New speed record for San Diego to Savannah and back

New speed record for San Diego to Savannah and back

3-Oct-2011 Source: HAI

The World Record Helicopter Team, based in Murrieta Calif., set a new world speed record from San Diego Calif. to Savannah/Hilton Head Ga. and back, on Sept. 17, 2011. Flying a Robinson R44 Raven II, the four-man team departed from Brown Field when the race clock started at 7:28 a.m. Despite some extreme weather conditions along the way, they made it back in less than two and a half days, and beat the old record by one hour and 35 minutes. Their Total Elapsed Time, which included flight, fueling, and waiting for better weather, was an impressive 58 hours and 23 minutes*.

Team pilots included founder and Chief Pilot Johan Nurmi, an HAI member; Second-in-Command Travis Reid, and co-pilots Miguel Krishnan and Jerry Peck. The team’s mission is to set new World Speed Records, and raise money for charity. This year’s race was in support of Loma Linda Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital where team pilot Dr. Krishnan works as a pediatric otorhinolaryngoloist and surgeon. The goal was to raise $1 million.

According to Nurmi, as they planned the race, an extraordinary amount of time was spent considering the issue of weather. They chose their departure date based on a three-day, mostly clear-weather window between California and Georgia: on Sat., Sept. 17, there were good flying conditions over most of the NAA-recognized course. Departing from Brown, the team headed east, parallel with the Mexican border, towards Eloy, Ariz., for the first of what would be 16 fuel stops along their route.

They hoped the mild weather would hold and, for most of the time, it did. However, as they neared Abilene, Texas, they had to contend with heavy rain, strong high winds and a mesoscale convective complex thunderstorm that extended over significant parts of Texas and caused multiple-hour delays. Their high-tech gear made the difficult weather bearable, and included noise cancelling Zulu headsets provided by one of their sponsors, Lightspeed Aviation, as well as night vision goggles and helmet courtesy of a second sponsor, Night Optics USA, Inc. Even with the latest and best equipment, Nurmi said it was tough going. He emphasized the team’s resilience and skill, and said they were determined to stay positive and rely on their experience, as well as their confidence in the R44.

When they were not fighting the weather, the hardy team hurried through fuel stops, quickly searched for bathrooms and vending machines, and called home if time permitted before taking off again. They appreciated the many good people who helped them along the way, including thoughtful and generous police officers at Eloy Airport in Phoenix, Ariz. who gave them Gatorade, water and candy bars from their PD car trunk’s cooler because no food was available. They occasionally fought fatigue, but with a crew of four they were able to nap during rotations to the back seats.

Nurmi, a 12,000-hour pilot/CFI and multiple world record holder, is also vice president and co-owner of USA Academy of Aviation in Murrieta Calif. In addition to instruction in R22s and R44s, the flight school, where all team members have trained, is co-owned by Nurmi’s wife, Monica Bergenstrom, also a highly experienced rotorcraft pilot and CFI. The Academy organizes the record-setting helicopter race team which always combines its flights with fundraising for charity.

On Mon. evening, Sept. 19, 2011, just after setting down at Brown Field, they learned they had set a new world speed record. When asked how they felt, they all said they felt great, and are already looking forward to finding a special person with a large turbine helicopter, who would like to participate in their next event:  an around the world race! They hope that person will also help them pay for fuel! The World Record Helicopter Team is ready and eager for their next adventure and flight for charity.

*Official time pending final certification from NAA and Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

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