Once a year, Stead Airport erupts with the sound of the fastest motorsport on Earth. The Reno Air Races are one of the most iconic aviation events of the year.
After finally attending my first air races last year, I made my way back up to Reno again this past September for this spectacular event. While the Unlimiteds were the initial thing that got me interested in air racing as a kid, make no mistake, the sport has so much more to offer now.
Rounding the 50 foot pylons along with the mighty Unlimiteds are the very competitive Sport, Biplane, Formula One, T-6, and Jet classes. The Unlimited class is made up of mainly World War II era Warbirds, some of which have been highly modified. Along with the Jets and Sport Gold classes, the Unlimiteds run a 7.9107 mile course at speeds over 500mph.
The other classes race on smaller courses ranging from 3.1193 miles to 6.7757 miles.
This past year introduced a new style of racing as well, the Short Take Off/Landing (STOL) drag races. The STOL races took place in front of the grandstands in the dirt median between the taxiway and runway. Two aircraft launch from a starting point, get airborne, but almost immediately must perform a short landing. Then they make a u-turn on the ground and launch in the opposite direction they came from. When they hit the finish line, they must land in the shortest distance possible. This was wild and highly entertaining, and the crowd ate it up!
In between over a dozen races each day, there were aerobatic routines, a demonstration by the Honda Jet, military flybys, and a performance by the USAF Thunderbirds Flight Demonstration Team.
However, the focus is definitely on the races throughout the week.
There’s just something about watching and listening to aircraft screaming past you at over 450mph while only 50 feet off the ground that you can’t get anywhere else. I travel to many shows throughout the air show season and am fortunate to experience a lot of unique things, but there’s nothing quite like the Reno experience.