.  Wait for updates.

Today is Battle of Britain day in the UK.  75 years ago RAF Fighter Command under the command of Hugh Dowding and WWI ace Keith Park, turned back the Luftwaffe, and protected Britain from invasion.  So, what's this got to do with air racing?  Now it's time for your history lesson.

1.  Everyone has heard of the Spitfire.  This famous fighter evolved from the design work of R.J. Mitchell who designed the two float seaplane racer, the Supermarine S6B, that was the FIRST plane to exceed 400 mph.  Yes, a seaplane.  That aircraft was powered by a Rolls Royce "R" V-12 racing engine that influenced the design of the famous Merlin that powers most of the Mustang racers today.  RACE ON!

2.  Between WWI and WWII, air mail, the early airlines, and air racing advanced aviation in the USA.  Improvements in aerodynamics, engines, structure, and - drum roll - fuels and lubricants made aircraft faster, safer, and more economical.
One of the most important innovations that affected air racing was the increase in octane rating of fuels.  A key to improved performance was the development of 100 octane fuel.  Now jump ahead to the summer of 1940 and the Battle of Britain.  RAF Fighter Command had a secret weopon that came from the "neutral" USA.  You guessed it.  100 octane fuel increased the top speed, service ceiling, and rate of climb for the Hurricanes and Spitfires that took on the Junkers, Dornier, and Heinkel bombers of the Luftwaffe.  Here's a secret - well, it was then - the Luftwaffe's Bf-109E's were fueled with 85/87 octane.  Advantage RAF.  And the innovation was from Air Racing.


0915 Monday.
Daylight in the Desert. Smoke from California wild fires hangs over the city of Reno and Stead airport. Preparations are underway all over the ramp, but where are the pink and blue port-potties in the pits near the T-6s?

Sue and I got in late on Saturday via Salt Lake City. On arrival in Reno, the flight attendant reminded passengers to be careful opening the overhead bins, as "Shift happens."

Sunday when I got up, the view out the hotel window was filled with 34 brightly colored (or coloured for the English) hot air balloons participating the the last day of the annual balloon festival. I watched as they landed in parking lots, people's yards, city streets, and, maybe it was an illusion, even the tops of buildings. Two yellow balloons were shaped like gold fish. Pity the poor drunk who woke up and saw those first thing.

The new top is up. It breathes. I'll let you figure that one out. Tony test drove the mini-tug and it needed the expert attention of an A&P. Our early guests and the just plain curious have stopped to photograph the little beast.

Our favorite ADI lady, Jan Fisher, has her nails done with racing aircraft again, including Sawbones. She even has a thumb nail for Section 3. Speaking of Section 3, Brian and Jack have already stopped, incognito, to scope out the Sawbones action. Even though we're not set up yet, people are eying the new mechandise Sue has in the plastic bins. Some have already picked out what they want to buy.

Linda, a former FCM air traffic controller, and her husband stopped. Just like home - or maybe, that's what it is for the week. Home. Only at Reno.