Jet Pilot Heather Penney and 9/11…Ten Years Ago Today

Pilot Heather Penney is in the news today about her mission to stop the 9/11 hijackers of United Flight 93 ten years ago today.  Quoting Heather, “I was prepared to die for my country; it’s something everyone else would have done if they were in my shoes.” 

She and her commanding officer were ordered to stop Flight 93 from hitting the intended target – the Nation’s Capitol on September 11, 2001. The remarkable courage of Penny (and her commanding officer So Col. Marc Sasseville) is evidenced by their intention to stop flight 93 without the use of ammunition, missals or rockets – of any kind. They agreed to use their jet aircraft to stop the doomed airliner. Penny was quoted saying, “He planned to strike the plane’s cockpit, I opted for its tail.” What they didn’t know at the time was that sadly the airliner had already crashed in Pennsylvania.

 (Read more of AP writer Martin Griffith’s story in the HUFFPOST POLITICS http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/11/heather-lucky-penney-flight-93_n_957326.html)

 Penny is indeed an American hero. Her intense personal devotion in her service to the United States of America as a Lieutenant with the Air National Guard’s 121st Fighter Squadron is beyond remarkable – She served two tours in Iraq while being a single mother…. Her family is tight knit and exceptionally dedicated to one another.

 Heather will being flying her second year in the Jet Class in the beautiful L-29 Raju Grace, Race #21. She placed second in her jet class last year – not bad for a rookie!  We’ll be posting more photos and videos of this remarkable family beginning next week. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out our Reno 2010 interviews Heather Penney and her mom Stephanie Penney.

 Next week at the Reno National Championship Air Races we’ll follow up with Heather and her mom Stephanie and the other fantastic pilot in the family – John Penney, who is also a former Military Pilot and now Pilot of Rare Bear and four time Unlimited Class winner at the Reno Races.

 We look forward to your continued comments about Heather, her family and all the other amazing pilots racing at Reno National Championship Air Races.

 Good Luck and God’s Speed to all~

 Kimberley West, WarBirdBabe

Hello Race Fans! Only Five More Days to Go!

…Less days if you’re a dedicated fan and in the gates for Monday, September 12, 2011 Qualifying Starts!

Once again the Reno National Championship Air Races have lined up a fantastic race event with our beloved Pilots, Planes and Jets…with many race course records to shatter from last year… we all look forward to new race records and an incredible performance line-up for the air shows!

Qualifications for all six classes will begin on Monday, September 12th and will continue through Wednesday, September 14th. All pilots will be required to fly their course and record their times in conjunction with the official time keepers to establish their Bronze, Silver and Gold heat placements.

Races begin daily at 8 a.m. with Biplane and Formula One Class races – the remaining four classes, T-6, Sport, Unlimited and Jet follow later with Aerobatics and Flight Demonstrations mixed in rounding out the remainder of the day. All you seasoned Race Fans know schedules can change on a dime – for those visiting for the first time, races starts are approximate! Lots of variables in this action packed week!

We’ll see the spectacular US Air Force Thunderbird Demonstration Squadron arrive on Wednesday, September 14th and perform a practice routine which is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. and lasting about one hour. On Thursday, September 15th they will perform their amazing and beautiful routine at about 12:45 for approximately 45 minutes.

Sadly, the F22 Raptor will not be performing in Reno this year. The US Air Force has grounded the Jets due to mechanical issues. They truly are incredible performance machines – with mind blowing maneuvers…and pilots.

Another fantastic performance fly-by you won’t want to miss is the F/A-18E Hornet Legacy practice demo on Friday, September 15the and on Saturday, September 16th the F/A-18E Hornet Legacy Flight. This should be a crowd pleaser as this is the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation…Wow! Be sure to visit the Static and Heritage Displays of incredibly restored Vintage Aircraft – this year should have the best ever collection of War Birds – I’m hoping to see some of the early aircraft flown 100 years ago!

The Navy Parachute Team will perform their Leap Frog Exhibition which is made up of 14 jumpers – they’ll deploy at 5000 feet, free falling from 12,000 feet and create a variety of canopy shapes on their way down.

David Martin will fly an amazing aerobatic show in his Extra 300S sponsored by Breitling and the Patriot Formation Team will fly the beautiful L-39’s in a choreographed formation. Jim Piets will fly his Aerobatic Beechcraft F33C Bonanza and Eddie Abdreini will fly his Stearman Biplane with eye popping aerobatic maneuvers – double snap rolls, double outside loops, torque rolls and something called the “WOPCEVOK” – an end over tumble maneuver …crazy…!

For those who like big trucks on fire, you’ll be treated to the 7000 pound Shockwave Jet Truck. It has the capacity to accelerate at 3 G’s vertical – comparable to the Space Shuttle, but will simply race airplanes at 300 mph…did I mention it has 18,000 pounds of thrust?! Does it sound like a rocket?

There is much more to see and enjoy at this years National Champonship Air Races and Air Show. This year WarBirdBabe will capture comments from Race Fans on video as well as Pilots from all race classes and many WWII Living Legends and Historians – maybe a few astronauts too.  We’ll be posting many more photographs this year – of all kinds, with lots of Pylon shots!

Have fun and celebrate the Reno Races with Joy and Respect for those who have given so much for our armed services, then and now, and for all those who every year bring to life to the amazing aircraft and share their passion for flying with Race Fans all over the world.

If you can’t make it to the Reno Races, please come back and visit WarBirdBabe – we hope to post many thrilling moments for your enjoyment throughout this week and throughout the coming year. Please leave a message and let us know what you’d like to see – we’ll do our best to search it out and post it!

All the best to you Race Fans! …and Go Navy!
Good Luck and God’s Speed to all who will fly in the sky…

Kimberley West
WarBirdBabe

WarBirdBabe Blog Stats – 2010 in Review

Hello and Happy New Year WarBirdBabe Followers!

We thought you might like to see our viewer statistics for 2010.  I thought they were interesting and encouraging since we’re a “one gal show” at this point – with lots of room for expanding our photo galleries and stories.  

We would love to hear your thoughts about the blog, perhaps suggest some interviews you’d like to see in the future, or request postings of  your favorite War Bird Aircraft and last, but not least,  storey topics you’d like covered. 

We’d also like to post your interesting photos of  War Bird Aircraft or Military Service Men and Women.   All we need is an accurate description of who, what, where and when … and, if you don’t have all the details, perhaps one of our WarBirdBabe followers may have the answers you need!

Currently we’re editing a fantastic two-hour interview with Bob Hoover where he discusses the humble beginnings of the Reno National Championship Air Races and his current business venture. 

Another video will air this year with Jet Pilot Curt Brown and Journalist Guy Clifton of the Reno Gazette. 

We’ll also be posting more than 500 photos throughout the year from the recent Air Races and are in the process of accumulating photos from the archives of fans whose parents and/or grandparents served in WWII as Bomber Pilots and/or Crew.

Many thanks to all who have provided interviews and to those who have visited the WarBirdBabe blog and have taken the time to make comments in 2010 – we appreciate that very much. 

We hope to see you again and again in 2011 and look forward to providing an outstanding War Bird Aviation site – one worth telling your aviation friends about and visiting often!

God Bless and God Speed to all for this new year…

Kimberley West – WarBirdBabe

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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2010. That’s about 8 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 20 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 29 posts. There were 107 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4gb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was September 20th with 136 views. The most popular post that day was Photo Gallery from Photog Jim Loveless.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were indytransponder.blogspot.com, facebook.com, bayarearidersforum.com, en.wordpress.com, and mail.yahoo.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for heather penney, blue angels, steve hinton jr, rare bear, and tom aberle phantom.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Photo Gallery from Photog Jim Loveless September 2010
3 comments

2

Interview with Heather Penney Pilot of L-29 Raju Grace October 2010

3

Saturday, September 19, 2009 – Morning Photos & Heat Results September 2009
1 comment

4

Thursday, September 17, 2009 – Racing Starts at National Championship Air Races! September 2009
2 comments

5

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 – Qualification Day Three! September 2009
2 comments

Interview with Tiger Destefani – September 2010 – “If it Runs, it Will Win..!”

I was priviliged to have a moment with Bill “Tiger” Destefani, Pilot and Owner of the beautiful P-51D Mustang Strega ( Race #7) prior to the weeks start of official Unlimited racing at the Reno National Championship Air Races.

The  Strega crew wasn’t too busy with the aircraft – mostly polishing was all that was visibly required… The P-51D seemed to be running in tip -top shape.  She proved her superiority with a qualifying time of  over 484 mph.  That’s flying a lap (8.433 miles) in about 1:03 (one minute and three seconds…whew!).

Tiger said, “If it runs, it will win.”  And win she did – piloted by the amazing Steve Hinton Jr. 

Little did the pilots and fans know, the final race would really be held on Saturday.  The Reno weather didn’t cooperate for the Sunday afternoon race.  The desert winds were howling though the grandstands and pits, gusting at over 29 mph – with 30 mph being the limit for air traffic safety and race cancellation.

Personally I think all the pilots hold off until the last day to realize the true limit of the (current) engines.  If the machines are running well leading up to the final race, I think it’s a judgement call between the Owner, Pilot and Crew Chief that determine the final race speed. 

I surmise that if all are in agreement, the pilot will open it up and see what kind of performance he or she can finesse from the finely tuned equipment.  ….At least that’s what I read between the lines when I talked with Tiger.

Even though it was a huge disappointment for all the race fans who live and love the final race day Unlimited event, I’ll bet the disappointments for all the pilots and crews who wanted to give it their all for the last event, were immeasurable.

Tiger has a great aircraft that has been performing well for several years now.  It’s been a mesmerizing last two years watching Stevie Hinton gain confidence, race faster and intrigue a new generation of aviation enthusiasts. 

As it seems with all business ventures, a successful outcome starts from the top.  Leadership that provides respect, room to learn and grow always makes for happier, more productive, winning teams.

Speaking for race fans throughout the world, thanks for creating an awesome Strega Unlimited Race Team Mr. Destefani, we’re all rooting for another successful race year in 2011!

Good Luck and God’s Speed~

Warbirdbabe

Video Interview with Stephanie Penney – Wife of Unlimited Pilot John Penney & Mother of Jet Pilot Heather Penney

  

On Saturday – the last big day of racing at Reno this year, I snagged a moment of Mrs. Penney’s time while her Husband John Penney was visiting his favorite fans in Section 3

 Saturday was hot – about 98 degrees.  It was mid day in the direct sun and Stephanie was so sweet to indulge me as I placed her behind the box seats in front of the Section 3 fans.  Her back was to her husband who just happened to be wowing long time fans by signing tee-shirts, caps, bodies, programs, taking photos, shaking hands, or whatever…  it’s Section 3 after all…

John Penney being the accessible pilot for which he’s known, takes time each year to personally meet and greet the loyal race fans of Section 3.  You can see some love for the fans in the background of this video interview.

 For years I have been watching Stephanie & John Penney walk hand in hand from the pits to the tarmac line where the Rare Bear sits waiting to be flown in Sunday’s final big race.  (The only time media is allowed to be close to all the aircraft at race start.)

 Even though the gregarious Pilot John Penney shakes hands with all other pilots, RARA officials, Pace Pilot Steve Hinton Sr., the friends, crew and some long-time photographers with whom he’s made friends; Stephanie is always the last person to touch her husband before he enters the cockpit of the Rare Bear

 I so admire passion when I see it in others.  Observing only a small sliver of time, I’ve witnessed the mother load of passion in the Penney family. I’ve seen a quiet ritual between them for many years.  

With a small kiss and a few spoken words, they share a confirmation of knowing the inherent risks and potential dangers in the next flight.  And in so knowing, choose to embrace the shared passion of flying with a meaningful moment of understanding, support and affirmation of what is most important: each other

 So there is my inspiration for wanting to talk with Stephanie Penney.  Now that she has two members of her family flying, I thought it would be interesting to learn how she copes with the stress, if any, and see if there really are rituals that keep the family strong. 

 Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Stephanie!

 Good Luck and God’s Speed to the Flying Penney’s! 

Windy Conditions & Close-Call Accidents Cancelled Unlimited & T-6 Gold Races…

Thanks to the windy weather and two unfortunate accidents, the 2010 Reno National Championship Air Races ended in disappointment for those waiting for the big T-6 and Unlimited Class races on Sunday. This is the first time in 47 years (baring 9/11/01) that the Gold Race for the T-6 and Unlimited Classes were cancelled.

With the emergency support staff stretched at both ends of the field and gusty winds blowing up to 29 mph, the limit being 30 for take off, the core group of pilots decided to stand down for 30 minutes and see if conditions would improve. Sadly, the winds continued to howl.

Unfortunate for race fans and especially disappointing for the crews and pilots who didn’t have the final opportunity to show what they really had under their hoods – so to speak, many of whom worked into the wee morning hours tinkering, or for that matter, exchanging engines in preparation of Sunday’s big Gold race. Crews for Voodoo & Rare Bear were some of the most disappointed I’d imagine…

The final Gold Races for the T-6 and Unlimited Classes were called off officially by Reno Air Race Association CEO and President Mike Houghton mostly for safety reasons.

In those windy conditions, only runway 26 was be available for landing. In the event of a may-day, runway 26 would be out of commission leaving those in the air with limited fuel and options for landing. Not a good scenario.

The RARA staff considered the option to postpone the final Gold Races to the following morning; however 99% of the 2500 volunteers that it takes to mange the event, especially the Pylon Judges, were all planning to leave that Sunday evening. Really, a logistical nightmare avoided should the races have taken place on Monday morning…

So the awards went to the winners of Saturday’s races. Steve Hinton Jr. took the Gold in the Unlimited Class, making this his second win in Race 7 Strega, and Dennis Buehn brought home is 1st Place Trophy for in the T-6 Gold race in his beautiful Race 43, Midnight Miss III .

The Jet Class was able to race their Gold event and pilot Curt Brown, flying Race 77, Viper with a posted speed of 515.582 , blasted in to first place, passing Mike Mangold in Race 12, Euro Burner.

Do we need an introduction for the newest female Jet pilot on the block? Yes we do – the fans were delighted to see the aviation abilities of newbie Heather Penney, Pilot of Race 21 Raju Grace, a beautifully painted L-29.  Her father, John Penney flies Rare Bear Race 77 a Grumman F8F Bearcat. Look for an interview with Heather and learn about her aviation career as an F-16 pilot in the 121st Fighter Squadron, Air National Guard, in Washington D.C.

The Super Sport class has and incredible story of survival this year. Pilot George Giboney had a may-day in his Thunder Mustang, Rapid Travel, Race 75 and safely landed near the runway.

Unfortunately, just when he thought the worst was over, his lightweight checker-board painted aircraft hit a swale in the dirt and tumbled nose over end, loosing the engine to the left (barely missing him inside his canopy); both the wings snapped off with the fuel spraying into the air like a water balloon and tail departing. Miraculously, when what was left of his aircraft came to rest, George was sitting upright in his chair, seatbelts on and canopy gone. What a ride from which to walk away… God has surely blessed this pilot.

Pilot Gary Davis flying a Cassutt, Race 40 named Miss USA had a wind related accident on the runway just as his class was in formation and taking off. The wind blew hard enough to tip him on his nose thus ending the race for him. Fortunately there were no other planes on his tail that got too close.

So this is only a summary of events at the 2010 Races.

Look for these interviews to be posted soon:

SR-71 Test Pilot George Andre;    Heather Penney, Pilot Jet Class;    Bill “Tiger” Destefani, Owner Race 7 Strega;    Chris Rushing Pilot T-6 Race 42 Honest Entry;    Mrs. John Penney & Section 3;    Dan Martin Pilot P-51 Ridge Runner;    Rick Martin – President of the Van Nuys Flying Condors;    Curt Brown and my friend and favorite – Bob Hoover, Living Legend, Test Pilot, Pilot, Aviation Pioneer.