Truckee pilot screams into third at air races | SierraSun.com
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Truckee pilot screams into third at air races

Story and photos by Sunni Todd

Birch Entriken of Truckee rocketed his Cassutt 111M No. 50 “Scarlet Screamer” into a Formula One third-place finish at the Reno National Championship Air Races Sunday.

This is Entriken’s third race ever. He was flying with such notables as Gary Hubler in No. 95 “Mariah”; Hep Porter, flying Ray Cote’s No. 4 “Alley Cat”; Charlie Greer in No. 69 “Miss B Haven” and Scotty Crandlemire in No. 12 “Outrageous”.

“I loved the Reno Air Races and the (now-defunct) Truckee Air Show,” he said. “I always came early and stayed late. In 1997, I told Pat (now a member of his crew) I didn’t want to keep coming if I wasn’t in the game.

“So in 1999 I bought Spudrunner, a Shoestring, the cheapest formula one in Trade A Plane. We (Entriken and crewmembers Jack, Bob and Pat) called our outfit Russet Racing. I went to the pylon training camp, qualified Spudrunner at 204 mph and entered the 1999 Race.”

Entriken was doing well in the heats and moving up in his speeds when on Thursday, during the 1999 races, he was landing Spudrunner, lowering the nose and smack in front of him another plane had slowed and remained on the left landing side of the runway.

Entriken flew his plane up and to the left to avoid hitting the other plane, but the gear became entangled in the sagebrush, severely damaging Spudrunner.

“My heart was broken,” he said.

Sitting out the rest of the race, Entriken sorted out his options. Scotty Crandlemire was buying “Outrageous” that year and selling Scarlet Screamer. So Entriken bought her.

In 2000, Scarlet Screamer couldn’t be made ready to race, and in 2001 he qualified, but the races were cancelled due to Sept. 11: 2002 was Entriken ‘s first full race.

After a strong performance, he brought home a sixth-place trophy in the Formula One Gold.

So what about the early years?

“After the usual Truckee odd jobs, I decided to go for my pilot’s license in 1977,” Entriken said.

“I loved the smell and feel of that early morning air at the Truckee Tahoe Airport. My instructor, Gordon Wicksten, soloed me at 11 hours, but money ran out. After lots of gaps in my training, I got my license in 1979, Quiet Birdman, Mike Brown was my examiner.”

Entriken continued to work on license ratings, including the CFI.

“In 1986 I towed gliders for Les Sebald at Truckee in N2193R – I was thrilled to death, it was a flying job,” he said. “There was flight instructing. I had military and civilian students. The civilian students always asked “why” and the military students accepted instruction easily and learned quickly.”

Crop duster school added another dimension to Entriken’s experience, but he said it’s difficult to break into it if you’re not born into a crop duster family.

“I had a dilemma if I wanted to develop my aviation career,” he said. “I needed multi-engine time, which is hard to get without a lot of money or a job flying multi-engine aircraft.

“Being lazy, I ran an ad in Trade A Plane listing my tail wheel time, crop duster school, instructing and what I was looking for. I was contacted by Chicago based Viking Express, who needed a Beech 18 pilot.”

It was a cold gray February Chicago morning when Entriken first saw 100VE, a flat gray Beech 18.

The outfit also had King Airs, a Citation and a Lear. Entriken added time in the Viking Express fleet while flying freight, executives, and air ambulance.

“The single pilot turbo time I got was a big help when I was able to get the captain’s seat straight away with a commuter airline flying a Dornier T28, then to Alaska flying a Beech 1900,” he said.

“In 1992, I gambled a third of a year’s wages and my vacation to go for a jet 737-type rating. I landed the rating, but the interview for first officer with Southwest Airlines felt flat. They were only hiring one out of six applicants.”

Entriken is grateful that gamble paid off.

This year he celebrates 10 years with Southwest Airlines and flies in the captain’s seat. His job supports dreams fulfilled, racing with the best at Reno Air Races 40th anniversary and sharing the joy with family and friends.

Freedom to Fly Forever was this year’s theme for the 40th annual National Championship Air Races and Air Show, held in Stead, Nev.

Chosen to remind us all of how precious these freedoms are and to honor all who have contributed to keeping them in place, over 120 contestants, military and civilian show pilots and thousands of volunteers came together to put on the event.

Reno’s is the longest-running air race in history attended by people from all over the world. The large crowd included the Tahoe Truckee Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol cadets and senior members. Cadet Sgt. Kristi Rouse earned a pit pass for promoting three times in a six-month period. She is now a Cadet Technical Sergeant with a dream to one day be an Air Force Thunderbird pilot.

Another pilot with Truckee in his heart and speed in the throttle is Dave Cronin flying “For God’s Glory”, a Glasair III.

Truckee Air Show fans will remember his graceful performance to “Chariot’s of Fire” in the lovely Soar Truckee glider.

Dave looped his way through five shows for his Truckee audiences with a characteristic low flyby, graceful increase in altitude at the end with no engine and perfect landing directly in front.

Dave’s glider skills aided him another significant day.

On a United flight out of Honolulu, the baggage door left the aircraft for the ocean floor, and Captain Cronin, with his crew, was able to bring her back into Honolulu airport saving his and hundreds of other lives (nine lives were lost).

For God’s Glory (“that’s what it’s all about,” smiles Dave) placed a solid fifth in the Sport Gold with Dave Cronin at the helm.

Speaking of the Truckee Air Show and no engines, who remembers the great performance of Bob Hoover in the “Shrike Commander?” A little larger and a little lower than you usually see a loop followed by an eight-point roll with engines off – wouldn’t you say?

This race fittingly has the man with an aviation career spanning the world and the decades as one of the impressive list of Grand Marshals.

Other planes were familiar sites at Truckee, among them: No. 75 “Warlock” flown by Al Goss of Bakersfield, Calif. and No. 5 “Big Red” flown by Jerry McDonald of Tranquility, Calif.

RENO NATIONAL CHAMPION AIR RACES RESULTS

(First- through third-place gold winners in each class)

Formula One

No. Name Plane Name Race Time Speed

95 Gary Hubler Mariah 6:01.67 253.823

4 Hep Porter Alley Cat 6:07.97 249.477

50 Birch Entriken Scarlet Screamer 6:21.40 240.692

Biplanes

3 David Rose Frightful 5:13.00 219.181

27 Norman Way Magic 5:29.55 208.174

33 Michael Farb Laura Jean 5:44.31 199.250

Sport

33 Darryl Greenamyer Airplane 7:19.80 324.497

88 Rick Vandam Solution 7:21.79 323.035

5 Lee Behel 7:49.14 304.203 AT-6/SNJ

6 Nick Macy Six Cat 7:44.99 235.264

22 Mary Dilda Two of Hearts 7:48.36 233.507

75 Alfred Goss Warlock 8:01.89 226.951

Jets

22 Mary Dilda Heartless 5:30.02 434.019

5 Curt Brown American Spirit 5:31.82 431.655

7 Lee Behel 5:51.02 408.054 Unlimited

4 Skip Holm Dago Red 6:17.14 480.415

77 John Penney Rare Bear 6:34.73 459.007

10 Tom Dwelle Critical Mass 6:50.70 441.158


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