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Leg 12, Manteo, NC to First Flight Airport, Kill Devil Hill, NC - Friday, July 4, 2003:

From Tom Serkowski:

Well, the scores are in and you all probably know that the 'landout' I made on leg 9 was a disaster for my overall standing. But we all know that the winner in a soaring contest is the one who makes the fewest mistakes, so I commend the folks who overtook me with their consistent flying.

The drive from Galliopolis to New Castle reinforced the decision to not soar this leg. Lots of hills and thick forests. Not the kind of terrain I'd like to get low over. The last 50 miles or so from the North of New Castle were done in the dark on a very winding road. Just the ticket to keep me awake for an arrival at 11pm or so. We drop off the trailer and get in bed a little after midnight.

The pilot's meeting isn't until 11am, so we sleep in a bit. A quick look at the weather channel indicates rain for most of the day, and it's already quite gloomy outside. At the meeting, the task is scrubbed and we're to reconvene at the Manteo airport on Thursday evening for a 5pm briefing followed by a fish fry on the beach.

Dan Gudgel needs a ride to the airport at Roanoke municipal so he can 'hit the airways' before the rain and get to Manteo before TS Bill arrives. We drop him off and go grab some lunch at a nearby restaurant. Before our order arrives it begins to rain outside and continues on and off until just before dinner at New Castle airport. We eat a delicious BBQ under a large shade/rain cover as we exchange stories and lies, meet new and old friends, and generally have a good time. For tomorrow we drive to Manteo.

Most of the drive to Manteo was under a low overcast and through quite a few showers. For about the last hour of the drive, the rain stopped, but the overcast stayed. The trailer was parked at the airport, we checked in to our motel, 'The Island House'. This is a quaint 1950's style motel run by a young proprietor who's working hard to keep it's old charm while maintaining a semblance of modern comforts. Nearly every guest had a dog, so Sara was quite welcome - unlike the Inn where most of the other contestans stayed.

We met up with the Payne's and Gudgels for dinner at a great seafood restaurant, which, we found is run by a great grandson of the photographer who took the famous Wright Brothers first flight photo. He stopped by our table and told us some stories of the region's history, including one about the Wright's giving away silk coverings from a damaged wing. The silk was highly prized for clothing as many of the locals were very poor. His great grandfather stated the Wrights were highly thought of throughout the community as being kind and generous. He was also very excited by the RTKH event. After dinner, we all celebrated a slightly premature happy 51st birthday for Jim Payne and Dan Gudgel, as they were both born on the 4th of July!

July 3rd dawned overcast and with some rain showers, but they were scattered enough to let us get out and do a little exploring. First, a visit to Manteo airport so Dan could check on the 185 and send some email, then off to Kitty Hawk for a reconnaissance of tomorrow's landing site.

We toured the monument, checked out the field, got drenched by a rain shower and dried off in the museum. Then we took a short rest in the motel before heading for the 5pm briefing. By now, the sky was clearing and we had perfect skies for the meeting
in the hangar. This lasted about an hour as all the details and safety issues were hashed and re-hashed until everyone understood what had to be done tomorrow.

Dinner was put on by the local Lions club and was delicious. After dinner, a number of group photos were taken, followed by the awards ceremony. A few adventurous and young at heart folks had fun at the end of the pier taking turns swinging on a makeshift trapeze into the shallow water. There were no serious injuries, but one of the younger participants let out a bloodcurdling scream when he lost footing during a swing.

On the morning of July 4th, we assembled 5Z at the departure point and Karen hit the road so as to arrive at Kitty Hawk before I did. My launch was scheduled for 0930, but with the usual delays, it was almost 1000 before I took a tow. We decided to tow in order to eliminate some of the complexities of dealing with engine cooldown on such a short flight. Although I think a self-launch would have put me a bit higher above the trees at the end of the runway compared to what our weakest towplane gave me.

We made a 360 over the airport, then headed out to the monument about 6 miles away. With about 1500' above glide slope, I released, made a 360 and headed for the designated spot for a low pass. The cockpit seemed a bit noisy and I wasn't accelerating
as fast as normal, but I was engrossed in setting up for a pass no lower than 300' AGL, followed by a teardrop approach to the now grassy field where the Wrights made their first flights. As I made the pull up, I hear John Murray remind me that I made the pass with the gear down - a mistake, I'm relieved to report, made by several other pilots. One pilot even forgot to lower his gear altogether, but smooth grass, a few gentle bumps and a cool head allowed him to lower the gear during one of the gentle bounces.
What a thrill, landing at the very spot aviation as we know it began!

John Murray was the first to make the historic landing. I was about the 5th and TP somewhere in between. The three of us pulled the gliders to the side and set up a static display for the rest of the day, answering questions as folks walked by on their way to the landing zone.

The other arrivals were spaced out so we had landings until about 3pm, with a 90 minute break midday for some hang glider and ultralight demos. THe weather cooperated by providing a gentle breeze across the landing zone and a few scattered cu
overhead. I, of course, completely forgot to take any photos of the sailplane with the monument in the background.

A little after 3 we packed up the glider, said a few goodbyes and hit the road for home. That evening we spent the night with Tom Tyson near Richmond, VA. The next day we drove to Glasgow, KY for a short vist with Karen's brother. The following day we drove to Topeka, KS and arrived at about 11pm. The next morning we hit the road at 0800 and made it home to Castle Rock, CO in time to do a bit of grocery shopping and have dinner at home. I'd like to thank Jim Payne and John Murray for coming up with the idea for this race, their wives, Jackie and Linda for helping make this a reality, and all the other behind the scenes volunteers for their tireless work in creating this once in a lifetime event. Both Karen and I are completely exhausted, but we wouldn't have missed this for anything.

I really think the SSA rules committe should consider coming up with some sports class rules tailored to this type of race and giving us the option to compete in similar, but shorter events in lieu of a regional. A soaring safari is quite fun, but for those of us with limited vacation time for contests, it would really help if the event was sanctioned as a 'real' race.

Tom Serkowski

From Jim Payne:
RTKH Report July 5, 2003

The race is over.

Our trip by trailer from Roanoke, Virginia was under low overcast skies with lots of rain. At 5 pm on July 3 we had a safety briefing for pilots who wanted to land at Kitty Hawk.
This was followed by a Lions Club fish fry awards ceremony. Thirty-three sailplanes made the entire trip. Between two-seaters and teams a total of 40 pilots made the entire trip. We gave each of these pilots a trophy.

We also gave commemorative trophies to folks who were important to the success of the event:
Dan Gudgel, chief tow pilot
Bernie Gross, tow pilot
Jeff Cloud, tow pilot
Tom Tyson, scoring
John Fairrington, launch operations and crew support.

We also acknowledged the contributions of Bertha Ryan, retrieve coordinator; Larry Tuohino, publicity; and Titian Scholtemeyer, webmaster of the RTKH web site. Titian has been especially busy - a couple of days ago the site passed 7 gigabytes of data which required additional memory. In June the RTKH website received over 2,000,000 hits, up from 2,000 the month before.

Tom Tyson announced the US Motorglider National Champion who was John Lubon. (Natalie was first but she is a German citizen.) He also announced the top 3 in each class. (See the Leader Board.) Linda Murray did the presentations. Linda Murray also presented a "Grand Champion" trophy for the pilot of the class that had the best percentage of daily winner‚s score (like the Hatcher Trophy). Tom and I were fortunate to win this trophy.

As planned, on July 4th we "committed aviation" on the hallowed grounds at the base of Kill Devil Hill. This is where the Wrights learned to fly in gliders during the years 1900 through 1902. Their gliding led to their successful 1903 airplane.

First Flight Airport has a paved runway separated by trees from the now grassy area where the Wrights flew. The National Park Service allowed the RTKH pilots to land sailplanes on the grassy area. These landings might have been the first glider landings on the spot since the Wrights. It was an emotional event to make a low pass over the trees and land on the site of first flight.

Getting permission to land on the grassy area was the result of a lot of hard work and coordination by John Murray, Ray Galloway, and others. By the end of the day the National Park Service was so happy with the event that the Superintendent invited us to return next year.

In the evening we enjoyed a cook out at the base of Kill Devil Hill. Food near tasted so good.

At nightfall we all ascended Kill Devil Hill to watch the local fireworks. As the highest point in miles it was a great vantage point for watching the nearby celebration at Nags Heads as well as other communities such as Manteo.

I am now traveling home with mixed emotions. The loss of our friend, Gene Carapetyan, has weighed heavy on our hearts. We were able to go on because we know it is what he would want. The smiles and thanks of the folks who made the journey are much appreciated.

Soar safe, have fun, go across the country,
Jim Payne

RTKH - Leg 12 report

From Dave Nadler (July 4, 2003):
Thursday night we had a fish fry and presentations for the "winners". Everybody who participated was a winner. We got a detailed briefing of exactly how to handle landing at the Wright Brothers National Monument. Stage in groups of 4, shooting for arrivals every 7 minutes. Pass over the trees between the GA runway and the monument and "first flight" field. Do NOT turn until you have PASSED all people and buildings, then turn right and pull up, then circle left to land. This keeps us well separated from GA traffic and NOT over the spectators and buildings. Friday morning arrived with clear skies, a light SW wind, and no chance of untoward weather. Perfect ! We had some confusion getting started out of Manteo. Memo to tow-pilots: if you need to abort a take-off, do NOT stand on the brakes in the middle of the runway, as the glider will probably hit you, unless bizarre and scary maneuvers are performed and a great deal of luck is used up. GET OUT OF THE WAY and then get the tow-plane stopped. Remember, many gliders have Tost "brakes".

My turn came at 11:25, and I motored up, cooled down, and retracted the motor over Manteo while a couple of tows passed. I made the proscribed pattern past the monument, down the tree-line, past the spectators and buildings, and pull up. Remember to put the gear down (how embarrassing would that be), circled around, and descend to 5 feet. Past the big granite markers showing the site of the first four flights of the Wrights, December 17th, 1903. What a privilege to pass over the exact spot, at the same altitude, almost 100 years later.

We all arrived safely and to the great satisfaction of the park service. Yes, there were a few "non-standard" patterns, a motor-glider that arrived with the motor partially stuck out, one gear up landing (really now !), but by and large without excitement. What an experience !

We stashed the Ventus and spent the afternoon critiquing the later arrivals. Visited the museum again, then settled in for our massive tailgate party. Countless grills fired up and remember, no alcohol in the National Park. Eat way to much, watch the sun set, then clamber up the monument hill to watch the fireworks in the warm evening breeeze.
Perfect !

Its been quite an adventure. Thanks again to the Paynes, Murrays, the rest of the organization, the tow-pilots who dragged about the country with us, the Park Service, and my crew David Fitch for making this possible. Murray passed by, giddy that the park ranger says his boss was really happy with us; could we come back next year ? A great experience, wish you all could have been here. Tomorrow, 12 hours drive back to Boston, where I hope Renee and Rupert will recognize me.
Best Regards, Dave


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