54th annual Reno National Championship Air Races set to take off
Special to The Union
Excitement for the 54th annual Reno National Championship Air Races remains higher than ever with a recently-established speed record.
On Sept. 2, seven-time Reno Unlimited Class Champion, Steven Hinton topped the all-out record for piston-powered, propeller-driven airplanes over a 3km closed course in “Voodoo,” the highly-modified P-51 Mustang he has raced in Reno for the past few years.
He averaged a speed of 531 mph over four laps, beating the previous record held by Lyle Shelton at 528 mph with a modified F8F Bearcat, “Rare Bear” in 1989. Hinton’s fastest lap was nearly 555 mph according to Pursuit Aviation, an aerial cinematography company that documented the flight at a remote ranch in Central Idaho.
The “Voodoo,” which is owned by Bob Button and sponsored by Aviation Partners of Seattle, WA, is now at Stead Field being reconfigured for pylon racing and with a new paint job. Hinton is expected to push Voodoo close 500 mph in qualifying and competition with “Strega,” another highly modified and renown P-51 Mustang piloted by last year’s second place Gold Champion, Jay Consalvi of Midland, Texas.
Reno 2017 is rapidly shaping up to be an exceptional year for World War II aviation buffs. The Unlimited Class comprised of stock and modified vintage fighters is fielding 18 entrants featuring P-51A and D model Mustangs, Hawker Sea Fury, Yak 3M, Grumman FM-2 Wildcat, FG-1D Corsair, P-40E Warhawk and as a first, the Supermarine Spitfire of Battle of Britain fame.
In addition, Texas Flying Legends Museum will display and fly six of their restored vintage warplanes including the B-25 Mitchell bomber and TBM-3 Avenger.
In the other five racing categories, the Sport Class has 40 entrants of kit-built planes expected to edge lap speeds close to 400 mph. The Formula One Class has 19 entrants with expected speeds close to 250 mph. The Biplane Class numbers 14 qualifiers with seasoned pilots dueling mostly Pitts Specials in tight formation at around 220 mph.
The AT-6 Class of stock World War II trainers with 16 veteran contenders promises the most competition. Pilot skill and finesse will determine whether returning champion, Dennis Buehn of Carson City, will prevail against Nick Macy of Tulelake following last year’s photo finish at speeds of 231.104 and 230.912 respectively.
Seventeen Jet Class entries are comprised of mostly sleek L-39 trainers and a De Havilland Vampire this year with Gold race speeds exceeding the 500 mph mark.
In addition to racing, Reno/Stead Airport honors the U.S. Military with demonstrations by the A-10 Heritage Flight Team, AV-8B Harrier and B-2 Stealth Bomber. Aerobatics of Brad Wursten Airshows and thrilling bike demonstrations on the ground between races by Livfast FMX will round out the daily events.
The 54th annual Reno National Championship Air Races and Show will be held Thursday through Sunday at the Stead Airport located 10 miles north of Reno. General and reserved seating tickets can be purchased online or at the gate. For official qualifying times, race results and more information, visit http://www.airrace.org.
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