Wednesday afternoon, Merrill Airport Commission chairman Gary Schwartz announced that on Sunday July 23, for the first time ever; Merrill Municipal Airport will participate in the annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Cup (AVC) Cross-Country Aircraft Race
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the annual event.
According to its website, the (AVC) is the world’s premier amateur open-circuit air race, open to all experimental and factory-built aircraft. The AVC seeks to recreate the spirit of the great air races of the Golden Age of Aviation, such as the famed Bendix Trophy. It is held annually on the opening weekend of the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh fly-in and convention in late July, and most participants fly into Oshkosh at the race’s conclusion.
The race will kick off at 9:30 AM as the 97 racers take off from Mount Vernon, IL and embark on the 500 mile flight course with turn points in Lacon, IL; Viroqua, WI and Black River Falls before crossing the “finish line” in Merrill from the southwest. The aircraft, of a wide array of designs and builds, will fly over the Merrill airport at altitudes ranging from 500 to 1,500 feet and speeds as high as 300 mph. The first racers could arrive as early as 10:00 AM and could continue to pass over well into the afternoon, as late as 2 PM; based on weather and flight conditions. As the aircraft fly over Merrill Municipal Airport, officials on the ground will record respective finish-times.
Upon completion, some aircraft may land in Merrill to refuel.
However a majority of competitors are expected to continue south to land, refuel and regroup at the Wausau Downtown Airport, before continuing on eastbound to Oshkosh for the EAA AirVenture Air Show.
According to Merrill Municipal Airport manager Rich McCollough, due to the number of aircraft involved, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has safety concerns regarding the race and is treating the event as an air show.
“The faster planes will not be allowed to cross the finish line lower than 1500 feet and the slower planes will not be allowed lower than 500 feet,” McCullough said
“The FAA is also considering implementing a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) for Merrill during the event as well.”
As Merrill Airport Commission chairman Gary Schwartz explains, a TFR is the same restriction enforced by the FAA when the President of the United States is in flight over various areas. If implemented, the TFR will prevent other aircraft from using air space in the Merrill vicinity during the event, until the all-clear is given.
“We would like to thank all the Merrill area individuals who have helped to make the Merrill airport’s participation in this event, a reality,” Schwartz adds.
“We would like to especially thank Steve Krueger who made the initial contact to the EAA cup race officials and to 6th District alderwoman Mary Ball; who has been energetic in getting local details taken care of.”
“The Merrill Municipal Airport Commission has been working for years to improve our airport and make it more noticeable in the state aviation system,” Schwartz explains.
“The EAA cup race is a one of a kind aviation event and it is gratifying to have Merrill be selected as a participant on the event’s 20th anniversary.”