The fifty-second running of an annual flying competition that rates pilots on the precision of their time and fuel estimates, and navigating skills will take to the skies from Hayward, California, on June 24.
Reno/Stead Airport in Reno, Nevada, is the new destination that awaits competitors in the Hayward Air Rally at the end of the two-leg VFR route that includes a mandatory fuel stop at Redding Municipal Airport.
Proceeds from the event, run by the nonprofit Hayward Air Rally organization, support up to three EAA Youth Scholarships. Information on how to enter, registration fees, and other details are available here.
Last year’s rally, won by Steve and Kathy Davis, challenged pilots on a route from Hayward to Bend, Oregon, with a fuel stop in Redding. In the 51 years that the rally has been held, it has been a one-day flight challenge every year except 2014, when the event’s fiftieth anniversary route took competitors all the way to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, over three days.
Organizers expect approximately 25 aircraft to fly the course this year, said Tom Neale, the rally’s co-chairman. He noted that over the years aircraft ranging from light sport aircraft, homebuilts, and Cessna singles to Beech Bonanzas, a Cessna 414 twin, and even a Beech Staggerwing have joined the fun.
If that seems like an unlikely mix, keep in mind that this is an air rally, not a race, and speed isn’t the way to win. Pilots are scored on fuel management and navigation skills for each of the two legs of the approximately 500-nautical mile trip. A low score—that is, the fewest penalty points issued for deviation from estimates—is the goal. There’s an added twist in that pilots must identify several checkpoints along the way, with those landmarks only made known in a briefing shortly before the flying begins. (The organizers also have some clever ways of ensuring that the pilots actually identify the assigned checkpoints, and they do so without using prohibited equipment, Neale said.)
Depending on the kind of navigation equipment on board a piston aircraft flown by a certificated pilot, the entry is assigned to either a digital or analog class for scoring purposes.
After a day relaxing in Reno on June 25, the participants will get together for an awards dinner, with trophies, door prizes, and cash awards between $500 and $50 for good showings livening up the proceedings.
Although those awards recognize high achievers, some of the dispensed honors are more whimsical in nature, such as one bestowed on the “tail-end Charlie” aircraft—a tribute that Neale said even generates some ferociously good-natured competition of its own.
The winner’s award and trophy—and the recognition that goes with them—are greatly sought after, he said, but that’s not the only honor awaiting the victor of the 2016 Hayward Air Rally.
“If you win, you’re on next year’s T-shirt,” he said. “You get to be the face of the rally.”