Out on the tarmac of the Provo Airport, a group of people hovers around an airplane, the McDonald Racer #37.
This would not be considered an unusual event at an airport, but this day was different. The plane on the runway is a lightweight T-6 racing aircraft being sponsored by UVU.
On Sept. 9 the Aviation program hosted an event at the Provo Airport, making history with their sponsorship, which is uncommon for universities.
There was excitement in the crowd as some questioned quietly who might get a chance to go up in the plane with its pilot, John Zayac. Flying for the better part of 20 years, Zayac has been racing for the last 10. He flew the McDonald Racer to Provo to meet the plane’s sponsor and allow students, staff and the general public an opportunity to see the actual race aircraft.
This plane has been racing since 2006 and has just competed in the National Championship Air Races held in Reno, Nev. For race enthusiasts, air racing has been labeled the world’s fastest motor sport. The Reno race was held Sept. 15-19. The past two years, the Racer and its pilot placed third and fifth, respectively.
According to Zayac they have a really great crew this year, “An eclectic group made up of business people, engineers and mechanics.”
Through multiple sponsors, they have worked diligently at making the aircraft as light as possible. This includes a special paint that allows the plane to fly a little faster, according to Zayac. He also mentioned that the crew made efforts to lighten and streamline literally everything.
“They even put me on a diet,” Zayac said.
Zayac is excited about the university’s involvement and looks forward to learning more about this school. After showing the students the plane, the group gathered in a hanger/classroom to ask questions and hear more about Zayac, the McDonald Racer and the air races. Zayac mentions a key goal in this year’s race was breaking the world’s T-6 speed record of 244.523 mph.
Jim McCulloch, the college’s communications specialist, asked Zayac what his race predictions were.
“I think it’s going to be between Nick Macey, myself and Dennis Buehn,” Zayac said.
Assistant Dean of Aviation Greg Schwab hopes this sponsorship will build awareness of UVU’s aviation program and ultimately increase recruitment.
For more information, and to see how Zayac and the McDonald Racer placed in the Reno Air Race, go to www.AirRace.org