The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

It’s always nice to have decent pictures taken of you doing cool stuff. I was lucky that there was a photographer at the NEQ event who was offering picture packages for those of us on the track. He got some good ones of me and my car going through some of the great sections of WGI.

All photos by Alec Connors Photography

Coming through turn 3. 4th Gear foot to the floor. The JCW’s exhaust sounds pretty badass through here.
The first day of tackling the Bus Stop on the back straight. It took me until midway through day 2 before I could make this bit work well for me.
Heading for turn 10 and the front straight. You can see I’ve learned how to set my front end suspension properly for the approach to 10. This was a section where I could catch out faster cars who weren’t as confident in their entry.
At this point, I’ve started to put what I’ve learned together and my entry and exit from the Bus Stop allows me to be plenty fast into turn 5.
Coming out of the Esses was one of my favourite parts of the track. If I’d had a few more horses under the hood I could have been doing 190kmh at the top of Turn 4.
I love this car so much…

I’m on the third or fourth lap of my afternoon session on the second of my two track days. It been a steady progression learning the track both in classroom sessions and in practical instructed twenty minute on track sessions. I’m in fifth gear heading down the front straight of Watkins Glen International with my braking section rapidly approaching, when I glance at my digital speedometer in the center of my wheel. It reads 100mph. I’m coming into a ninety degree corner that falls away from you at one hundred miles per hour! Lesson learned, do not look at the speedometer. Worry about what the car is doing. WGI has large signs on the left side of turn one as you enter the braking zone, 500, 400, 300 – Hard but smooth on the brakes, 200, at 100 I release the brake pedal and turn in to the apex of the corner. Physics and my throttle carry me out to the left side of the track. I’ve all ready had two wheels totally over the curb on that side of the track earlier today when I muffed my braking and carried far too much corner speed into the turn. Your instinct in fact every fiber of your being wants you to turn in to the slide but that’ll make you spin. Des my instructor has beat it into my head over and over, “Open up the wheel, keep your hands straight and the car will come out of it.” But this is my fifth session on this track and I’m finally getting the hang of dropping through turn one. I nail my braking and drift out just enough under throttle to the track out point of the turn where my left side wheels just kiss the paint of the curb.

Watkins Glen is labelled as the favorite track of NASCAR and I can see why. As with any new experience it was scary at first as I was taught how to tackle its twists and turns and changes of elevation. It’s a much more technical track than Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park). You reach the same top speeds on WGI even though it is a longer track but regardless of that, it feels faster. You shift more, you brake more and if you muff it, there’s a good chance you’re going into a wall. That’s not hyperbole, turn 9 terrified me at first because it’s a diminishing radius to the apex and the track out point is a very solid looking bit of concrete. Still, at this point, I’m deep into it and confident of my ability to string the corners together. Confident enough I’ve held off the advances of the ZX-1 Corvette in my rear view for the last three laps. Obviously my 2016 JCW Mini doesn’t have it in the horsepower department against such a beast on the straight sections but lap after lap has shown he can’t touch me in the bits that twist and turn. I also suspect his suspension isn’t as dialed in as mine feels and lastly, my instructor Des races Minis and tests at this track. I listen to what he has to say and try to apply it to the best of my ability.

The map above gives you a pretty good idea of the turns and elevation changes of WGI but it’s one thing to look at a picture, it’s something else to drive it. Which is why track days are always best with a sponsored group who look after tech inspections and make sure skilled corner workers are manning the flag stations and the different skill levels of drivers each have their dedicated track times. I was down at WGI with Infinite Motorsports who were working with the NEQ Audi Owners group. And I can’t say enough good stuff about both groups. NEQ hosted a great track event and Infinite really looked after those of us who put the money out to be down there and while yes, it can be a bit pricey, it’s good value for the money and if you have a performance vehicle, you owe it to yourself to see what your car can do in a place where you can legally and safely do it. Everybody I saw or talked to was very happy to be there and I didn’t see a single incident of anybody getting bent out of shape from anything that went on on the track. It hard to be stroppy when you’ve literally just gone 120mph. The guys and girls in the really high end cars going even faster had even bigger smiles.

The map above shows the turn numbering, for clarity.

In the interest of safety there’s a standing yellow flag (no passing under yellow) for the warm up lap. Once the first car hits Turn 11 everybody is good to accelerate to speed and the passing zones are open. There’s a strict protocol for initiating a pass. The car in front indicates with their turn signals which side they want you to pass on. This can get pretty exciting as our Novice group can really only pass on the straight bits. So coming out of turn 11 on the front straight you’ve got to give it everything to get past whoever you’re passing and then get back on the racing line prior to hitting the braking zone. I always found it easier on my nerves to pass past Turn 4 and Turn 7. This being an Audi Club event the majority of cars were european. Lots of Audis, BMW M class and Porsche was also well represented with Bob one of our group members being the only Mercedes on the field with his tuned AMG GT S (600+hp under his hood). Anytime I saw him in my rear view I just got over on the next straight section and let him by. What American iron that was there was four Corvettes from a car club in New York and a lone Dodge Charger, though to be honest I only saw him for a second. The Corvette guys were interesting. They actually had driven up on race slicks and like I said, they were formidable on the straights (providing they’d managed their corner getting to the straight section). Any Porsche was a monster with the exception of the single red Cayman S in our class who I was able to hang with through a whole session, even though he tried mightily to shake me. No, it’s not a race and yes, it is just for fun but I’ve got to say when somebody in a car worth over twice the cost of yours and with 325hp under the hood compared to your 240hp can’t break away, it’s a deeply satisfying feeling but then the whole experience was deeply satisfying in the end. Each lap is just over two and a half minutes long but it always seems a lot quicker.

There was one casualty of this experience, well four actually. My brake pads were at about half thickness which the tech inspection prior to getting on the track confirmed. After the very end of my last session on the track as I rolled back into the Pits, I got dual warnings front and rear on my brake pads and my car informed me I had 400km left on my rear pads and about 1200km left on my front. Enough to get me home and drive around for a bit while we wait for the new performance rotors and pads to arrive. It’ll be the first real money I’ve sunk into my car to improve performance.

“And so it begins…”

In seven days I’ll be in Watkins Glen, NY. The following morning after an early breakfast and a driver’s briefing at 08:30 I’ll be on one of the most storied and beloved tracks in North America. Infinite Motorsports has us booked in for two days on the track.

It’s funny but I’ve always been big on mental preparation. Forewarned is forearmed. I studied video of guys on the Translab for months before I hit the surface of the road for myself. Lucky for me, there’s plenty of onboard video of laps at Watkins Glen and one of the most helpful is of somebody in their Mini GP. Even so, there’s always nerves before you actually tackle the thing for yourself and find your rhythm. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done a thing either, there’s always a brief moment of uncertainty before I pull the trigger and commit.

Everything about this new pastime has been a learning curve. Driving a car around and around a track might seem kind of nuts to some people but then the same kind of sights and smells that get me going probably don’t do too much for them.

There were a couple of things that needed doing to drive on this track. For one, I had to purchase a SA2015 rated helmet, which is essentially a helmet designed for auto racing. I went full face because as much as I like open face helmets, I like the security of full coverage. I also bought a TOW hook as per instructions though it turns out my JCW comes with one stock. So if anybody wants to buy a TOW hook, I’ve got a brand new one for sale. I’ve also purchased Track Day insurance. It’s not cheap but for the peace of mind, it’s worth it.

All of this also raised the question of lap times. It’s not easy to be consistent on a lapping day as you’re working with and around other drivers on the track and a slower driver in front of you can hold you up until you hit a passing zone or conversely if you need to get over to let a faster driver and car by you don’t do it under acceleration. It’s one of the reasons I try to be first in the chute to get on the track when your session comes up.

So by my calculations I should be able to get within range of a 2:35 lap at The Glen. A full minute slower than the real race pace but I’m in a JCW Mini, not a Ferrari 488. I’m also sure it’ll still be pretty damn exciting.

It was in looking at ways to log my lap times that I started looking at a technological way to make it happen. Garmin Vibe cameras have the ability to log speed, position and G-Force but they’re also around $600. Garmin also has a dedicated smart watch with hundreds of race tracks logged into its memory but at $1600, pretty much a non starter. Plus I haven’t worn a watch in over a decade, so there’s that. Still, it got me to thinking, I bet there’s an app for that and there are a couple. One of which you can couple with an OBD2 reader and put live telemetry right on your video. That one’s logged for later but I did get an app that has the same functionality of the Garmin Watch but only cost me $20.

I’ve also invested in some camera mounts for in the cockpit of the car. So the next post should have some better video than what’s been provided so far.

Not the fastest section on the track but you get the idea.

It’s no secret I enjoy pushing my own limits. Whether it’s with the V-Strom up on the pegs blasting down the Translab or trying to use a dirt track to cross a mountain pass better left alone, and now it’s trying to go as fast as I possibly can around a track in my JCW Mini. Some would say it’s a bit mad and who’s to say they’re wong? But I’m willing to bet, if you were measuring my heartbeat and blood pressure at those moments (with the exception of that mountain pass episode which got stupidly out of hand) you’d see a pretty steady set of measurements.

I can’t explain why I like this sort of thing but ever since I was given the gift of wheels as a small boy, I’ve wanted to go faster, further to the limits of where they’ll take me.

So here’s me trying to explain the feeling inside.

I don’t know much about Zen Buddhism but I’m pretty sure I’ve had a few Zen moments. Back when I was a teenager I was big into slalom waterskiing (a single ski). The best time to do it was early in the morning when the lake was like glass, before the wind had picked up and the waves gained strength. You could just carve away back and forth behind the boat. It was like flying but the Zen part of it was when you’d pull your body through the turn to cut back across the wake of the boat. There was a moment where everything was in perfect alignment, your arms, your body, the boat, the water, even it felt, the universe and it was like somebody was strumming a universal chord and you were the string and then you’d shoot back across the wake.

The other time was on the Translab. I was up on the pegs, leaning forward on the bike and doing just over 1oo kmh. The bike moved underneath me in very unnatural ways but there was a trust there between me and it, that this was the way it was supposed to be and it was as if my head was in it’s own bubble of calm. Everything fell away and my world became that rushing tunnel of three hundred feet in front of me and just the light tough of my hands on the bars and the nudges of my knees on the tank to keep me in line and once again, there was the feeling of that universal chord.

Last year was a tough one, physically and emotionally and to be honest, the final verdict on my riding days is still not in but when a big part of what defines you is wrapped up in something, it’s damned hard to let go of it and the feelings inside it generates. However, the JCW does pull me back towards my mental happy place. The second I drove it for the first time, I knew I’d be buying it and I knew I’d be getting it on a track. There is no greater sin in my eyes than having a thing built to do something and then never doing the very thing it was made for. John Cooper was always about the track. His entire focus was making things that went very fast and handled really well. What he did to the very first Mini’s to make them competitive is the stuff of motorsports legend and the JCW marque on the new Minis does him proud. So when I had the opportunity to learn how to lap my car properly and safely last October, I took it and it was an eye opener to say the least. Though I’ll admit, not very Zen. More of the other creature that also lives inside my head. The one that goes, “Yes, this thing is for us.” You start out a bit timid and unsure of how far you can push things but once you get the hang of the limits you can go to, you push up against them as hard as you can.

October to May is a bit of a stretch time wise or at least it feels as if winter is never going to end. For what was going to be my second track day with Infinite Motorsports I found myself back in Novice class. Which is fine. You need to show what you learned the previous session has stuck and to be fair, my first few laps were rusty and skittish until I managed to settle myself down. I’ll be honest, I was nervous. After the second session, my instructor cut me loose solo on the track. I was consistent enough to satisfy him.

Smooth is fast

Ross Bentley – Ultimate Speed Secrets

I’m on the back straightaway which is a bit of a misnomer as it’s actually more of a shallow curve to the right from turn 5C all the way up to the entry to turn 8. I’m closing on the Canadian Tire Bridge at the top of turn 7 with my accelerator to the floor in 5th gear. It’s taken two half hour sessions in the morning with an instructor to get me to this point. When I pass under the bridge I’m covering just over one hundred and eighty feet every second my braking point is about two seconds past the bridge. In three heartbeats, I’ll cover roughly the length of a football field before hitting my brakes hard enough to load my front end suspension and drop my entry speed into the corner to 150kmh. My tires howl in protest as a push the car tight into the turn aiming the front right tire for the white line at the inside edge of the track.

“Let her drift out, find your grip.” The voice of my instructor plays in my head. I ease off the turn a little and the car drifts to the strip of asphalt about three feet to the inside of the edge of the track. Once the front wheels are on it, I turn in to the right of the car, hold the curve and give her throttle. My tires sound like wounded dogs as I cross the apex of the turn and head into turn 9’s left hander.

Hard on the brakes, down into fourth. None of this Triptronic stuff for me, I’m in a manual, so it’s the ballet of left foot, right hand, accelerator. Turn 10 is another quick flick down to third and let the wheel wind out as I head onto the front straight at 120kmh which feels a lot slower now than it did this morning. I’ll shift into fourth as I cross the start finish line and trail brake into turn 1 so I can enter it at about 125kmh.

First Solo Lap minus my instructor – Shit just got real.

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is a technical track with many blind corners, which are also off camber. There are also a lot of elevation changes. Each one has its challenges obviously but there are sections I really enjoy like the drop from Turn 2 around 3. Turn 4 is a bit unnerving because you have to brake quite late before you turn in to go down the hill then brake hard as you can and downshift to 3rd as you charge up the hill to the apex of 5b with its tight 34 foot radius. I’m still working on tackling all the sections of Turn 5 properly. Which brings us back to the top of this section.

The thing about Track Days is it brings out a wide selection of people and cars. Everything from a Nissan Micra (one of my favorite racing classes to watch at the track) to McLarens and a good smattering of Porsches and other fastness. All are enthusiasts and everybody likes to talk about their car or their time on the track, compare notes on corners etc. The funny thing at least for me is, I like the social aspect but it really is just the down time between my times on the track.

Next month I’ll be at Watkins Glen for a couple of days, I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a good chance it’s going to be all the time off I can manage this year. At least I’ll be taking it at speed.

Every year one of the largest model making competition and swap meets takes place at the Canadian Heritage Warplane Museum in Hamilton and I do my very best to attend. Back when I was a lot younger, I used to build primarily 1/48 Scale WW 2 aircraft (everybody has their niche) and while I always appreciated the work and detail of dioramas I never possessed enough of a skill set to build my own. Once I got married (ironically I met my wife when she was working in her Grandparent’s Hobby Store) and we began to have a family, the model making fell by the wayside and life crept in. Still, I love good work in miniature and always will and some of these builders really do magnificent work.

As far as the photography goes, the CWHM has very high and very bright lighting of the standard metal halide type and while the wall with the hanger doors has plenty of glass, lighting conditions are a challenge at best. I’d meant to pick up an LED fill light but hadn’t had time since my Rotolight pooched on me. Because it’s a show, I didn’t bring a tripod either as who wants to be stepping around that while they’re trying to enjoy things? You’re also shooting on the extreme edge of the macro settings on your lens. In this case a Sigma 17-75mm. In order to get better DOF, I was shooting at around f6.0 and because of this I had to run my ISO at 2000 and my average shutter speed was 1/30.

So right away, you can see the struggle with DOF but it looks not too bad considering this figure is only about 1 1/2″ tall. I’m at 17mm and pretty much right up against it.
Tinkerbell by contrast was a much bigger figure and I believe scratch built.
I love the model within a model vibe of this one.
I also really enjoy dioramas that offer historical context. Lots of research went into this one.
Another angle
This one looks real enough to ride.
Apollo 15 Landing Site and the debut of the Moon Buggy.
Great attention to historical detail.
A really nice Millenium Falcon
Not sure what this was from but it was pretty cool to look at. With lots of stuff going on.
I loved the plywood finish on this one.
A nice, “Flower,” class Corvette.
I’m also a big fan of more interesting subjects you’re not used to seeing modelled.
The Great Eastern one of Brunel’s greatest achievements. A ship well worth reading about.
Indian Troops working with armour.
Nice action in this diorama.
A very impressive Engineering vehicle.
Great weathering on the mine plow.
A Nice 1/32 Typhoon
A very well done Shackleton
Grumman Avenger
Some 1/144 scale armour. My lens is pretty much right up against this model.
Here I’m trying to impart the action in the diorama relative to it. Makes me wish I’d brought my flat focal plane lens.

The use of active LED to create a welding effect was a great touch in this diorama.
This guy has seen some shit.
Sean Connery in miniature from, “The Man Who Would Be King.”
A nicely done B-Wing from the Star Wars universe.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these shots. Swing by my author page to check out my books at www.steveabbottauthor.com

One of the crew welds a well onto a mixing tank.

Weeks pass in a blur. Being part of getting a new company off the ground is consuming enough but we’re also going through some family medical issues. The unfortunate thing is they’re a few provinces away which makes things difficult.

Last year was so full, I didn’t get any sort of chance to get away, though with my throttle arm being what it is, I’m not sure how that would have played out anyway. Still, that leaves me with extra time on the books for this year.

So that in a nutshell is why I haven’t been posting. I didn’t feel putting up bits about me designing tanks or welding stuff wouldn’t be too interesting. Though I’ve started to experiment with stop motion and the results are a bit cool. And yes, that’s my ugly mug in the videos.

I’ve also started to experiment with animation in Solidworks for some of our design presentations. Maybe not too cool to most but you get a bunch of engineers in a room and show them how their gear is going to look in operation and it causes a stir.

Anyway, as a result a lot of other things have fallen by the wayside and I’m trying very hard to get back into my photography as well as completing my next travel book and completing the the last Sean Addison book. Though to be fair, Amazon has been such a shit show for the last bit I’m going to be going wide with it and reissuing the other books in the series wide as well. To be honest, I’m having a hard time breaking the inertia to write after a long day at work. I’ll keep trying though.

On a comical note, I was having issues with our dryer telling us there was a blockage in the dryer vent. After checking the outlet (which was clear) I finally buckled and pulled apart the dryer vent line deeper in the house. It was full (and I mean full) of pine cones. Seems it had been used for Winter storage. I removed the blockage and then discovered it had burned out the Thyristor control pack on the vent line’s booster fan. Lucky for me I knew how to wire up a bypass. So now the fan is on or off by switch when we go to dry our clothes. The automatic start was a nice function but life goes on without it.

I will try to post more to the blog but seeing how chaotic my life currently remains, I’m not sure how well that’s going to play out.

So finally got the link to the pics from my lap day. The bulk of them are at turn 5 A thru C with only the one being at turn 1 from early in the day as I’m getting used to pushing my car to my limits.

I’m already signed up for the 2019 season of track days run by Infinite Motorsports and will most likely be also participating in the Watkin’s Glen excursion as well. My shoulder isn’t improving and because of this, there a good chance my motorcycle riding days are if not over, I’ll be severely curtailed as to the length of my rides. Long distance forays are pretty much right out for me these days which truly sucks as a big chunk of my identity is tied up with my bike and the places we’ve been and the things I’ve done on her to get there.

Still, my JCW Mini allows me to learn new skills and still enjoy another facet of motorsport. I’m looking forward to taking Colin out on the track with me next year as he really does enjoy going fast.

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The only downside here is I’ll be stuck waiting till May before heading back on to the track. I briefly looked at putting a Dinan kit into the Mini but after reading a couple of books on how to get more speed out of your car, I’ll be spending next year building my driving skills before making any mechanical modifications to my car. It’s pretty quick in its current configuration. It’s probably for the best to get a handle on that now before pushing the limits engine wise. 

IMG_5488 - Despair Crop I’ve met some people over the course of my life (as you do) who were pretty toxic individuals. It’s always a frustrating experience. Usually, they see their abusive behaviour as, “Motivating,” when most times it has exactly the opposite effect. Be it work related or on personal time, nobody wants to be around somebody who is at their very core an asshole who makes you feel shitty.

These days it’s easy to feel surrounded by toxicity. Our politics are populated by tribalism, it feels like the planet is under constant attack by those who view profits as being more important than breathing clean air or having potable water and being insular and afraid of the, “Other,” is seen as strength. There’s a lot of, “My way or the highway,” attitude out there and it’s reinforced by what ever bubble of influence you live within. Frankly, it’s killing all of us.

My experiences with toxic people is they lack empathy, the ability to see things from another’s point of view and because of that, they’ll lock on to one tiny thing, regardless of whether it’s a salient point or not and fight to the death on that hill. The problem for those of us dealing with this is we’re not even aware we’re in a fight in the first place. This toxic myopia is truly stunning to behold as the confronted narcissist will go through amazing flips and contortions of logic (or for the most part illogic) to maintain their supposed position of superiority. The funny thing is, they think they’re winning when in fact everyone around them is just figuring a way around them, so things can get done. They seek to isolate others but in the end just isolate themselves.

Lapping Day 2018 Just a couple of pics for this post, I’ll explain why in a minute.

As you know, my 2003 Mini Cooper S needed enough expensive surgery to warrant me putting her down. While I was looking for something around my figured budget (about $12,000) my wife asked me about a 2016 John Cooper Works Mini she’d found in St. Catherines.

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Here it is here, so you know how that turned out.

Now as anybody who reads this blog knows, I’m a fan of Mini and the JCW is the pinnacle as far as a factory built car goes. My Gen 3 is a far cry from my other Gen 1s. I went from 163 HP with a supercharger to 240 HP with twin turbos.

Ever since I bought the car back in June, I’ve been looking to get it out on a track. It took me a bit to track down a group I wanted to go with but I finally found it in Infinite Motorsports. I just missed their last lapping track day back in August but I signed up for their October session at Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park).

Because I’m a Novice, I would have an instructor in the car with me for every on track session and there was also a thirty minute class after the day’s initial safety briefing. The safety briefing was thorough and sombering as the flags and what your in vehicle response to them were explained. Even though you’re out there for a day of fun, it’s all very serious business.

In the classroom, I learned my hand position on the steering wheel had been wrong my whole driving life as well as my seating position and mirrors. They have since been adjusted.

The first on track session, your instructor takes you round the track to show you the speeds, lines, entry and exit points to the corners. The noises your tires make are alarming because on the regular road, those sort of noises mean it’s all going Pete Tong. On the track you learn to understand those howls of protest mean you’re doing things right. This, and I can’t stress this enough, is not an easy lesson to learn. Everything to do with what’s going on outside your windshield, your instructor is telling you. It’s a lot to take in, it requires all of your attention and this was not a day where I wanted any distraction from the task at hand.

Mosport-track-layout

This is the layout of the track. Damn near every corner with the exception of the Esses (turns 8,9 and 10) have an elevation change prior to or just after them. Going in blind was pretty scary but to help you out, there were cones placed at the entry and exit points of the turns. At turn 2, you brake (just a touch) at the high point, just before the pedestrian bridge, then you turn in and aim for the inside of the turn. As you pass by that you aim for the new tarmac strip at the base of the turn. As you pass the start of that, you turn in to pick up the end of the inside of turn two and aim for the end of the turtles (trackside indicators) that your now considerable velocity is propelling you towards. As you hit those, you turn towards the outside of the start of turn three, then brake and turn into the inside of turn three. Then you hold it on the new tarmac round turn three while giving it some throttle etc. etc. Up until lunch I was fighting my instincts to slow down through all of this. It took my instructor continually saying, “Stay off the brakes, stay off the brakes, keep it steady,” to break me of my bad habits.

The only place on the track I could check my speed was on the Mario Andretti Straight and that was usually to gauge what my entry speed into the braking zone after the Canadian Tire sign at corner 7. Which is why I can tell you my top speed but not my general speed for each turn as my focus was not on my instrument cluster, it was on not muffing my gear change or entry point.

Twenty minutes on track goes by fast. Because you’re only up once every hour, you spend at least two laps warming your tires and then the rest of your laps are about getting round that track as fast as you can. There was a passing etiquette but there were a few drivers who were slow to indicate the safe pass but this was pretty rare.

The whole time, my instructor kept guiding me through the twists and turns with a calm steady voice. Even when we hit a slippy patch during some light rain and slid sideways on all four tires before I found grip again.

I saw some very cool cars. I met some very cool people and I got to drive my car like it was meant to be driven. All in all a pretty great day. Once I get the pictures back from the photographers who were there to shoot the whole thing, I’ll post them up.

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Back when I was a teenager, I made no fewer than three B-29 models. It has always been an aircraft that fascinated me because it was so different in design principle from other bombers of its day. It had been a dream to fly in one ever since then. Though part of me realized even then, this was a highly unlikely scenario.

Zoom to 2018. Back in February, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton informed its members that, “Fifi,” of the Commemorative Air Force out of Texas would be making the museum one of its stops and would be offering rides.

I talked it over with my wife, we both knew the flight would not be cheap. These old girls take a lot of time, effort, oil, gas and rubber to keep in the air. Anybody who flies in one is going to be an enthusiast. In the end, it was a, “Go big or go home,” moment. I could purchase a cheaper place in the rear of the aircraft but at the time we had the scratch, so I reserved the Bombadier’s position right in the nose and yes, it was not cheap.

Two weeks later, the company I was employed at went bankrupt. About a month after that, I bought into a new company. 2018 was not off to a good start but it was off to an expensive one.

Was there any regret at spending so much on the B-29 flight. A little but the reality was, the money was spent and life is short. The experience would be worth it. Plus, a B-50 (the upengined version of the B-29) was going to figure heavily in my next book and actually feeling what it was like to be in the aircraft in flight was going to be a huge plus to writing about it. So I wrestled with my feelings of dread and got on with living my life and making my commitment to my new company matter.

Now any day you fly in a vintage warbird is an experience, with it’s own ups and downs and situations to overcome. When I flew in the Lancaster, it was one of the rougher days in the air I’d ever experienced. I’ll be honest, I was pretty ill for a few hours after the flight. Flying in the PB5Y – Canso was by comparison was a much different experience though because of timing, we did a hot turnaround on the tarmac between flight. Which essentially means they keep the engines running while you board and those props do not feel that far away from you as you do this. Videos of both these flights are available on my Youtube channel.

Flying in, “Fifi,” was not going to be any different.

The first flight of the day was scheduled for 9:30am, my flight was scheduled for 10:30am. I checked in at 9:00am. Then you wait. The first flight was being held because the ceiling was at 900ft and in order to fly, it had to be above 1500ft. No big deal. It was a day that was heating up so the ceiling would lift and the air for the most part felt calm. I reasoned I could get some coverage of start up and taxiing to cut into my head camera footage. About two hours later, the first flight got off the ground.

My group then convened around the flight tent and got to know each other as we waited for their return.

Once the other flight was landed and everybody had deplaned we were led out to the aircraft and had our safety briefing. It was getting on towards about 1:00pm at this point. The safety talk done we boarded. As I was in the nose, I went up first and got into position in the nose and waited for everybody else to board.

The pilots got in, the rest of the guys in the nose got in and we waited for the guys in the back to do the same, and waited, and waited some more. After about fifteen minutes there was some brief radio chatter back and forth between the pilots and the hardstand crew. One of the passengers in the rear, a gentleman who I’d clocked at near if not over eighty had not been physically able to get up the ladder into the tail because of some body mobility issues. Rather than accept the fact he couldn’t accomplish entry, he pushed the issue and slipped and fell into the airframe. We were asked to deplane because of this now medical incident. I knew from my own first aid and enclosed space training this was not going to be an easy situation to resolve.

Paramedics were on scene in record time and we watched them work with the crew and CWHM staff on the hardstand to stabilize the patient and come up with an extraction plan. I’m happy to say, the gentleman was extracted and whisked off to hospital about forty minutes later. I hope the gentleman has since fully recovered from his ordeal. His now empty seat was quickly sold off and we were back in the aircraft fifteen minutes later and taxiing down the runway as soon as the engines were started and run up.

You can watch the whole B-29 Flight here by clicking the link.

As far as flights go, it was great and very different from my other flights. Fifi is treated very gently in the air. When I flew in the Lancaster, the pilots didn’t mind showing off what she was capable of. I and my stomach, sure don’t mind a nice smooth flight.

If you live near a flying museum and have the funds, I highly recommend taking a flight in the warbird of your choice. It helps keep these birds in the air and it also keeps the sacrifices of the men and women who flew and kept them flying and many of who did not survive conflict to come home.

Please also take a look at my books available through Amazon and Createspace by clicking the link and if you like what you read, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

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