Dispatch from KSAF, Santa Fe, New Mexico: By dawns early light I can see the silver fins of the stroker engine through the air intakes in the nose bowl, the front cylinders a pair of griffins in twin caves, ready to leap from their lairs and devour slower prey.
The new engine is ready to fly.
But Race 53 still isnt ready to race. One important task remains: The engine break-in.
The stroker engine was born at 7,539 feet above sea level, and hung on the plane at 6,349 feet. To properly set the piston rings we need to get her to lower altitude as quickly as possible, and run her hot and hard.
My mechanic cautions me to minimize low RPM: No long descents, land with some power, keep the taxiing as short as possible.
Back in the saddle
Im eager to go. Its been too long since Ive been behind the controls of my favorite plane. I slide down into the cockpit and take a moment to relish the environment. I breathe in the airplane smell of metal, oil, fuel, and plastic a unique perfume only aviators appreciate. I run my fingers gently over her yoke and throttle.
I snap my iPad into its holder on the instrument panel and stow four bottles of oil in the cargo compartment, along with mixed nuts, string cheese, peanut M&Ms, and a sack of Dukes sausage sticks our traditional inflight meals on cross-country flights.Then I stand on the bench seat, and using a soft cotton towel, I wipe a thin layer of tan dust off the grey plastic of my windshield.
You know your plane has been hangared too long when theres dust on the windshield.
Thenthats it. Were fueled heavily and packed lightly. Its time to go.
Best laid plans
The sun has crested the mountains. Race 53 casts a long, wicked-looking shadow in front of her, hawk-like, showing her inner raptor. Lisa tightens her seat belt and snaps her shoulder belt into place. She grins.
Its good to be back in the saddle again, she says, then slips her new Zulu 3 over her trademark Sundance Aviation baseball cap.