The Very Best In Aviation and Air Race News and Photography

Air Racing History
Story Date: Summer-1998
Graphics by: Mark Kallio

Bill "Kerch" Kerchenfaut
Interview by: Wayne Sagar
and Mark Kallio
The "Crew Chief's - Crew Chief" Bill "Kerch" Kerchenfaut
People Who Race: "Kerch" - continued from part two

aafo: so realistically the dream of a multi-race season for this sport is probably just a dream......?

Kerch: Yes...when you look at the number of years that it takes a legitimate company... let's say North American or Lockheed or Boeing to come out with a new airplane and get it completely tested you're talking years, you're not talking crank one out every six months....We're in a speed range right now... it's a nasty area...we're running at a critical mach number. The problem is, it has some real serious consequences if you're not paying attention.

aafo: for our money...(though we'd like to see more) once a year is enough .... as long as the interest is kept up and the event is sustained!

Kerch: When you look back at the Cleveland era, they enjoyed tremendous spectator interest and popularity, you look at that and that was a once a year event. There were a few other races, I think Los Angles had a race and Miami, not a lot of races, but the Cleveland event was the big granddaddy. If you hype a single annual event properly it will be successful.

aafo: there has been a bit more background shown on television lately...mostly on cable access documentary channels, though it is hard to dig the showing times out of the myriad of other programming, at least it is getting air time..... You mentioned the possibility [in an earlier conversation] of having an in-plane camera in "Strega" running real-time on the Internet.... this would be extremely exciting and would generate much interest....

Kerch: We've been trying to promote that, and yes it can be done. We have footage from every race that airplane has raced for the last 10 years or so. You can learn a lot, we use it as a learning tool on how to fly the course, all kinds of things.

aafo: we've seen some footage from the air racing as well as auto racing...the in-cockpit camera is by far the best seat in the house, we would really like to see much more of this!...... something else that would bring a lot of interest to the sport....we've heard of an air race flight simulation that is on the drawing board, have you heard anything of this?

Kerch: Birch Matthews called me [Birch Matthews authored Wet Wings and Drop Tanks] some software company had contacted him, they wanted information on instruments, they wanted to make the panel as realistic as possible....They asked about certain things you'd take into consideration in preparing a race plane, like fuel load- how much fuel it would burn- ADI and water and so-forth.

aafo: something like this would be great for the sport...not to mention those of us that would love to be flying "Strega" against "Miss Ashley II" or "Rare Bear" etc.!

Kerch: The publicity of it would be very beneficial for air racing.....air racing just needs a whole new complexion now.

[this simulation has gone through some difficult times, it is reported that it may, still be produced, but at the present time there is no proposed release date....stay tuned! -ed-]

aafo: it does seem to be at sort of a junction right now...

Kerch: Yes...I've felt that for about the last five years. I've been an advocate of establishing a new class. One of the problems we have with the World War II aircraft is there aren't any parts available. The parts that are available are just astronomically expensive, if you can find them. The problem is there just aren't any.

aafo: we've seen this drive the value of the WWII aircraft up greatly over the last few years, to the point that even some very successful race planes have been converted back to stock.

Kerch: Yes, Stiletto was one, John Crocker's airplane, "Sumpthin Else", was another one, both going back to stock. The day of the inexpensive fighter plane is gone. When air racing was revived in '64 you could buy a P-51 for $5000. Engines were inexpensive, propellers were cheap...the parts were readily obtainable. That whole deal has changed now, it's getting to the point where there are no parts, not just Merlin parts but 3350 or 2800 parts and on and on, and these things are getting more and more expensive.


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