The Air Rally

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Frequently Asked Questions

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


General Questions
G1. Got any tips for a first timer?
G2. What is the "Race Book"?
G3. What do I use to put race numbers on the plane, and where can I get it?
G4. 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 masking tape...
G5. Are there any things I should bring that aren't obvious?
G6. How does the start and finish work - when does timing begin and end?
G7. What altitudes are generally flown? Does the rally specify altitudes as a part of the course?
G8. Can my copilot and pilot switch seats at the first stop?
G9. This is a great event. What can I do to support it?
Rules Questions
R1. Is the use of VORs allowed?
R2. My plane is equipped with GPS/DME. Do I have to enter in Digital class?
R3. What about a hand-held GPS? Do I give it to somebody for "safe" keeping during the rally?
R4. Can I use my autopilot?
R5. Can I use my iPad instead of paper charts?
R6. If I plan for 10 minutes for taxi and runup but it takes 15 minutes, is that a fuel vector-able event? A different way of asking - do fuel vectors need to be explained/justified?
R7. Why is there a rule that you must get from the timing point to landing in no less than 50% of your cruise speed?
R8. We're all carrying GPS loggers. Can't I get credit for a checkpoint just by flying over it?
Strategy Questions
S1. What factors do I need to consider for rally preparation and flight planning?
S2. What would you suggest we spend our (limited) time measuring, prior to the rally? So many power settings, density/pressure altitudes, temperatures, weights, so little time!
S3. So many variables.... what should I actually do for the rally flight?
S4. Will washing and waxing of my airplane help any?



General Questions

G1. Got any tips for a first timer?

Start by reviewing our First Timers page. There are also additional nuggets of strategy buried in this FAQ...

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 impound early, if at all possible, to have more time to look through the "race book" before the briefing, and to ask questions of the rally staff and other participants.

G2. What is the "Race Book"?
The Rally Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH or "Race Book") is distributed each year at rally check-in. The POH details not only the course checkpoints, but procedures, frequencies, general operating rules, etc. A recent race book from 2016 is available here. Other race books dating back to 2004 can be found via links from the Past Rally Courses page.

G3. What do I use to put race numbers on the plane, and where can I get it?

The two most popular methods of placing race numbers on the airplane are plastic tape and tempera paint (aka poster paint).

Tempera paint is available at almost any store that stocks toys or art supplies. You could check Target, Walmart, Michaels, or a local hobby / art supply store. The most common brand is Crayolai, but make sure whatever you buy is labeled as water soluble or washable. You'll want to check this on a obscure place on your airplane first, but we've found over all these years, that tempera paint does not harm airplane finishes - if you remove it right after the rally is complete. You definitely don't want to leave the paint on your airplane, sitting in the sun, for weeks afterwards!

For taping, you want to use a tape that is easily manipulated and can be easily removed without leaving a residue or damaging the surface. We DO NOT recommend electrical tape, "duct tape", or masking/painters tape. Electrical tape adhesive leaves a lot of gunk behind, and duct tape will take the paint off - the adhesive is way too strong. On the other hand, masking tape adhesive is too weak, and if your airplane can exceed maybe 48.6 knots TAS, it starts to strip off in flight. I have a picture somewhere of a Seneca that entered a few years back, and at the first stop in Bakersfield the numbers on the tail looked like a Mardi Gras parade float had somehow attached itself to the plane.

We've had good results over the years with a 3M plastic tape product that once was branded as "Mystic Tape". It is now simply "Decorate and Repair Tape" though you'll only find that printed on the inside of the cardboard roll. On the outside, the 3M label says "Colored Plastic Tape ... Repairs, Decorates, and Identifies" This tape does not leave a residue, and won't pull any paint presuming your paint is intact to begin with. It comes in a variety of colors as Catalog #190 (3/4" width) or Catalog 191 (1.5" width). Each roll is 125" long. You'll need to do the math to determine how much tape you need. Don't you wish you were Race 1?

You can purchase the tape in either width at most True Value Hardware stores. Amazon third-party sellers sometimes carry it. One racer reports that TAP Plastics has been a reliable online source.

A few crews go all-out and buy fancy laser-cut numbers from outfits that provide temporary N-numbers. If you go this route, make sure you order the temporary variety, unless you're planning a long career as a rallier.

Whatever you use, pick a contrasting color. Blue on blue is hard to read from a half mile away.

G4. 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 masking tape...

Generally speaking, no. We strongly recommend you have your rally numbers in place before you fly in to Hayward. Aside from making sure it stands up to flight loads, doing so will make your impound and check-in go much smoother.

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 should 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.

G5. Are there any things I should bring that aren't obvious?

Extra race numbering materials, just in case... your race numbers are deemed too small.

Digital cameras are good for taking pictures of the checkpoints as you motor past. These can be used for 'proof' if you miss the graded questions from the course handbook.

Stopwatches - binoculars - clipboard, knee board, or flight desk - 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 the destination. If you are planning outdoor activities bring appropriate summer-type clothing, sunscreen, hats, etc.

G6. How does the start and finish work - when does timing begin and end?

The two rally legs are scored separately. For each leg, you will turn in a time estimate and fuel estimate. Estimates for both legs are turned in prior to departure from HWD.

For each leg, timing starts with a very visible "GO" signal - the drop of a flag - when you are in position on the departure runway. Note that it specifically is *not* when you start your takeoff roll, or lift off, etc. Timing stops when your airplane overflies the specified timing checkpoint at the end of the leg.

Fuel, on the other hand, is necessarily calculated from engine start to engine stop. Unfortunately, most participating aircraft are not eqipped to refuel in-flight! Refueling is performed from a calibrated pump which is the basis for determining fuel used. Your fuel estimate thus needs to account for taxi, runup, etc. that are not part of the time estimate.

G7. 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 Reno 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 Reno) 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.

G8. 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.

G9. This is a great event. What can I do to support it?

The best way of supporting the rally is to participate in it! Whether you are a diehard competitor, looking for some cross-country experience, or just wanting a fly-away weekend with other pilots we're sure you'll have a great time!

If you're not a pilot, but enjoy being around them and airplanes, you fly with someone as a passenger, or volunteer to help on the ground crew.

We are always happy to accept donations from corporate or private sponsors. Cash donations are used to help defray our operating expenses and fund our EAA Academy Scholarships. Donated mechandise may be given away in a random drawing at the awards banquet, or offered in a silent auction as a fundraiser for the Rally. 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.

You can also support the Rally when you shop at Amazon via the Amazon Smile program


Rules Questions

R1. Is the use of VORs allowed?

Yes, the use of VORs (and ADFs, if you still have one) are allowed in all classes of competition. Can you believe there was once a time when not even ADFs were allowed in the basic class?

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

R2. My plane is equipped with GPS/DME. Do I have to enter in Digital class?

Not necessarily. If your GPS (or DME) is not integrated with your primary flight instrumentation, and you can devise a way to turn off, cover or disable the display, you can declare this at impound and compete in the Analog Navigation class.

If you have a GPS/COM such as the GNS430, it is possible to cover the map portion of the display so that only the radio frequencies are visible. Some pilots use masking tape to cover the offending portion of the display, others fashion a cover out of a notecard which can be taped in place with less risk to the display surface. If you have a touchscreen GPS/COM such as the GTN650, it gets more difficult, and you will want to be familiar with how to tune the radio using the knob only. If you have a G1000, you're out of luck - you're going to be in Digital class!

Rally officials will verify the state of cockpit equipment at impound and at the completion of the rally. While they may have some masking tape to cover over equipment displays, ralliers are strongly encouraged to provide a covering themselves which can be "sealed" by impound officials using a very small amount of wax.

R3. What about a hand-held GPS? Do I give it to somebody for "safe" keeping during the rally?

Obviously, the use of portable GPS receivers (including those built-in to tablets such as an iPad) are prohibited during the rally unless you are entered in the Digital Navigation class. 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 to determine the distance and course between checkpoints.

We recognize pilots have GPSs coming out their ears these days - portable units, EFBs, smartphones, etc. The bottom line is we rely on the honor system to keep this a fair and honest rally for everyone. If you are flying under Analog Navigation rules, disable the GPS function on any device you might use in-flight, or stow it. Note that a "dumb" GPS logger (one that does not display position data and is not tethered to any other device) can be used to record position data for review after the flight.

R4. 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.

R5. Can I use my iPad instead of paper charts?

Yes, but if your iPad (or Android tablet) is receiving any form of GPS input (either through the device itself or through a link to another device), you will need to enter in Digital Class. Note that it can be difficult to not use the GPS portion of an external device such as a Stratus and just get the weather out of it - the software (Foreflight in particular, the only thing that works with a Stratus) shows all of the data, all of the time.

If you can configure your tablet such that you strictly have an electronic replacement for a paper chart, with no GPS data (position, groundspeed, traffic, etc) displayed, you can remain in Traditional Class navigation.

If you typically use an EFB but are considering entering in Traditional Class for the practice as a proficiency exercise, consider buying paper charts. There is something to be said for being able to see the bigger picture on a paper chart, at a scale you can read!

R6. If I plan for 10 minutes for taxi and runup but 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." The rules say you must declare your reason for asking for the fuel vector. Assuming you are even asked, 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, or you had to go-around on a landing attempt, 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 bottom line is we cannot compromise safety though stricter enforcement of the fuel vector rule. You might be thinking there's a big loophole here, and perhaps there is. The use of a carefully-calculated fuel vector allowance is one of the secrets of good race strategy. There are also plenty of stories of fuel vectors gone bad: "I would have hit my fuel estimate perfectly except for that half-gallon fuel vector I asked for!"

Note that fuel vectors are only allowed to be positive; you burned more than the estimate, never less than the estimate.

R7. 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 flying around to burn more fuel after crossing the timing checkpoints but before landing, if they 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, you may arrive at a timing line with other racers might be clumped up around you. If you put on the brakes after crossing the timing line, and someone behind you doesn't know it, there could be potential mid-air conflicts.

On that subject, maintain situational awareness approaching checkpoints, and especially timing lines. Listen and report on the rally frequency as necessary. If it does happen that you are not alone crossing the timing line, make sure you and the other pilot know the plan. I have found myself crossing timing lines nearly simultaneously with another aircraft. It was made clear that Pilot A was flying straight through, while Pilot B was going to pass on the right and then turn to the right once past the line to maintain separation. If you feel a potentially unsafe situation developing, do the safe thing. Break off, fly a 2 minute turn for spacing, etc. Then discuss the issue with a scoring judge once safely on the ground.

R8. We're all carrying GPS loggers. Can't I get credit for a checkpoint just by flying over it?

No. As a proficiency rally, the scoring official is looking for correct identification of a checkpoint. The primary means of doing so is the correct multiple choice answer associated with the checkpoint question. As a backup, take a photo of the checkpoint as you fly by. If you answered a checkpoint question incorrectly, you will probably hear from the scorer on Saturday, and a *correct* checkpoint photo will likely resolve the issue. A GPS track alone may not be considered sufficient evidence of checkpoint identification.


Strategy Questions

S1. What factors do I need to consider for rally preparation and flight planning?

A lot of participants have said that rally preflight planning takes them back to their student pilot days: going over aircraft performance charts, working up a nav log more substantial than a "Direct-To" course, and delving into other such details... Among the factors to consider - some signficant, some not so much:

  • How do the power and mixture settings affect fuel burn and TAS?
  • How do temperature, pressure, altitude, aircraft weight affect fuel burn and TAS?
  • How about climb and descent performance?
  • Do you have a strategy for navigating to an arbitrary latitude/longitude without GPS (if flying in Analog class)?
  • Do you know how to program an arbitrary latitude/longitude into your GPS (if flying in Digital class)?
  • Is my fuel totalizer properly calibrated (if flying in Digital Fuel class)?
  • How am I going to establish fuel burn accurately if I don't have a totalizer?
  • Are the performance numbers in my aircraft POH accurate? ... enough?
  • What if winds don't go as forecast?
  • What if I can't find a checkpoint?
  • WHAT IF NOTHING GOES AS PLANNED?

If getting into these details suits you, great. If not, don't be deterred. Plan your rally flight as you would any other, and just see how things play out. As mentioned elsewhere, one of the goals of the rally is to promote flight proficiency and safety. You are sure to come out of the rally knowing more about cross-country flight planning, pilotage, and your aircraft performance than you did going in!

S2. What would you suggest we spend our (limited) time measuring, prior to the rally? So many power settings, density/pressure altitudes, temperatures, weights, so little time!

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

  • Cruise TAS at altitudes suggested above
  • Fuel flow for climb, cruise, and descent
  • Climb times to altitudes suggested
  • Descent times from altitude
  • 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?

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

S3. So many variables.... what should I actually do for the rally flight?

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

  • 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. It also often results in a more stable fuel burn

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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" than 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.

S4. 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.


Hayward Air Rally Committee

revised 05-Sep-2017