Bill I only have had 2 bakes under my belt so I haven't paid too much attention, but do you find that the arching flames makes a difference to the top of the pie or not? Could you get the same result by baking just an inch or two from the coals without or without the arching flames from above as far as the top of the pie is concerned?
As I am want to say over and over and over and over again: every oven is different, every firing is different, and every stick of wood is different.
As far as my oven and the way I use it are concerned, flames arching across the dome are not a critical factor. In a single firing it is easy to try baking in 3 different scenarios:
1) Heat only from coals, minimal flames
2) Heat from both coals and flames from the side, minimal arching
3) Heat from coals and flames from the side, and arching from above
I really don't do #1 because I count on the flames to illuminate the pie so I can see what is going on. I could strap a flashlight to my head, but that would be altogether way too dorky.
Usually I'm baking with #3, but often I haven't paid enough attention to managing the fire and end up baking with #2. As you know, I'm not big on timing total bake times - I try to watch how the pie is reacting to the heat such as how long it takes for the edges to start to puff up and how rapid that expansion is and whether one part of the pie is cooking faster. I would say that there is little difference between #2 and #3 in this regard. If I have to lift the pie to the dome, I keep it there less time with #3.
If the oven is adequately fired, I try to bake as far from the fire as I can.