Reno Air Races ready for takeoff
Submitted to The Union
Airborne excitement is shaping up with an impressive racing lineup for the 55th annual STIHL National Championship Air Races set to take off this week at the Reno-Stead Airport.
One hundred and twenty planes pack the six racing classes, which began speed qualifications on Sunday.
Defending Gold champions this year include Rick Vandam flying “American Spirit” in the Jet Class, Jeff Lavelle’s “Race 39” in the Sport Class, John Lohmar’s “Radial Velocity” in the AT-6 Class, Lowell Slatter’s “Fraed Naught” in the Formula One Class and Andrew Buehler flying “Phantom” in the Biplane Class.
Returning to Reno this year following long absences in the Unlimited Class are Brent Hisey flying “Miss America,” Mike Brown’s “Goldfinger” (formerly “Risky Business”) and “Lady B,” previously known as “Bardahl Miss,” will be flown by Michael Pfleger.
Hard charging Unlimiteds, “Voodoo,” “Strega” and “Rare Bear” are sitting out this year, but World War II aviation buffs will not be disappointed with the 15 scheduled stock and modified vintage fighters including the P-51D Mustangs, Hawker Sea Furys, a Yak-3M and for the first time in decades, a vintage Bell P-63 Kingcobra.
In the other categories, the Sport Class has 36 entrants of kit-built planes expected to edge lap speeds close to 400 mph. The Formula One Class has 23 entrants with expected speeds close to 250 mph. The Biplane Class numbers 14 qualifiers with seasoned pilots dueling in tight formations at around 220 mph.
The AT-6 Class of stock World War II trainers with 16 veteran contenders is expected to see intense competition following last year’s photo finish between champion John Lohmar and second place Nick Macy at speeds of 225.470 and 225.434 respectively.
Sixteen Jet Class entries are comprised of L-29 and L-39 trainers with Gold race speeds exceeding the 500 mph mark.
Along with racing, Reno-Stead Airport honors the U.S. Military with demonstrations by The Air Combat Command F-16 Viper Team and Heritage Flight. The Commemorative Air Force Southern California Squadron will also provide spectacular aerial demonstrations of fighter and bomber aircraft featuring a B-25 Mitchell, F8F-2 Bearcat, F6F Hellcat and Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero in mock dogfights and aerobatics in honor of promoting patriotism and the celebration of the 75th anniversary of World War II.
The Patriots Jet Team, “The Screamin’ Sasquatch” Jet Waco from John Klatt Air Shows, Smoke ‘n Thunder Jet Truck, plus scores of interactive displays and activities on the ground provide thrills to round out the daily events.
The 55th annual STIHL National Championship Air Races and Show will be held Thursday through Sunday at the Reno-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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