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If we could go back in time

Short Flights


August 4, 2018

Photo provided

Sea Fury Race Plane.

Have you every wished you could go back in time? I have heard several people say they wished they could go back to the days when the air races were held at Mojave. Great sounds from magnificent warbirds, super nice pilots, no fences, no worries about terrorists, just easy going, exciting days that filled all of your senses with joy!

I met some really great people at our last Plane Crazy Saturday who like reading this column and commented about the last article I did about the Mojave Air Races. It was fun to reminisce about some of the aircraft and the pilots who flew in the races. I appreciate the opportunity to meet up with readers of this column.

I was lucky to have met Darryl Greenamyer the year he and Clay Lacy were putting together the Unlimited Air Races at Mojave in 1970. They called it the "California 1000 – gran prix endurance for the world's fastest racing planes."

Darryl had just set the absolute speed record for propeller aircraft of 483-mph in August 1969 at Edwards, in a modified F8F Bearcat. I asked if I could help at Mojave and he said, "Sure, come and help my mom."

His mother and father, Bette and George, had a small motor home set up in the parking lot where the Voyager Restaurant parking lot is now. She was delightful and was very supportive of her son's flying activities. While the guys constructed and erected the race pylons, Bette and I made sack lunches for the air race set-up crew.

After the course was laid out and the pylons were up, pilots started flying in from all over the U.S. What a thrill for an airplane lover like me to be up close and personal with P-51s, F8F Bearcats, F4U Corsairs, Sea Furys, Douglas A-26 Invaders and P-38 Lightnings. Thank goodness, my mother helped me by watching my little boys, who were 7 and 2 years old at the time. I only worked (volunteered) a few hours each day, but it was exciting and breathtaking for me. I guess that is when I fell in love with Mojave Airport!

I wonder how many people know that Darryl had a Double-A Fuel Dragster (AA/FD) that was also sponsored by Smirnoff Vodka. He raced at all of the famous drag strips, including Lions, Irwindale, Pomona and Las Vegas. The person who enticed him toward dragsters was the famous race engine guru, Dave Zeuschel, whom he met at the Reno Air Races. A lightning "Z" on the cowling of an airplane, on a race boat or on the body of a dragster, consistently meant you were going to win the race.

Photo provided

Clay Lacy in DC-7 "Super Snoopy" racing against Greenamyer's AA/Fuel Dragster.

Clay Lacy flew "Super Snoopy" a Douglas DC-7. The guys thought a speed comparison between a dragster and an airplane would be fun, so Darryl brought his AA fueler out of retirement and had a racing friend drive it.

Clay obviously loved flying. He told me right where to stand during his low-level pass and I saw him coming around the pylon. The big four-engine DC-7 dropped down a little lower and I could see vortices from the propellers coming up from the desert floor. "Oh my God," I thought, "Clay told me that he would be low, but I never dreamed he would get that low!" Everyone else was diving for the ground, but not me, I was jumping up and down, waving at Clay! I could actually see his great smile in the cockpit.

Super memories. See you on our next flight!


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