speed record breaking
When one thinks of World
Air Speed records, the exploits of Chuck Jaeger and more recently Steve
Fossett come to mind. However, it can
be surprisingly easy to land up with a world air speed record on your
Air Speed Records are administered by the
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale; FAI for short. The
possibilities for the everyday pilot are almost endless.
There are records for just
about everything! Altitude, distance, speed over a measured distance and
while flying everything from the latest scram jet to pedal power. Aircraft
are also classified by their weight.
Every country has an
association that acts on behalf of the FAI. In the UK, it is the Royal
Aero Club while in the USA it is the National Aeronautic Association
(Contest & Records department).
Before undertaking your
record attempt, it is essential that you contact your national body who
will tell you whether your project will be accepted as a speed record.
Needless to say, they will extract some money from you, and you will have
to apply for a FAI competition license (more money). You will have to fill
in some paperwork, and forms will have to be downloaded that must be
filled in by the official timekeepers at the start and finish of your
attempt. Air traffic controllers are usually accepted by the FAI as
The most simple record to
obtain is one that specifies a flight from one place to another. The
flights have to be more than a certain distance, which is reduced if
between two countries. There are all kinds of classes, depending upon
So you live in Longmont
Colo. USA and you fly a Vans RV3. Your maximum takeoff weight is less than
1000Kg so you will be in class
C1B (landplane piston). So you figure that you might try for the record
from Longmont airfield to Sheridan Wyoming. On checking on the FAI site
you see that someone already holds that record with a Lancair 360 so it is
very unlikely that you are going to beat it. So you try Lima (Colo). No
one ever wants to go there by choice so not surprisingly you find that no
one has got that record. The NAA agrees to the record attempt so you now
wait for the right weather. If the wind is in your favour, that is a great
advantage, so what you are really after is one hell of a North Westerly to
help blow you along.
Having cleared with
Longmont and Lima control towers that they are happy to be your
timekeepers, you are all set for your attempt.
Below is an amusing
article by a disabled Glasair pilot who took the absolute piston record
from Lands End to John o'Groats (UK) in 2005.
Blame it on
John de Frayssinet
the route taken
Flying a light plane
to the North of Scotland on the face of it does not seem to be a
huge challenge. Organising a sponsored world air speed record to
raise money for disabled flying is
another matter entirely: hours of work on the telephone to persuade
sponsors to support the effort, paperwork to get the record
challenge accepted by the Royal Aero Club, press interviews and a
lot more besides.
Having done all
this, we were left with a sword of Damocles that hovered over our
heads until the deed was done. We had declared that we would fly as
early as possible in May. Homebuilt planes registered with the
Popular Flying Association (UK) are not allowed to fly in cloud so
the attempt would be completely weather dependent. As the days went
by, the long distance to be flown over very empty water seemed even
longer. We were unable to include a life raft due to the additional
weight involved. We were only too well aware that in the event of
having to ditch, our chance of surviving would be very poor indeed.
It really made us understand the pressures felt by long distance
record breakers, albeit on a small scale.
The idea came after
reading in Flyer magazine about the record set by Nick Lambert
who flew the course from Lands
End to John o'Groats last year in a diesel powered Diamond DA40 D of
135 hp. at 138.553 mph.
For a number of
years, I have been a technical consultant for the British Disabled
Flying Association. In order to
further raise awareness of the possibilities of flying for the
disabled, we thought that it might be a good idea to try to break
Nick's record.......after all, our aircraft is a lot faster than the
The Glasair RG is a
fast kit plane which took us 7 years and over 7500 hours to build. Its
construction was a saga in itself prompting me to suggest that all
kits should come with a free Zimmer frame! The aircraft won top
awards for home built aircraft in the 2003 PFA(UK) and RSA (France)
Jenny is a stiff
pensioner grandmother with mobility difficulties.
I am a fat one legged granddad deep in male menopause. While flying
in the UK and Europe we had realised that despite legislation,
little has been done on many airfields to accommodate disabled
pilots. What better message could there be that disabled folks take
to the skies on equal terms with the able bodied but need a bit more
help on the ground?
After all the
preparation had been completed, we waited for our weather experts at
SkyBook to give us a green light. What we wanted was of course clear
skies and a strong following wind. What came on offer was reasonable
weather with perhaps a small component of following wind over part
of the course. British weather being what it is, we decided to take
Leaving Shobdon, in
Herefordshire, on the 11th of May, we had an uneventful flight to
RNAS Culdrose, close to Lands End. We are reluctant to operate our
Glasair from grass strips such as Lands End so Royal Navy Culdrose
came to our rescue. We were given a very warm welcome there and were
able to stay at their wardroom. Sleep evaded us for much of the
night due to nerves and I must have redone the fuel calculations at
least three times!
The morning of the
12th was not at all promising, with low clouds and a freezing cold
Easterly wind but we soon discovered that further North the weather
was clear so the attempt was on.
And was Culdrose
cold! A long pre-flight check left us chilled to the bone. Finally,
everything was ready and the three of us took our places in G-BMIO.
That's right, three of us.......we were also taking along Go Bear, a
charity initiative by the Northamptonshire School of Flying to raise
money for disabled flying. Go Bear has been in all kinds of planes,
even with the Red Arrows and has his own log book. He will
eventually be auctioned off to the highest bidder. There he sat, on
top of the luggage, glaring at us in his dark goggles. It seemed
only natural that any problems we experienced would be blamed on the
To be honest, we
were more than a little concerned about being taken short on such a
long flight. I always say we fly a fast plane because we cannot hold
on for so long any more! This was one flight that could not be
interrupted by a 'comfort stop'. To be on the safe side we had
provided ourselves with geriatric diapers....just in
case............. and was that was an embarrassing visit to the
On takeoff, we
groped our way beneath low clouds to Lands End Airport where we were
officially timed and then headed across empty sea at low level.
Despite cockpit heating, we shivered for the first hour of flight.
Gradually the weather cleared and before reaching the tip of South
Wales we were able to climb to 6000ft and get the airspeed settled
down. We were also going for a class record which is dependent on
the weight of the aircraft (1000kg max). This meant we had to be
sparing with the fuel on board so we were unable to go flat out and
therefore flew the course at a more economical 75% of power. At
6000ft in smooth air, we were registering 193 kts over the ground.
Even the simple task of passing control to the other reduced our
speed by ten knots. Intense concentration was need to keep the
aircraft flying at maximum speed.
The mountain ranges
of Wales were a magnificent sight rising from cloud, grey and
mysterious. It was a pity that we had left our camera in the car of
one of our sponsors!
at Bardsey Island to RAF valley, we continued North towards a patch
of cumulous cloud that had to be the Isle of Man. I.O.M. ATC worked
us across the island and on leaving their frequency, ordered us to
'keep the pedal to the metal'; a great morale booster to two lonely
people in charge of a bear!
All too soon we were
over Scotland and transferred to Scottish FIS. Sadly a layer of
cloud forced us to descend through the Glasgow area and much time
was lost being bounced around and climbing again to clear the
Scottish Highlands. We flew over majestic mountains covered in snow
and at last began our slow descent towards RAF Lossiemouth where we
were cleared for overflight and on to Wick and finally passed John
appeared on the Garmin GPS map we were really able to begin to
enjoy the flight. We had not been prepared for the vista that met
us. The Orkney Isles laid out like jewels in a blue sea circling the
famous Scapa Flow, home of the Royal Navy Atlantic fleet for a
century. We were cleared to cross Kirkwall airfield at 1000ft at VNE
and turned downwind to land. We were told that this was the best
weather the Orkney Isles had enjoyed so far this year.
Proudly we were able
to declare that our comfort preparations had remained unused.
Comfort was regained for me after a brief (pardon the pun) all-in
wrestling match with my monstrous elasticated geriatric bloomers and
Jenny was rushed off to the loo and by the way, we had broken the
the Orkney Isles
arrival at Kirkwall
The welcome we
received at Kirkwall was overwhelming. Following press interviews
and after completing more paperwork we were able to leave the
airfield and spend the next 36 hours enjoying this fabulous island.
The Orcadians are warm smiling hospitable people who clearly love
their beautiful islands. The food was fantastic! I enjoyed the best
steak I think I have ever had and discovered a beer called
Dark Island....a true elixir of the Gods.
We sadly left on
Saturday and returned to Shobdon in clear weather with a Northerly
wind behind us. We have had our few minutes of fame and must say we
found it all a bit overwhelming. It is an adventure that we will
remember for a long time to come and will no doubt bore many people
with it. As life now returns to normal, it already seems a long way
away. The cats were glad to see us home and celebrated by being sick
on the duvet.
We now have plans to
return to the Orkney Isles, but this time, (don't tell anyone) with
We would like to
thank every one involved with the record attempt....... from our
sponsors to all those who gave us so much hospitality, help and
kindness. A special thanks to Kirkwall Airport for their welcome and
assistance and to Nick Lambert for his gracious gift of a bottle of
safe arrival at Shobdon airfield, Herefordshire the pilotfriend
If we had carried
more fuel and had enjoyed slightly better weather, we could have
flown at 100% power and completed the run at over 200 knots....buts
who's counting? We are being asked "what's next?". The answer is
"no idea". We do not see ourselves as members of that special group
of record breaking pilots and usually spend our time worrying about
finding the money to pay for hangerage! We intend to continue to
actively campaign for better airfield access for disabled pilots. We
did in fact fly further than John o'Groats as we had to land at
nautical miles (621 statute miles)
time in flight Land
end to John o Groats 3 hours 40 seconds
speed 180.14 knots
The record could be
broken by a fast twin engined aircraft or a faster single such as
the Glasair 3 or Lancair 4. Nick Lambert still holds the record for
class C1C while we will hold the record for class C1B, hopefully for
some time to come. The record has been formally ratified by the
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in Paris.
So if the idea of being a
world record holder fire you up, check out the FAI and go for it!