Chasing Race Cars

2009 Edition.

I did another flying gig out at Parker AZ again this year. It was wicked windy on the ground when we took off — so windy, in fact, that a Bell Jet Ranger pilot refused to fly. (I didn’t think it was that bad, but then again, I’m not flying a Bell.)

About 100-200 feet up, however, it was dead calm and I was able to do just about any maneuver the camera guy needed. I had an excellent observer on board who kept an eye out for wires and other helicopters without freaking out when I intentionally got close to either one.

For the first flight, we chased the truck featured in the video below, as well as a dune buggy like car. I don’t know the technical terms for any of these things — I’m a pilot, not a dirt racer.

For the second flight, it was windy. We were videoing the guys coming into their pits and a lot of hovering was required. I could only hover when pointing into the wind, which was gusting to 28 knots. When we flew around the trucks in the “Python” area of the course, I couldn’t fly slowly enough with a wind up my tail so I did a lot of circling, keeping the target where the camera guy could keep his camera on it.

In case you’re wondering, our usual setup is to have the camera guy behind me with his door off. (If it were warmer, I probably would have had my door off, too.) This makes it easy for me to see what he sees and keep the car in sight. The observer sits up front next to me. Although I keep a good eye on what’s around me, he’s a second pair to make sure I don’t miss something important.

After the second flight, I could see that bad weather was literally minutes away. After putting the doors back on and estimating that I had enough fuel to get home, I took off. I called the airport later to pay my fuel bill and was told that the downpour started 10 minutes after I left.

I flew a total of 3.9 hours, including ferry time. Judging from the video, I think the guys got just what they wanted.

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