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So, you’ve passed your PPL, taken friends for a flight and flown to another country for lunch and participated in a club fly-out. Maybe a night rating and IR? Now what?
After spending all that time and money and loving every moment so far, we all wonder what we can do next to keep the challenges and excitement coming. Some extend their cross country flights into European jaunts and some take up aerobatics.
Maybe a tail dragger course or build your own plane?
How about joining a roving flying club that encompasses the best of all the above?
The Royal Aero Club Records, Racing and Rally Association is probably aviation’s best kept secret and may be the club for you. They have no permanent club house or airfield base, but their 66 members from all over Europe are made up of a disperate band of aircraft and member backgrounds that makes for the most fun and challenging flying and a great social scene too.
After a check flight with one of the club’s check pilots to make sure you can perform tight turns without loosing or gaining height, you will qualify for your FAI International Air Race License. This allows you to compete in the Royal Aero Club RRRA Handicap Air Race series and attempt World and National Aviation Records. There is no charge for the pilot check out but there is a small £30 administration cost for the FAI license paperwork.
You may think that Air Racing is an exclusive club for uber wealthy toffs. Well think again, Handicap Air Racing allows any plane that can fly flat out at 100mph or more to take part. Club Cessnas, Pipers, Robins, Austers, AA5’s and RV’s make up the majority of participants. All flown by PPL pilots who are addicted to aviation, wish to push their boundaries and have a lot of fun in the process.
There are eight Air Race weekends a year at airfields in the UK, France, Ireland and Alderney. The weekend starts with all the competitors, navigators, supporting aircraft and ground crew arriving from all corners of Europe. (So a great opportunity for a cross country flight). On the Saturday morning there is a practise session of an hour and half, where the pilots and their navigators find the course and practice their turn technique and height management. This is followed by the Saturday afternoon race and a great Saturday night social event. The Sunday race starts at 12:30.
The race starts for each plane as they are flagged off at their handicap speed start time. The slow planes taking off first followed by the faster planes. The course is usually 120nm long and is four or five laps around a 25nm cross country course. At each turn point there is a large red tent. The planes fly at 500 to 700 feet agl. If all the planes navigate and perform their turns perfectly they should all arrive at the finish line at the same time. Each plane is given two GPS units to monitor their tracks and to check if they have cut any of the corners. Accuracy, navigation, tight turns not loosing height or speed and wind drift calculations all add up to how well you do. With a dive to the finish line from point ‘Alpha’, down to 100 feet agl on the final run in, all the planes discover their finish position. Very exciting! The cost for entry is £225/plane/weekend with discounts for new competitors. After the results are calculated and the Historic Cups are presented, everyone scrambles to their planes (or cars) and heads home after a fantastic weekend of flying and fun.
As well as a plethora of aviation’s most coveted silverware including the Kings Cup and Schneider Trophy, which you can still compete for, there is an accumulated point system that creates an end of season British and European Air Race Champion. The Kings Cup and the British Championship Cup is presented at the RAF Club in Piccadilly, London, usually by Prince Andrew during an annual Royal Aero Club event.
So if you are looking for a club that will keep you learning and pushing your personal flying boundaries, while honing your flying skills on all levels, The Royal Aero Club Records, Racing and Rally Association is the ‘club’ for you. They also need dedicated crew to help with marshalling, time keeping, general organising and in the handicapping room, a great place to learn new skills and be part of this amazing fun and inclusive club.