The Pipsqueak Story
In 2005 Warbirds decided to enter an L-39 in the Reno National Air Races. One of the most important requirements for a race plane is an appropriate mascot. We chose the little scooter on the nose of our L-39, “Pipsqueak” She represents the spirit, energy, zest for life and need for speed that is required of a race plane. She also mirrors the essence of Elaine “Pip” Concklin, owner Joe Gano’s partner/fiancée.
Moving through life at warp speed, Elaine was a sports star in high school, including not only soccer, swimming and field hockey, but gymnastics and extreme skiing. Then she went on to star at a Division I college in field hockey and lacrosse. Later life saw her as a highly sought after personal trainer, then a cardiac rehabilitation specialist after she earned her Masters Degree in exercise physiology.
Elaine has spent most of her life bringing sunshine, light, and hope into the lives of folks in need of both physical and emotional support. Her reason for existing is to help others.
More recently, she has joined the board of Cancer Care Connection, a not for profit organization providing cancer patients and their families in the Mid-Atlantic region with specific guidance, support and referrals to manage the burden of the cancer process. She is actively involved in fund raising while staying intimately involved with the provision of services. She spends much of her time developing communications resources, including patient specific pod casting of key information, resource specific referrals to nearby hospitals and community awareness meetings.
In this capacity, and in participation with the University of Pennsylvania Pip developed and executed a pilot study on a “Wellness Coaching Program” that included critical information on both nutrition and exercise for cancer patients. The study proved the value of the program, and Pip has assisted Christiana Care Hospital in implementing it for its patients.
While doing so much for others, her last 20 years has been complicated by raising her two great sons, for a long time on her own, and by her fight with cancer. That’s why Pipsqueak sports the pink Cancer Survivor ribbon. For the last fifteen years Pip has refused to let her ever increasing health issues limit her efforts to help other folks. Now every day gets a little tougher, but she puts on her Spartan cloak and her Nike’s, and sets out to help wherever and however she can---at warp speed.
Delaware Warbirds supports the Cancer Care Connection
Pip is an actively participating board member of the Cancer Care Connection (CCC). CCC is a non profit organization that offers phone support for persons diagnosed with cancer, their loved ones, friends, coworkers, etc.
- CCC knows the questions and knows how to find the answers:
- employment rights
- treatment protocol or side affects
- stress management
- clinical trials
- financial issues, and more
CCC helps you navigate through the myriad of information on the web, offers wellness coaching partners, listens with compassion and provides comfort and immediate responses by phone, web, pod casting, etc. CCC is staffed by master’s level professionals and oncology nurses. Their purpose is to answer each person’s question individually so they are ready to take their “next” steps of action toward becoming or remaining a survivor!
For more information about CCC, please visit them online at www.cancercareconnection.org.
Next we needed a plane that could match Pipsqueak’s winning spirit. In late 2004 Joe instructed Dave Cannavo of Aero Enterprises to acquire an L-39 to not only race, but win.
- Dave is the “creative genius” of the warbird industry. Dave brings an incredibly unique set of skills to the warbird community. Dave is the only person in the world that qualifies for, and can do ALL of the following:
- Thoroughly vetted by BATF and the State Department, he is a registered arms dealer, authorized to import “weapons of war” which is the label the State Department has given our warbirds.
- Dave has business contacts in several former Soviet Bloc countries, including Russia, who help him identify planes for sale.
- Dave then performs the prepurchase inspection, packs the plane for shipping and arranges transport to the US.
- Back in the US he shepards the aircraft through Customs and BATF inspections.
Dave then takes delivery, unpacks the crate, and assembles the plane-sometimes without any English instructions.
- Once he decides the aircraft is ready to go, Dave performs the test hops himself. He is type rated in the L-29, L-39, MiG 21 and MiG 23.
- Finally, as an FAA Authorized Instructor Dave trains the future pilot.
There are one or two companies in the US that have put all these functions together, but they have many people each doing a part. Dave can do it all.
Dave has even more to offer. He is fast and creative. He thinks. In our case he identified our aircraft in a late 2004 trip to Czech, where he found Production Number 0105, the fifth production L-39, sitting forlornly in of a corner of the factory. Built in 1974, it did not appeal to US buyers who were looking for the later models built in the mid 1980’s. Dave recognized that 0105 was far lighter than the later models, and also that it had a practically new engine.
Delivered in Mid-February 2005, Dave set to work from the start to lighten the airframe as much as race rules allow, and to optimize the engine for the course conditions. Also, he set out to streamline all surfaces.
By mid August, only a month before Reno “Pipsqueak” was certified and ready for race tuning. We slapped some paint on it and headed out with our long shot.
The third essential piece of the race picture is the Pilot. Prior to purchasing “Pipsqueak” Joe secured the commitment of John Penney, a good friend and an icon of Reno Air Racing. For years John has been associated with the Unlimited Class “Rare Bear”, a WWII Bearcat fighter. Thanks in large part to John, “Rare Bear” is one of the most successful and popular racers at Reno.
With John at the stick, “Pipsqueak” shocked the participants and crowds with its speed and performance, going on to win handily the 2005 Jet Class. John followed up with another easy win in 2006.
2007 proved a year of distractions, with John turning most of his focus back to “Rare Bear”, which was in its turn a long shot for 2007. To relieve John of a schedule conflict, Curt Brown, who has several prior years experience in the Jet Class, including 2 wins, stepped in to take over flying duties. A former USAF test pilot, and an astronaut with 6 Space Shuttle missions, Curt proved an able replacement for John. With another 20 MPH for 2007 Curt finished second only to the T-2 Buckeye. At almost 490 MPH, “Pipsqueak” retains its title as the world’s fastest L-39.
For 2008, Joe Gano, in his second year of racing, elected to fly Pipsqueak himself, turning the faster Viper over to Curt Brown.
Joe qualified at 502 mph, the fastest L-39 qualifying time, and third behind Curt Brown and Mike Mangold in Aero Enterprise prepared Vipers. Joe clocked the fastest L-39 race speed during the week at 490 mph and was again the fastest L-39 during Sunday’s Gold Race, finishing third overall behind the Vipers of Brown and Mangold.