Reno Air Races prepare for takeoff

Fifty years after planes first took to Reno’s skies in 1964, the National Championship Air Races begins this week.

Dubbed “the world’s fastest motorsport,” the Reno Air Races officially takes off Wednesday, Sept. 11, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 15. 

“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 that culminates in a race for the Breitling Gold Unlimited and Warbird Championship trophy and a share of $1 million in prize money, this year’s 50th Reno Air Races features the L-39 Patriot Jet Team, comprised of former pilots from the United States Navy Blue Angels and the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. Breitling’s “Jet Man,” Yves Rossy, will make his second North American appearance — the first was Oshkosh — along with other airshow performers, including Kent Pietsch, Clay Lacy and Jim Pietz.

When racing gets underway, 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.

Pilots include Steve Hinton, Matt Jackson, 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 Dennis Buehn.

RARA expects more than 100 competitors and performers to participate in the this year’s event, in addition to the 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 50th anniversary 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 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 races in 1964, including World War II veteran Clay Lacy and Air Race legend Daryl Greenameyer (Hoover also performed at the inaugural Air Races).

“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.”

For more information: 775-972-6663 or

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