Insomnia, the Internet and A Rookie Race Winner’s Dreams

August 14th, 2015

Dr. Jamon Pruitt and his brother, Dane, notch a win in the 2015 EAA AirVenture Cup Race Flying a Meyers 200

In June of last year, Dr. Jamon Pruitt never dreamed he’d be racing an airplane to Oshkosh for AirVenture 2015. In fact, he was having trouble dreaming about anything because he was suffering from a severe case of insomnia. So, around 2:30 AM, he got up and began browsing the Internet, looking at the website when a Meyers 200 in Greenville, Mississippi caught his eye. At 3:10 AM, he sent an inquiry about the airplane. Less than a day later, he had received a call back and agreed to travel from his home in Arkansas to check it out.

“It turned out to be a 1966 model Meyers 200, serial number 297–N259M,” Jamon recalled. “It has a Meyers badge under the motor mount but it apparently was finished out at Rockwell and may have been used as a Commander demonstrator. It’s really solidly built, with great performance and visibility and a roomy interior. It was nicely restored at Mina, Arkansas in 2003. I bought it and have been flying it ever since. It’s not so much a ‘dream come true’ as it is the product of what can happen when you combine insomnia with the internet!”

Fast forward to this year. Jamon and his brother Dane, the manager of Saline Regional Airport in Benton, Arkansas, have decided to make the trip to Oshkosh for AirVenture an annual tradition since Dane got his pilot’s license in 2014. Raised around airplanes, they both enjoy the idea of joining a few hundred thousand other enthusiasts for the world’s biggest fly-in event. They assumed this year would be especially fun with the prospect of flying the newly-acquired Meyers 200 to Whitman Regional Airport and camping alongside it in the North 40 beckoning. They knew there would be some other Meyers owners there, as well. This would be a great opportunity to spend some time with them.

“In the spring, I heard about this cross country race–the AirVenture Cup–and we thought it might be fun, so we checked it out. This is the 18th year for it. It took me about 3 months to get all the paperwork together–insurance forms and entry documents–but we did it and we were entered in the FAC1RG category which is for any factory-built aircraft with 280 HP and above, normally aspirated, with retractable landing gear. It turned out there were two other aircraft in that class–a Comanche 400 and a V-Tailed Bonanza. We were the rookies.

“We figured it would be fun and a good experience–a fun run with cross country check points, beginning at Mt. Vernon, Illinois on Sunday, July 19 and progressing through turn points at Dixon, Illinois, then on to Saux Prairie, Wisconsin, Waupaca, and finishing at Wausau, Wisconsin. We were issued a number and call sign–RACE 200–because we’re a Meyers 200–and we flew up to Mt. Vernon on Friday and spent the day at their airport Open House on Saturday. They had a lot of ex-military aircraft and pilots having a good time. It’s kind of a ‘prequel’ to Oshkosh. The next morning, we had mandatory briefings with frequencies, altitudes, route information. Some of the pilots took it more seriously than others. We were the rookies so we paid pretty close attention.

“We headed out and there were thunderstorms on the first leg. We had to deal with those. I had talked with some friends who had flown in air races before and they told me to keep it low, run it rich, keep it cool and fly the course as straight as you can so that’s what we were trying to do but while we were cruising along, flying fast, there were still people passing underneath us! We knew we must be on course, though, because there was a steady line of airplanes all on the same line going the same way.

“When we got to Wausau, the local EAA Chapter actually logged our time as we crossed over the water runway they have there. It must be quite a sight with all these airplanes zooming low over the checkpoint and circling overhead. Once we finished we headed for the race area to camp with our airplane; no one knows their time until the dinner that night.

“We were the rookies, so we went to the evening meal figuring we’d enjoy the meal, pick up our third place trophy and head for Oshkosh. So when they got to our category and they announced that Comanche 400 was third, we thought ‘Hey, we didn’t finish last!’ Then they said the Bonanza was second and that we had won with a winning average speed of 202.95 mph–and that was with two people, full fuel and 400 pounds of camping gear on board, too! Looks like our Meyers 200 did a great job–and that included flying against a pretty stiff head wind on the last leg, as well!”

Now, Jamon has a new dream! “Next year, I’d like to see a bunch of Meyers 200s more or less create our own category–or dominate the category we’re in–and race against each other! These airplanes were built for speed and performance and what better way to show it than to win a bunch of these races in a row?!” And, just to make sure there’s at least one more Meyers   in the AirVenture Cup race next year, he recently bought another one himself. This time, he picked up a MAC 145, formerly owned by well-known aviation writer Budd Davidson: Meyers 34374. “It has only 18 hours on the engine and a thin wing; it takes a little getting used to. Of course, it’s 145 HP engine means it would end up in a different category, too…but maybe Dane could win that one while Jamon repeats his success from this year in the FAC1RG class.

The next time Jamon can’t sleep, he said he might look for an OW. “If I can find one, I could create my own Meyers fleet!”

Meanwhile, continues to be encouraged by the response from potential customers and the performance of the existing fleet of Meyers 200 airplanes as it evaluates the possibility of returning the aircraft to production after nearly a half century hiatus. Dr. Pruitt’s accomplishment–and his enthusiastic and encouraging response to it– can’t help but make the   possibility of at least limited production a serious consideration. “There are still around over 100 of these high performance single engine airplanes in service with performance that is competitive with contemporary Beechcraft Bonanza, Piper Comanche, Mooney, and Cessna Centurion models,” noted Chief Operating Officer Malissa Nesmith. “We displayed the winning aircraft at our exhibit throughout AirVenture 2015 in Oshkosh, July 20-26 and it attracted a lot of interest. It’s still a very modern and contemporary looking design. It deserves very serious consideration as a production airplane, going forward. It really comes down to a question of making it affordable to produce, sell and maintain. I think it’s pretty obvious–the customers are out there!”