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.
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 (Biplanes and Formula One) and about 8 miles (Jet, Unlimited) in length per lap. The chief organizer is the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA).
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.
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
5 Steven Hinton, Jr., Chino, California. plane: "Voodoo" P-51D Mustang — 462.926 mph
8 Phil Fogg, Tualatin, Oregon. "Fast Company" L-39 — 495.244 mph
43 Dennis Buehn, Fallon, Nevada. "Midnight Miss III" — 239.163 mph
39 Jeff LaVelle, Mukilteo, Washington. "Race 39" Glasair III — 398.960 mph
10 Jake Stewart, Benbrook, Texas. "Bad MoJo" Pitts S-1 — 225.022 mph
11 Steve Senegal, San Bruno, California. "Endeavor" David Hoover AR-6 — 252.09 mph
Hoot Gibson., . Plane: "StregaP-51D Mustang — 492.074 mph
Steven Hinton, Jr., Chino, California. Plane: "Voodoo" P-51D Mustang — 482.074 mph
Steven Hinton, Jr., Chino, California. Plane: "Strega" P-51D Mustang — 493.299 mph
Steven Hinton, Jr., P-51D Mustang “Strega” — 473.437 mph
Lee Behel †
Robert Lee "Hoot" Gibson
Steven Hinton, Jr.
† fatality during race232 September Fury
The Galloping Ghost
From 1964 through 2010, 19 aviators lost their lives due to crashes and collisions in the course of the competition and airshow. In 2007, three pilots died over the course of four days in separate incidents: Gary Hubler, Steve Dari, and Brad Morehouse. Racing was suspended for one day after the last of the three incidents.
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. Race organizers cancelled all remaining 2011 races after the accident.
A race plane crashed on the course during qualifying for a Sport Class heat race on September 8, 2014, killing the pilot, Lee Behel.