Reno Air Races

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Reno Air Races September 12, 2014
Voodoo P 51 2014 Gold Champion
Steve Hinton Jr 2014 Reno Air race champion

The Reno Air Races, also known as the National Championship Air Races, is currently a 7 day event, tailored to the Aviation community that takes place each September at the Reno Stead Airport a few miles north of Reno, Nevada, USA. Air racing is billed as 'the world's fastest motor sport' and Reno is one of the few remaining venues. The event includes performances by a series of stunt pilots and acrobatic demonstrations and features racing around pylons at low altitudes upon a fixed race course.


Begun in 1964, the Reno Air Races feature multi-lap, multi-aircraft races between extremely high performance aircraft on closed ovoid courses which range between about 3 miles (Biplanes and Formula One) and about 8 miles (Jet, Unlimited) in length per lap.

The first Reno air races, in 1964 and 1965, were organized by World War II veteran Bill Stead. They took place at Sky Ranch airfield, a dirt strip barely 2,000 feet (610 m) long, which was located in present-day Spanish Springs. After Stead AFB (20 miles to the west, and named in honor of Bill's brother, Croston Stead) was closed in 1966, that field was turned over for public use and the races have been held there since then.

Aircraft in the Unlimited class, which consists almost entirely of both modified and stock World War II fighters, routinely reach speeds in excess of 400 miles per hour. In 2003, Skip Holm piloted Terry Bland's modified P-51D Mustang, Dago Red, and reached an all-time speed record of 507.105 mph in a six-lap race around the eight-and-a-half mile course. The recently added Sport Class racers, mostly homebuilt aircraft, are already reaching speeds in excess of 400 mph. In 2009, Curt Brown set a record of 538 mph on his jet-engine L-29 Viper.

The Reno Air Races include several days of qualifying followed by four and a half days of multi-aircraft heat racing culminating in the Unlimited Class Gold Race on Sunday afternoon. The event also features civil airshow acts and military flight demonstrations between races, plus vendor areas and a large civil and military static aircraft display.

Classes and requirements[edit]


    • The "Unlimited" does have a series of certain restrictions placed upon the entries. Each aircraft must have piston driven propeller engines, and this class can in fact pull up to 6 G’s during the racing. Besides that, this class is basically "Unrestricted" operating within those few requirements.

The aircraft are allowed to run fuel blends, nitrous injection, and many of the Unlimited class participants are powered by the Griffon/Merlin V-12’s or Pratt & Whitney R-4360’s,most of the airframes are highly modified WWII fighters. The air speeds often exceed 500 MPH on portions of the 9.128 mile race course.


    • Two sets of wings

Formula One[edit]

    • engine-Continental O-200
    • wing area-66 square feet
    • empty weight-500 pounds or more
    • fixed landing gear
    • fixed pitch propeller


This class is open to production kit-built aircraft powered by a reciprocating engine with displacements of 650 cubic inches or less. Aircraft must have a current FAA Airworthiness Certificate. Pilots are required to have at least 500 hours of flight time-in-type, and be EAA formation flight certified to participate in a race.




Significant Participants[edit]





Before 2011[edit]

From 1964 through 2010, 19 aviators lost their lives due to crashes and collisions in the course of the competition and airshow.[1] In 2007, three pilots died over the course of four days in separate incidents. (Gary Hubler, Steve Dari, & Brad Morehouse).[2] Racing was suspended for one day after the last of the three incidents.[3][4]

2011 crash[edit]

On September 16, 2011, a heavily modified P-51D Mustang named "The Galloping Ghost," piloted by Jimmy Leeward, crashed near the stands during the Gold Heat of the race, killing Leeward and 10 spectators and injuring 69.[5][6][7][8] Race organizers cancelled all remaining 2011 races after the accident.[9]


Following some tightening of safety rules, the Reno Air Races resumed in 2012 without major incident.


A race plane crashed on the course during qualifying Monday 9/8 at 3:16 p.m. killing the pilot, during a Sport Class heat race.[10]Sport Class & founder pilot Lee Behel, 64 was flying in a single-engine experimental GP5 when it appeared to suffer a catastrophic mechanical failure and crashed at the north end of the racecourse.[11]


External links[edit]