Historic 50th National Championship Air Races takes to the skies

The National Championship Air Races begins this week in Nevada with a one-of-a-kind celebration of flight.

Reno, Nev. — Fifty years after racing planes first took to northern Nevada’s skies in 1964, the National Championship Air Races begins this week with a one-of-a-kind celebration of flight.

Boasting a full slate of top-notch entertainment and aerobatics and promising one of its most competitive and high-profile racing fields in recent memory, "the world’s fastest motorsport" has an array of events and activities planned to commemorate its landmark year including a rare United States performance by the Breitling "Jetman." And, it’s not without compelling storylines, as defending four-time Unlimited and Warbird Racing Class Breitling Gold champion, Steve Hinton, takes the helm of the fan favorite P-51 mustang "Voodoo," racing against the plane he’s flown to victory four times previously, the legendary "Strega" now flown by longtime racer, Matt Jackson. While some qualifying takes place early in the week, the event officially gets under way on Wednesday, Sept. 11 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 15. Tickets are on sale at www.airrace.org.

“As the last remaining event of its kind and the premier air racing event in the world, this year – our 50th year, is extremely special and we plan to do everything we can to celebrate our history and our future,” said Mike Houghton, president and CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA). “We are lucky this year, to have some of the most unique entertainment in the history of the event, along with what will likely be some of the most dramatic racing we’ve seen in quite some time. Needless to say, we expect this to be a year to remember and we’re looking forward to celebrating it with friends and family from all over the world.”

In addition to six racing classes of intense, head-to-head competition that culminates in a race for the coveted Breitling Gold Unlimited and Warbird Championship trophy and a share of $1 million in prize money, this year’s 50th Reno Air Races features one of the top private demonstration teams in the world, the L-39 Patriot Jet Team, comprised of former pilots from the United States Navy Blue Angels and the United States Air Force Thunderbirds who will  provide four days of awe-inspiring performances. Joining the Patriot Jet Team and Breitling "Jet Man" making only his second North American appearance, are some of the top civilian air show performers in the world, including Kent Pietsch, Clay Lacy and Jim Pietz, performing incredible aerobatics throughout the week.

When racing gets underway, Air Race fans and aviation enthusiasts will recognize some of the most famous aircraft and pilots flying today, including restored World War II planes "Rare Bear," "Precious Metal," "Dreadnought," "Czech Mate," "Miss America," "Ole Yeller," "Argonaut" and "Sawbones."

Racing pilots joining Hinton and Jackson include Stu Dawson, Thom Richard, Brent Hisey, brothers Dennis and Brian Sanders, Rod Lewis, Sherman Smoot, space shuttle astronauts "Hoot" Gibson and Curt Brown, Will Whiteside, Tom Aberle and northern Nevadan Dennis Buehn. In all, RARA expects more than 100 competitors and performers to participate in the historic celebration this week, in addition to the popular military static display and the National Aviation Heritage Invitational.  

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