The Rare Bear

Rare BearŽ Update
April 21, 2003
by: Sharon Coates

To All Sponsors, Fans and Friends of the "Rare Bear".

We have not had an update on the progress of our monumental effort to restore the "Rare Bear" back to flying status and a solid contender for the Gold since just before Christmas 2002, but there is a very good reason. We have been VERY BUSY!!

We have just completed a number of test flights that were very satisfactory, but I would like to bring you up to date on the last 3 months worth of work that led up to these test flights.

The new crew, consisting of: Stacy Thomas- crew chief Dave (Moondog) Mooney Scott (Chip) Crawford Scott Litster Elliott White John (Hook-Up) Hunter Andrew Karolak Matt Thompson Roger Martin Ray (Mr. Fix-All) Din Peter Belan, are all, or in part, working on the "Bear" almost every night of the week, at Stead Field, in the "Bear Cave".

In addition, our regular members of the "Bear" crew, Greg Shaw, our propulsion and fuel expert, Bill Hickle, the first crew chief for the "Bear" and the undisputed encyclopedia of her secret workings, Dann Slinker, who rebuilt our new engine, and Mel Gregoire, another original member of the "Rare Bear" team, have contributed their invaluable knowledge to our ongoing progress.

Some of the projects, but not all -as some are secret- include:

Fixing up the "Bear Cave" to make it more user friendly. Howard Lowry of STINSON AIR CENTER helped us here with a new compressor and 2 new, non corrosive fire extinguishers for the ground crew.

Rebuilt and resealed wing-tips. PPG PAINTS helped us here with the new sealant.

A complete rebuild of the exhaust system. Billy Zarevich (Billy Z) of Alaskan Airlines is donating his time and exceptional talent to this particular project.

Resealing of the firewall and installing new control cable boots. John informed the crew that he had been able to smell fumes during the Nellis Air Show.

Reconfiguration of the instrument panel. John had informed the crew that he had to work hard to be able to read some of the more important gauges. We decided he already had enough to do without having this added task.

FINALLY , solving the on-going problem with the alternator system, and for Kerch’s information, we didn't do it by adding a third alternator, as he so nicely suggested! Just like a P51 guy to suggest adding more weight! Oh Well, Dago Red is going to need all the help she can get! We would like to thank SKYTRONIC'S, INC. for rebuilding our alternators and regulators and donating new alternator cans for the cooling mods.

While working on the instrument panel, the whole cockpit was rewired. A number of the instruments were old and worn out, so they were replaced.

The Trim Tabs were disassembled and all new piano hinges installed.

Then, last but not least, a brand new paint job! If we are going to be a class act, we need to look like one! Believe me, after seeing the "Bear" last week, we now look like a class act. Thanks to untold hours by the crew, stripping the old paint, building a Reno "Red Neck" paint booth, and sealing the engine against contamination, among other things, the "Bear" looks like new! The crew was able to talk SHERWIN WILLIAM'S paints to come on board as a sponsor and furnish all the paint plus their top paint instructor, Clint Baker and his boss, Jerry Cashon. In the process Jerry decided to leave a large sample of his DNA , when he ran into the left wing trailing edge. Being the fan that he is, he just put some bandages on it and finished painting. So now, we have sponsors giving actual blood for the cause!

All of the removable panels and the Rare Bear cowling were painted at the training center and the end result speaks for itself, in a word, beautiful!

"Rare Bear" was painted in the same scheme as before with one exception. She now has FLAMES on each wing tip! They are applied using a very high tech Sherwin Williams product called MultiTone and the effect of color shift from this paint is beautiful. With the new, younger crew, they seem appropriate. When all this was done, a layer of clear-coat was applied.

Then came the problem of replacing all the decals on the fuselage and gear doors,(no small expense). Bill Pauley and his wife of GRAFICS UNLIMITED stepped to the forefront. They volunteered to produce and donate all needed decals. The crew applied these just before the test runs and they look great. Good job people! The finishing touch!

The next big project was scheduling 3 days of flight tests. To make this work, we needed the "Bear " to be ready. John Penney had to have days off from United Airlines; OSI SOFT, one of our sponsors who is putting the telemetry on the "Bear", plus a cash sponsor, had to get 4 people time off to come; Clark Thompson, our Los Alamos engineer, a crew member in charge of all telemetry had to get time off from his job; we had to get Bill Hickle to Reno (Bill was one of the first crew chiefs for the "Bear" and is just full of little secret things); 3 barrels of 160 octane fuel mixed and shipped from Texas at a cost of $9.72 a gallon, (nobody said this project would be cheap, and just so you know, the "Bear" burns this special mixed fuel up at the rate of 10 gallons a minute or $100.00 a minute when at full throttle).VP RACING FUEL came on board as a sponsor again and gave us the fuel at production cost. I was afraid to ask what it cost retail!! We also had to fit Wayne Sagar of AAFO.COM into the schedule. OSI SOFT and ourselves needed some good air to air video of John and the "Bear" for a promotional video and footage for a new commercial, thanks to CHARTER MEDIA, who are donating their services for the production, and distribution of said commercial. When done, it will air on a large number of cable networks including CNN and ESPN. To get these air to air shots, we also needed a camera platform ( another airplane suitable for the purpose) and a pilot. John Parker of AMERICAN AIR RACING and his Seneca came to our rescue. He is based right at Stead and the plane has a removable rear panel so Wayne wouldn't have to film through Plexiglas.

While I was at it and there were so few obstacles in front of me, I decided to see if we could FINALLY get some local Nevada coverage on the "Bear" and our sponsorship program, worked into the same schedule. Thanks to Mike Houghton, CEO of the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AIRRACES, we got the ball rolling on this part of the project. When we offered John Tyson of TYSON'S Journals, seen on KOLO, Reno, channel 8, a ride in the Seneca for some air to air shots, we were in business!!

We finally got everything worked out for April 8-9-10.

We began with the usual 100 octane fuel. We had 2 flights Tuesday. The first flight brought out the usual gremlins which required more work by the ground crew and the second flight went well. No major problems.

Wednesday morning, we launched John Parker, the Seneca and Wayne Sagar to about 12,000 feet, with no doors. You should have heard Wayne complain about the rather cool temperature at that altitude! He kept mumbling something about minus 4 degrees, this without the wind chill factor. We then launched John and the "Rare Bear". They joined up and John made a number of passes and rotations around John Parker and Wayne. Both pilots are true professionals and Wayne was given exceptional chances for both video and still pictures. I have seen a preview of these pictures and they are a sight to behold!

The next step was for John Parker to land, eject Wayne, load John Tyson into the back seat, take off and join up with John and the "Bear" as quickly as possible, as we were burning fuel. Mr. Tyson took his turn at getting footage for his journals and KOLO Channel 8 news. This turned out exceptionally well, also. While all of this was going on Cannel 2 , KTVN was at the hanger conducting interviews and getting footage for their news hour.

We then had 1 afternoon flight, still with the 100 octane fuel, to make sure there were no more gremlins. A couple of small problems surfaced. Namely the CHT probes and CHT leads proved inaccurate and unreliable. These are the instruments that measure the Cylinder head temperatures, which is a VERY important piece of the puzzle. Lynn Jenkins of AVIATION CLASSIC,LTD offered his donated time to the problem. The puzzle proved to be hard to run down, but eventually it was solved for the time being. Also, one of the exhaust stacks had broken at a weld. John saw the temperature spike and landed the "Bear" immediately, so no harm was done. Stacy called a specialist welder in town and the quote was $200.00. When Stacy got the part to him and he found out it was for the "Rare Bear" he just charged us for the rod, $35.00. God, I love "Bear" fans!!

Thursday morning John took the "Bear" up for one last check flight, which went well. "Rare Bear" was towed back to the cave and the process began, to fuel her up with the "HOT" stuff, add the ADI, check the water level for the spray bar, add oxygen, etc.

We were finally ready to roll about 4:00 PM and just in time to, as the weather was closing in on us. The plan was, to go up, push the throttle to the firewall and see what happened. (Real scientific plan, don't you think?) With the telemetry that OSI Soft and Clark Thompson had installed, we knew we would be getting accurate readouts of all the VIP settings, Rpm’s, Manifold pressure, oil pressure and temperature, cylinder head temps., true air speed, etc., so we sort of relaxed (if you can do that with the "BEAR IN THE AIR"), and enjoyed the SOUND of the "Bear". It's been a while since anybody heard it, but, I can tell you, SHE'S STILL GOT IT!! The proof was when every hanger at Stead emptied out within seconds of the first pass.

Here's where I have to be careful about the information gleaned from the test with the Special race fuel in the tank, as we don't want the "Enemy" to get the idea that they have to start looking for more horsepower or start tweaking their engines, or just fold up their tent and go home, as we want to beat them fair and square. However, I think you get the idea. The final test went GREAT and we got our money's worth. We have a VERY healthy engine, the "Bear" is in better shape than she has been in years, she looks like a class act, we have the best crew the unlimited class has ever seen, we have the BEST pilot, our sponsors have become part of the team, we are getting more publicity and TV coverage, and we are managing to pay most of the bills.

We still need to raise money to fix the #1 best carburetor, buy new CHT leads and probes, about $500 worth of seals, gaskets, etc. and the BIG one, insurance payments.

I am going to be very candid here, as everyone needs to know, If we can't pay the insurance premium by Sept. 1, 2003, we can't race anyway, no matter how good the "Bear" is. There are 2 premiums we have to meet, $6500.00 for the first installment on the In Motion basic coverage and $14,500.00 for the special insurance coverage needed to enter the National Championship Air Races. We can not charge these 2 items and pay later. They have to be paid up front. All of us are discussing various ways to start stock-piling this money, while still paying the bills, but we would appreciate any idea's any of you might have.

I am wondering if this is worth a try. If we had a special page on our web- site, devoted to the insurance premiums and kept a running total towards the goal of $21,000.00, so everyone could see just where we are, and make it clear that we are holding this money for the insurance premiums only, do you think we would get a response?

Of course, if we could find a $20,000 sponsor, I wouldn't have to keep going to the hairdresser to get rid of these gray hairs. Maybe I'll just let it go gray and donate the money to the premiums.

It would be a crime, now that we have the "Bear" ready , but can't race because of the insurance, so please give this some thought. We need help on this.

John Penney has to re-qualify during PRS June 19 thru June 22. We plan on doing some more test flying during that time, including some runs on the pylons. We haven't decided just how much we want the rest of the field to know, but knowing John and Lyle and the crew, I suspect it will be time to find out just fast the "Bear" will go. All of you are invited to come watch and do some hanger flying with us, provided there is time between flights.

Now, to clear up some unfinished business. A number of sponsors had their picture taken in the "Bear" at Reno last September. We lost our usual photographer at the last minute, I had to help time the record runs for Mr. Wright and his H-2 racer, thus it became unorganized. (I hate it when that happens.) Anyway, We are posting the pictures on our web-site,, and would appreciate it if all of you would take a look at them and help me figure out which is which.

For those of you who are waiting for your 2003 patches for your jackets, don't give up. My order was pushed to the bottom of the list due to the war with Iraq. The company was busy making patches for the troops. I will send these out with the new membership cards as soon as they arrive.

Please think about the insurance problem and feel free to E-mail me at anytime with suggestions or questions. We are all in this together and together we have to make this work. However, remember, I am just one person, so any suggestions rendered can't be overly time consuming, as I am about stretched to my limit now.

I will send another update after PRS in June.

On behalf of the "Bear", Lyle, John and the crew, have a good one, see you in September!!

Go BEAR!!! Sharon Coates, Director

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