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.
Event organizers also announced last month the addition of a fundraising dinner and celebration on Saturday, Sept. 14, which will mark the 50thanniversary by paying tribute to a collection of military, aviation and air race legends. Some of the pilots and figures scheduled to be in attendance at the National Championship Air Races Evening with Mavericks and Legends Fundraising Dinner include famed pilot Bob Hoover, considered to be one of the top pilots in history; retired United States Air Force General Ron Fogleman, former Chief of Staff for the United States Air Force; and Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher. The dinner will also feature a handful of pilots who competed at the first Air Races in 1964, including World War II veteran Clay Lacy and Air Race legend Daryl Greenameyer (Hoover also performed at the inaugural Air Races). Sponsorships and seating for the National Championship Air Races Evening with Mavericks and Legends Fundraising Dinner is open to the public. Table sponsorships include access to a private VIP reception with honorees and Gold Champion Sponsorships include the opportunity to have an honoree sit at your table during the event program. Space is limited. To reserve your space now or for more information, please visit www.airrace.org or call (775) 972-6663.
“Not only does this year’s event provide us with an opportunity to recognize all of those pilots, volunteers and supporters that have helped us get to where we are today, it will serve as a chance to look forward and set the tone for many more years of thrilling Air Race action,” said Houghton. “We are looking forward to welcoming the hundreds of thousands of members of the Air Racing family to our home at the Reno-Stead Airport and reveling in the ingenuity, courage and triumph that are represented each time a plane takes a turn around a pylon.”
The 50th annual National Championship Air Races is the world’s premier air racing event. The races take place this year from Sept. 11 through Sept. 15. Tickets are on sale now by phone at (775) 972-6663 or online at www.airrace.org.
About the National Championship Air Races
Held every September just north of Reno, the National Championship Air Races have become an institution for northern Nevada and aviation enthusiasts from around the world. In the past 10 years, the event has attracted more than 200,000 spectators per year and generated more than $80 million a year for the region’s economy. The event features six racing classes, a large display of static aircraft and several military and civil flight demonstrations. For more information on the National Championship Air Races, to obtain media credentials or purchase tickets for this year’s event, visit www.airrace.org.