The Air Rally

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Frequently Asked Questions

and a few that are asked less than frequently...

1. "Got any tips, for a first timer?" "Is there a book of tips for first timers?"

Start by reviewing our First Timers page.

We do not publish a book of tips for first-time entrants, although every pilot does receive at impound check-in a Race "POH" which details not only the course checkpoints, but procedures, frequencies, general operating rules, etc.  Versions of these books are available on the web site for 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.  Please visit the Rally Courses page and choose a year.

Most new pilots are in the same boat as to not knowing exactly what to expect - that is a lot of the fun for a first time rallier and probably some of the advantage of being a rally veteran.  We do encourage all first-time ralliers to try arrive at imound early, if at all possible, to have more time to look through the POH before the briefing.

2. "What altitudes are generally flown?" "Does the rally specify altitudes as a part of the course?"

The rally course is generally designed such that the first leg from Hayward to Redding can be flown at 3,500'. There is usually no need to go higher, but of course the pilot is free to choose his own cruising altitude.  The second leg from Redding to Bend can be safely flown at 7,500' although many experienced ralliers prefer to go higher to try and find that smoother air. All the checkpoints that must be overflown can be visually identified from 1,500' AGL and above.  Rally procedures specified in the POH do give suggested minimum overflight altitudes for the checkpoints, primarily to minimize traffic pattern disruptions if that checkpoint is an airport.

The two airborne timing lines which must be overflown (one timing checkpoint near Redding, and another timing checkpoint near Bend) have spotters on the ground who must visually identify your airplane on flyover.  As such, the altitudes for the timing lines are usually about 1,000' AGL. You will be in radio contact with the timers on a special frequency as you approach the timing line, but the visual identification is important if radio communication fails.

3. "How does the start and finish work - when does the start time begin and end (on take off/landing-or on fly by a certain points (i.e.: runway numbers)?"

The two rally legs are scored separately.  For Leg 1 (HWD-RDD) you will turn in an estimated time enroute prior to your engine start and departure from Hayward and you also turn in the leg fuel estimate at this time.

The timing is calculated from the start of your takeoff roll at HWD, when a flagman at the end of the runway gives you a very visible "GO" signal - the drop of a flag.  Timing stops when your airplane overflies the timing checkpoint near Redding.

Prior to departure from HWD, you will also have turned in a fuel estimate.  You must estimate the amount of fuel it will take from when you start your engine(s) at HWD (while at the parking spot on the main ramp), cross the designated checkpoints enroute, overfly the timing line near Redding, continue flying to Redding, taxi to parking, and then shut down.

Leg 2 is scored the same way; time estimate from a takeoff signal at Redding, to overflight of a timing line near Bend. Fuel is scored from start-up to shutdown.  The timing checkpoint is usually located a few miles from Bend (BDN).

So to recap, prior to departure from HWD you will turn in four estimates - ETE for both legs, and fuel estimates for each leg:

  • (Time Estimate Leg 1) takeoff HWD - overfly timing 1
  • (Fuel Estimate Leg 1) engine start HWD - engine shutdown RDD
  • (Time Estimate Leg 2) takeoff RDD - overfly timing 2
  • (Fuel Estimate Leg 2) engine start RDD - engine shutdown BDN

4. "Is VOR allowed?"

Yes.  Starting in 2007 we have created two categories of ralliers:  Traditional (aka Analog) and Digital.  Each category permits different navigation equipment.  VORs and ADFs are permitted in both classes.

The summary of the equipment allowed/prohibited and the scoring rules for each class may be found here.

Rally officials will temporarily disable any of the prohibited, permanently-mounted equipment in your airplane.  We disable the equipment by covering the display, using a combination of watered-down Turtle Wax mixture painted on the face of the equipment and some judiciously-applied tape. The masking tape and wax can be removed without damage after the completion of the rally.  Ralliers are strongly encouraged to provide a covering themselves which can be "sealed" by impound officials using a very small amount of wax.

5. "A hand-held GPS that I will use for flight planning and to and from the rally - how is this handled? - do I give it to somebody for "safe" keeping during the rally?"

Obviously, the use of portable GPS receivers Incluing those built-in to tablets such as an iPad) is prohibited during the rally (except for Digital Class entrants). However, the aircraft impound officials will not search your personal property when you arrive. You may use the GPS to help you with your flight planning for the rally, for instance you might want to use the calculator function in your GPS to accurately determine the distance and course between checkpoints.

During the rally itself the GPS may not be used (except for Digital Class entrants). Many of our pilots have them in their flight bags, and we realize that.  The honor system hopefully keeps this a fair and honest rally for everyone.  This leads to a question of "Is the use of GPS possible, i.e., can someone cheat?" The answer is of course anyone can cheat, but I can guarantee you that the use of a GPS will not help you with your fuel calculations, and the scoring formula is much more heavily weighted towards fuel planning and checkpoint identification then time enroute.  The time penalty is smaller than the penalty for misidentifying the checkpoints so it pays to make sure you answer each checkpoint question correctly.  250 penalty points are assessed for incorrectly answering the checkpoint question, that is the same amount of penalty for a bit over four minutes of time error, or 2.5 gallons of fuel error.  Can you now, given your knowledge of your airplane, fly a 250-mile flight and predict your time enroute within four minutes?  Probably.  Can you tell us, right now, precisely how much gas you'll need?  Probably not.  And then the visual checkpoints make it interesting for everybody.

Officially, if you declare any GPS, yes you are also declaring yourself as a Digital Class competitor. But the rules don't prohibit a GPS **logger** from being carried, and as long as the data output of such a device is not available to you in the cockpit, to "gain an unfair advantage", you could use it in the manner specified. We haven't yet officially addressed the use of such "dumb logging devices", and we might do so in the future, or we might not. We operate the air rally pretty much on the honor system, and we don't search your flight bags during impound. What you don't tell us, we don't know - but over time, it's hard to keep many secrets from even your fellow racers.

6. "Tips for first timers to get ready? - so many variables to define- (mixture/altitudes/weights/power setting for each variable/ effect on more rich, more flaps etc.  Fuel/airspeed/ little time - and I'm not even sure which variables are the ones I really need to define.  How much does weight change the numbers, for instance?"

Some rules of thumb - warning, your mileage may vary:

a. Fly slower than your "normal" cruise speed for the altitudes selected.  This gives you more time to be comfortable with the excitement of the rally, and allows you maximum time to visually confirm the checkpoints.

b. Fly as low an altitude as is comfortable, safe, and legal...see next item.

c. Don't climb high if you can avoid it.  Extensive climbs and resulting descents are difficult to plan actual fuel consumed, time needed, and distance covered.

d. Keep your rally plan simple - keep the power at one setting as much as possible. If you need to go faster or slower, change your pitch attitude and bleed off airspeed (and resulting groundspeed change) with a shallow climb, or gain airspeed with a shallow descent.

e. If you find the enroute visual checkpoint successfully, and you would be there early, think about turning towards your next checkpoint before you arrive overhead. It is better to have time "in the bank" then to be chasing lost time (which never works unless you bump up the power and therefore the fuel).  If you get towards the end of the leg and the timing line and still have time in the bag, you can slow down by dropping flaps or gear but not adjusting power, which would result in a change of fuel flow - that's a heavier penalty than time.  On the other hand, if you're going to be late and your airplane doesn't burn a lot of gas to begin with, maybe you do want to increase the power to make up the time.

So you are right, there are a lot of variables. That's what makes this event so challenging, year after year.

7. "Are there any things I should bring that aren't obvious?"

Stopwatches - binoculars - clipboard, knee board, or flight desk - camera - highlight markers for your charts - water bottles to use enroute as it can be hot and dry through at altitude- some sort of flight planning log you are comfortable with - electronic calculator - E6B.  Check the weather forecast for Bend and a lot of outdoors activities are available, so bring appropriate summer-type clothing, sunscreen, hats, etc.

8. "Can my copilot and pilot switch seats at the first stop?"

Yes. It would be up to the two of you to decide who is the named pilot and named co-pilot for the rally so our records are kept straight. After that, we'll let you folks figure out who owns the bragging rights as pilot.

9. "What would you suggest we spend our (limited) time measuring, prior to the rally? so many altitudes, power settings, density/pressure altitudes, mixture settings, weights - so little time."

If you care to "calibrate" your airplane, some of the following data might be helpful to know come rally day:

a. Cruise TAS at altitudes suggested above

b. Cruise fuel flow

c. Climb times to altitudes suggested

d. Descent times from altitude

e. A good, readily identifiable visual method of filling your fuel tanks to the exact same spot each time. Dipsticks, measuring tools, etc. are not permitted during the actual rally.

If you really want to see what your airplane will do, plan a 1-1/2 to 2 hour flight to somewhere, using one cruise altitude and power setting.  Figure out before you depart how much time it will take from takeoff to an overflight of your destination, for instance, a flyover of your landing airport at 2,000 feet could be used, then you could descend for a landing. Also calculate before you depart how much fuel will be used from engine start to shutdown.

Start with a known quantity of fuel, full tanks often work well.  Then take off, fly to the destination, land, and refuel. How did you do? Please share your test results with us....

Then you can use the data from that test flight to "fine-tune" your preflight planning for the actual rally.

10. "Will washing and waxing of my airplane help any?"

Maybe. But more likely it will make your airplane pretty for the official rally photos which are taken of all aircraft. First-timer's photos are presented at the awards banquet.

11.  "This is a great event.  What more can I do to support it?"

We are happy to accept donations.  Each year we actively recruit corporate and private sponsors that donate cash or mechandise.  Some donated mechandise is given away in a random drawing at the awards banquet.  Other items may be offered in a silent auction as a fundraiser for the Rally.  Cash donations are used to help defray our operating expenses.  Sponsors that donate more than a certain dollar value are recognized with a plaque and are featured on our web site.

The Hayward Air Rally is officially recognized as an IRS 501(c)3 Charitable Organization.  This means that all donations made to the Rally (cash, door prizes, services in kind, volunteer mileage, etc.) may be legally deducted on your income taxes -  please consult with your tax advisor.  Our thanks go out to everyone who has donated so generously to the Rally over the years - now you can take that deduction, too!

Please note that entry fees alone are not tax-deductible, since the Air Rally Committee provides a certain tangible value of product and services to you in exchange for your entry fee.

12. "If I plan for 10 minutes of taxi/runup/takeoff and it takes 15 minutes, is that a fuel vector-able event? A different way of asking - do fuel vectors need to be explained/justified?"

Anything that you believe causes you to deviate (burn more, not less) from your planned fuel burn, is as you say, a "fuel vector-able event." It's totally your call. The rules say you must declare your reason for asking for the fuel vector. The blanket answer to give is "ATC". No one questions it. If you were held on the ground with an idling engine longer than you had planned, or maybe if ATC directed you further on downwind than you had planned to go before landing, your fuel use would be higher - so you can ask for a vector. Whether you want .1 gallon, 1.0, or 10.0, you can say "ATC". The 10.0 gallons might be a stretch, though, unless you were vectored all the way to LAX. You could also say...I had to deviate for thunderstorms, my dog ate my stopwatch and we flew too long, the sun was in my eyes, etc. Likely all of those would be accepted, too. The use of a carefully-calculated fuel vector allowance is one of the secrets of good race strategy. We might also assign creativity bonus points if you think of some excuse never used before. Note that fuel vectors are only allowed to be positive; you burned more than the estimate, never less than the estimate.

13. "Why is there a rule that you must get from the timing point to landing in no less than 50% of your cruise speed?"

The "50% cruising speed" rule was established way back when, the idea behind it was to prevent people from padding their actual flight time to burn more fuel after crossing the timing checkpoints but before landing, if they crossed the timing line on predicted time inbound, and then realized they were behind their planning curve for fuel use at that point. There is also a safety consideration, too. Even though we launch airplanes at evenly-spaced intervals off HWD and RDD, by the time you get to the timing lines, other racers might be clumped up with you. In theory everyone should spread out over the course but the reality is it never quite works that way. So you might get to Mike and there is someone 30 seconds ahead of you, and another 15 seconds behind you. That actually happens with startling regularity. If you put on the brakes after crossing the timing line, and the other guy behind you doesn't know it, there are going to be potential mid-air conflicts.

14. "Are there "emergency" race-numbering materials available at the ramp at Hayward? I'm planning on taping stuff on before departing my home airport, but in case I wind up like the hapless guy with electrical tape...."

There is a Home Depot within walking distance from the ramp, but I've checked HD normal stock and there is no appropriate tape there. If you're using the 3M tape described previously, it will stick on and stay just fine. There is a True Value hardware store about 2.2 miles east of the airport, at A Street and Foothill Blvd. If you must go, we can probably get you there. I do believe we are going to have some extra tempera (poster) paint available at HWD during impound.

15. "Can I use my autopilot?"

Yes! But, consider what is directing your autopilot. If you are using it in plain Heading Mode, tracking the heading bug on your DG or HSI, that's fine. Even Nav Mode will be OK, if the navigation source is a VOR receiver. But, if you are accustomed to setting the autopilot to track the panel-mounted GPS and plan to use it that way, make sure you are entered in the Digital Class.

16. "Can I use my iPad instead of paper charts?"

  • All iPads have WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Even a WiFi-only iPad can easily talk to an external device (Stratus, DUAL, BadElf, etc.) over WiFi or Bluetooth
  • Only the iPads with cellular capability (activated or not) have built-in GPS
  • You can't really not use the GPS portion of a wifi device such as a Stratus and just get weather out of it - the (Foreflight in particular, the only thing that works with a Stratus) software shows all of the data, all of the time. Tthere is an Off switch on the software to not use the Stratus GPS data. We use the honor system for this sort of thing. However, if you want to use an iPad+Stratus, you will need to be in Digital Class.

If you want to use a WiFi-only iPad and NO other device (Stratus, BadElf, etc.) then they have an electronic replacement for a paper chart. ANY other addition (even a cellular-capable iPad) or device puts you into Digital Class.


Hayward Air Rally Committee

revised 16-July-2014