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Wing C-5 pilot races in Formula One Air Race Demonstration

Air Force Reserve C-5 pilot Maj. Steve Temple from the 445th Airlift Wing prepares for a pylon race in his sports aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Charlie Miller)

Air Force Reserve C-5 pilot Maj. Steve Temple from the 445th Airlift Wing prepares for a pylon race in his sports aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Charlie Miller)

Wright-Patterson AFB -- Props were spinning and engines were revving as six International.
Formula One Air Racers anxiously waited on the flight line for the green flag to drop so the race could begin. Maj. Steve Temple, a C-5 pilot with the 445th Airlift Wing, was among the line up flying Number 57, the “Aggressor.” 

This race was part of about 20 other flying demonstrations that took place Nov. 12 at the 2005 Aviation Nation Air Show, Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nev. 

Named Rookie-of-the-Year after winning fifth place in the Formula One Gold class at the Reno National Championship Air Race in September, this was only Maj. Temple’s second air race. 

The interest came about when “I moved to Lake Tahoe in ‘99 and I attended the National Championships that year and every year following,” the major said. “I just said it was time to quit sitting on the sidelines and get in the race. Randy Howell, Patriot’s Air Show Jet Demonstration Team, took me under his wing and mentored me on how to fly this.” 

Maj. Temple packed a positive attitude to the race. “I feel good today,” he said. “I’ve got my family and my sponsors here. I have all the support in the world and I like the occasion too. I’m looking forward to putting on a good race demonstration.” 

The Formula One planes took off in pairs, the slower planes in the front and the faster ones in the back, and would race eight laps over a three mile course. Maj. Temple was positioned in the last row alongside “Alley Cat” flown by Jason Somes. 

“I’m going to win,” said the major. “It’s either going to be me or him,” Maj. Temple said, pointing to “Alley Cat.” 

Maj. Temple, with the help of his sponsor, Chuck Dickerson of Air Sierra Unlimited in Minden, Nevada, took the 25 year old aircraft and transformed it into the highly modified “Aggressor.” Weighing about 520 pounds with a wing span of just 22 feet, the aircraft has a totally different meaning than the C-5 aircraft the major flies while on duty with the 445th. 

“I don’t think there’s many powered airplanes that are smaller than this,” Maj. Temple said.  “This is more personal because it’s just me doing it,” said the major. “This is much, much more dangerous, where flying a C-5 is more of a experience and how well you manage a big beast and all the people.” 

Taking off from the last row because of an anticipated win, Maj. Temple had quite a bit of distance to gain. Within a few laps, he advanced to the middle of the pack and it seemed like a promising race. 

“Here at the air show it’s supposed to be a simulated air race but the pilots are still very competitive,” said Mr. Dickerson. 

As Number 57 came around the turn with a few laps remaining, he started to gain altitude and pulled out of the race. He safely landed “Aggressor” and was pushed off the flight line by members of another team. As he was towed back to his pit area, he described the severe engine vibration and loss of oil pressure that caused him to land sooner than expected. Maj. Temple, thankful of a safe landing, remains optimistic about his next opportunity for a victory. 

“I’m going to race until I win the nationals,” the major said. 

Maj. Temple plans to compete in the Reno, Nevada National Championships, Las Vegas, Nev., and other races in Tuscon, Ariz.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Prescott, Ariz.
“What pushed me over the edge was being activated for the last two years,” the major said. “As I took off for my first race I immediately began reviewing procedurally how I thought it was going to be to land this thing. There’s no trainer for this, you’re solo the first time you’re in the air.” 

“The last thing I reviewed was my egress, meaning how you’re going to jump out if it catches fire,” said Maj. Temple 

The competitors in this style of aircraft racing already know who’s on fire. With arguably the hottest plane in the sport and the Rookie-of-the-Year honors under his belt, it’s 445th pilot Maj. Steve Temple.