Reno Air Races

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Reno 2015 Unlimited Gold Line Up by D Ramey Logan
Strega Tiger and Hoot the 2015 Unlimited Air Race Champions by D Ramey Logan
Aerial view of Reno Stead Airport, looking due south, during Reno Air Races, early morning, September 12, 2014
Voodoo P-51 Mustang 2014 Unlimited Gold Champion
XRP 51D Mustang: Precious Metal, 2014 Reno Air Race

The Reno Air Races, officially known as the National Championship Air Races, is a multi-day event tailored to the aviation community that takes place each September at the Reno Stead Airport a few miles north of Reno, Nevada. Air racing is billed as "the world's fastest motor sport" and Reno is one of the few remaining venues. The event includes demonstrations by stunt pilots.[1][2][3]


Control Tower during the 2016 National Championship Air Races Pylon Racing D Ramey Logan
Static aircraft on display at the 2014 Reno Air Races

Begun in 1964, the Reno Air Races feature multi-lap, multi-aircraft races among extremely high performance aircraft on closed ovoid courses which range between about 3 miles (4.8 km) (Biplanes and Formula One) and about 8 miles (13 km) (Jet, Unlimited) in length per lap. The chief organizer is the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA).[4]

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 Air Force Base (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 Unlimited class 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 reaching speeds in excess of 400 mph. In 2009, Curt Brown set a record of 538 mph on his jet-engine L-29 Viper.[5]

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.

Since the 2011 accident (described below), crowds have thinned slightly. The races had a lower budget for the vendors in 2014 and 2015.


  • Unlimited
  • T-6
  • Biplane
  • Formula One
  • Sport
  • Jet

2014 race results[edit]

Unlimited Gold[edit]

T-6 Gold Start 2014 Reno Air Races
  • 5 Steven Hinton, Jr., Chino, California. plane: "Voodoo" P-51D Mustang — 462.926 mph

Jet Gold[edit]

  • 8 Phil Fogg, Tualatin, Oregon. "Fast Company" L-39 — 495.244 mph

T-6 Gold[edit]

  • 43 Dennis Buehn, Fallon, Nevada. "Midnight Miss III" — 239.163 mph

Sport Gold[edit]

  • 39 Jeff LaVelle, Mukilteo, Washington. "Race 39" Glasair III — 398.960 mph

Bi-Plane Gold[edit]

  • 10 Jake Stewart, Benbrook, Texas. "Bad MoJo" Pitts S-1 — 225.022 mph

Formula One[edit]

  • 11 Steve Senegal, San Bruno, California. "Endeavor" David Hoover AR-6 — 252.09 mph [6]

Prior Unlimited champions[edit]

2014 Unlimited Gold[edit]

  • Hoot Gibson., . Plane: "StregaP-51D Mustang — 492.074 mph

2013 Unlimited Gold[edit]

  • Steven Hinton, Jr., Chino, California. Plane: "Voodoo" P-51D Mustang — 482.074 mph

2012 Unlimited Gold[edit]

  • Steven Hinton, Jr., Chino, California. Plane: "Strega" P-51D Mustang — 493.299 mph

2011 race canceled[edit]

2010 Unlimited Gold[edit]

  • Steven Hinton, Jr., P-51D Mustang “Strega” — 473.437 mph

Significant participants[edit]


Steven Hinton, Jr., 2014 Reno Air Races champion

† fatality during race



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.[7] In 2007, three pilots died over the course of four days in separate incidents: Gary Hubler, Steve Dari, and Brad Morehouse.[8] Racing was suspended for one day after the last of the three incidents.[9][10]

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 ten spectators, and injuring 69.[11][12][13][14] Race organizers cancelled all remaining 2011 races after the accident.[15]


A race plane crashed on the course during qualifying for a Sport Class heat race on September 8, 2014, killing the pilot, Lee Behel.[16][17]


  1. ^ "Celebrating 50 years of the Reno Air Races". Reno Gazette-Journal. September 16, 2013. Retrieved October 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ "FAQs". The Reno Air Racing Association. Retrieved October 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ "National Championship Air Races". Visit Reno Tahoe. Retrieved October 18, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Reno Championship Air Races | History". Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  5. ^ "Reno National Championship Air Races, Reno Stead Field". Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  6. ^ "2014 Winners". Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  7. ^ "Fatal Accidents associated with the National Championship Air Races". 2011-09-17. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  8. ^ "Reno Air Races end with plane crash". HULIQ. Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  9. ^ "Two Planes Collide at Reno Air Races". Fox News. 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  10. ^ "Officials: air races to resume Saturday | Reno Gazette-Journal |". 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  11. ^ "Reno Air Races crash death toll remains at 11". Reno Gazette Journal. September 21, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Plane Crash at Air Races at Reno-Stead Airport". KTVN News. 2011-09-16. Retrieved 2011-09-16. 
  13. ^ "Vintage plane crashes into crowd at Reno air races". MSNBC. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  14. ^ [1] Archived October 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "3 people dead in Reno air race crash". CBS News/AP. 2011-09-16. Retrieved 2011-09-16. 
  16. ^ "Air Races: 1 dead in plane crash at Reno-Stead Airport". 2014-09-09. Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  17. ^ Guy Clifton and Emerson Marcus (2014-09-08). "Plane crash kills 1 during qualifying at Reno Air Races". Retrieved 2015-10-24. 

External links[edit]