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Home / Articles / Columnists / Happy Motoring /  Nothing like it in the World
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Friday, February 5,2016

Nothing like it in the World

By Teresa Aquila  


Are you a race fan? Do you like your hair to be "on fire?" Well, the sport of racing doesn’t just apply to cars; airplanes are also included in the sport of racing. The Reno National Championship Air Races have been taking to the skies since 1964, when Bill Stead organized an air race north of Reno, Nevada, and the Reno National Championship Air Races were born. The event has only been interrupted once, in September of 2001 when all aircraft in the United States were grounded following the terrorists attacks in New York and Washington.


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. For one full week, the Reno/ Stead airport transforms into a racing frenzy. Fast flying pilots take to the skies to become the trophy and purse winners of the Gold Race. It becomes home to many visiting aircraft, their pilots and crews. In the past 10 years, the event has attracted more than 150,000 spectators, and generated more than $70 million annually for the region’s economy. The event features six racing classes, a large display of static aircraft, and several military and civil flight demonstrations.

I recently had the privilege of hosting Dennis Bruehn on my Teresa’s Garage Radio Show. Dennis is the winning pilot of the 2015 Reno National Championship Air Races T-6 Class.

Dennis’s eyes lit up when he began to explain what makes his hair "catch fire" as an Air Race pilot. He stated that it´s from just being at the races, the camaraderie, and the excitement the spectators express. Dennis went on to say that the Air Races is a multi-team effort, not just among his crew, but all those that are there to fly to achieve the miracle.

I can tell you that these pilots are not taking to the skies racing fast and hard for the money. If it was just for the monetary benefit, the races would not be taking place. It is the adrenaline rush, a bit of ego, and the ability to outperform your competitor. Fly fast, turn left, and fly low, as Dennis puts it. You see, in every race, the pilot only makes left turns on the course.

The pilots are put through 10 hours of briefing and preparation for only 10 minutes of flying. Just like in auto racing if it’s the race car driver, or the air race pilot, the rush begins the moment you start your engines, taxiing your aircraft down the tarmac, and then taking to the skies, to set up and line up in flight for the start of the race. They begin to start foaming at the mouth just waiting to hear, “Gentlemen and Ladies, you have a race". The race class determines the speeds that are reached.

They go from 160 miles an hour to 500, depending on the type of planes in the racing class.

Mike Crowell is relatively new to the Reno Air Races and was hired in February of 2015 to become the Chief Executive Officer. Mike’s first order of business was to go from a business type operation to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. This gives the Air Races the opportunity to go out and solicit donations through various avenues, in order to keep such an expensive sport flying.

If you have never been to the Air Races in Reno, you are missing something that is truly amazing. It is not just flying machines, but you are entertained by groups such as the Blue Angels precision flying jet team, aerobatic flying, or even the Confederate Air Force (now the Commemorative Air Force.)

But, the Races are truly the main event. These types of races come with a great deal of danger: danger from your aircraft stalling, to major mechanical failure, to crashes. When you are traveling speeds of up to 500 mph, stopping or landing safely may not be an option. Every pilot knows what could happen and prays that it never does.

The Reno National Championship Air Races are held every year, mid- September for five days of excitement, fun and some outstanding flying. Check out their website at Happy Flying!


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