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Thread: The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Evergreen, CO

    Default The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

    From reading the numerous posts on the several threads about the “Bear”, this years race week events, and some issues our team had to deal with, I am flattered by the many compliments, amused (and bemused) by some “accounts” of what happened, what I should have done and what someone else would have done. At the same time, I was frustrated, angered, by a post that implied that our crew was trying to kill me. Let’s get one thing clear; in my years of association with and working as a member of the “Rare Bear” Air Racing Team, I have never seen or worked with a more competent, capable, dedicated and harmonious crew than we have now. I know Dave Cornell shares my sentiment 100%. These guys, and gals, are simply the BEST. I trust them implicitly.

    So, what happened this last year, this race week? As this year unfolded leading up to race week, circumstances conspired to put us in an even tighter corner than we were last year. Our first flight (since last years dead stick), was Wednesday at the end of the last qual period. We limited our power, and the qual lap after five minutes of shakedown was somewhat lackluster.

    The gear door gap on Friday’s race was an order of magnitude greater than any other sag we’ve witnessed in years past, and did some damage to the right gear uplock and gear actuating hardware. It’s nothing our crew could have anticipated. Their QA and inspection procedures are rigorous and thorough.

    When the gear problem occurred, I couldn’t get the gear handle all the way down, nor could I get it back up to the retract position due to the damage to the retraction hardware. The left gear showed down and locked only when I held down force on the gear handle. Otherwise the gear was unlocked, which Steve verified. As hard as I tried, I could not get the right gear unlocked with the gear handle or the emergency uplock release handle. None of the excellent and appropriate advice that Steve offered unlocked the gear. We tried negative G bunts, yawing, and a 4 G turn at 250 KIAS. Ultimately, the gear was unlocked by trimming the plane, releasing the controls and slamming down force on the gear handle while simultaneously yanking the emergency release handle. The gear extended and locked on the third try. A “snap roll” would have done nothing.

    The subsequent landing was uneventful. I don’t think we’ll ever know if the high oil temp had anything to do with Sunday’s engine failure. And, we never got to the decision point, but attempting a landing with one gear down probably would not have been a viable option.

    Saturday’s finish was disappointing and our sagging power may have contained a message for us. On Sunday’s start we saw power that did not correspond to the settings we had, and had seen from last year’s race. The failure was not like a burned piston or failed cylinder, with surging and quitting like I haven’t experienced with other engine failures. The pitch-up, reversal and landing approach were straight forward as the runway was in a quite convenient position. And, what I really meant to say to Steve was “We have to stop meeting like this”...

    There is no external evidence as to the mode of failure. All the oil and metal came out the exhaust stacks. The engine compartment is as clean as a whistle...

    For all who have predetermined my future with this plane and this team, we still have lots we want to do with this incredible team and the “Bear”. My wonderful wife Stephanie is totally supportive for which I’m ultimately grateful. We have one of air racings best crew chiefs ever in Dave Cornell, and none of what we do would be possible without the incredible…heroic support and dedication of the best air racing team owner in this business, Mr. Rod Lewis.

    Thank you to everyone who loves the "Bear" as much as we on the team do.

    And...Our congratulations to "Tiger" and all his team for a hard fought, well deserved victory. He is so deserving of the honor......

    John Penney, "Rare Bear" Team member

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Geilenkirchen, Germany

    Default Re: The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

    Thanks for setting the record straight and taking the time to explain the events of Reno 08.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Pacific Northwest

    Default Re: The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

    Mr. Penney, sir, you are, indeed, a class act!

    We look forward to seeing you and Steph soon!

  4. #4

    Default Re: The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

    Thanks for the facts & I'm so grateful you got down safely - that's what matters.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    15min from RTS

    Thumbs up Re: The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

    Thanks for the detailed post John, it is nice hearing it straight from you
    Last edited by RCoulter; 09-23-2008 at 10:31 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Sun Valley, NV (Almost Stead !)

    Default Re: The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

    Mr. Penney;
    Hats off tno you and all the other pilots who keep us informed here on aafo and stop and answer our questions and sign autographs during the races. Also a big pat on the back to your wife for her support. Can't wait to see what you and everyone on the Bear team can do next year

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Default Re: The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

    Thanks Mr. PENNEY, to a very Brave, Kind Man..."A TRUE RACER"... rb

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Ketchikan, Alaska

    Default Re: The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

    Thanks, Capt. Penney, for kindly sharing your candid detailed insights & lofty viewpoints about racing RARE BEAR w/all interested afficionados & fans of the world's fastest motorsport. We're all very glad to know Race #77 is in the best of hands, both in the air & on the ground - BRAVO BEAR TEAM for a valiant effort & showing at Reno 2008! Best of Luck in 2009!!!


  9. #9

    Default Re: The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

    Mr. Penney, you are a stud, I cannot believe how calm you are on the radio while in an emergency. I am a Sergeant with a local Sheriff's Office and would love to play some of your most significant may-day's to them so that they could learn how to be clear, calm and decise....

    I am a Strega / Sept. Fury fan, but am also a NEW Penney fan....

    Thanks for what you do and what you speak here...


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Dunedin, New Zealand

    Default Re: The "Bear"..The Week..The Facts

    Mr Penny,

    As echoed by many posts here already, Thank you for stopping here and posting to set the records straight of the bears problems over the week. I will admit that im a Miss America fan, but i respect every pilot who straps in to race, you are some of the best pilots in the world PERIOD...
    Many happy landings to come
    race fan, photographer with more cameras than a camera store

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