It’s coming back!! Reno Baby, Oh Yeah !!
Air shows and other flying events are pretty much the same. No matter where you go, air shows are similar. A few locals flying, a military jet, some over priced food and if you are lucky, one or two professional acrobatic acts.
The Reno Air Races are like nothing else on this planet or any other. Since 1964, every September the Skies just north of Reno Nevada are transformed into one of the greatest aviation and motorsports events in the country. This year from September 15th to the 19th the races will be on.
Last year, Steve Hinton (Jr of course), Stevo as every one at Reno calls him,won as the youngest pilot to win the Unlimited Class. He’s a heck of a nice guy and very talented pilot, plus he can fly P-51 Strega very fast. I did hear that John Penny wants the trophy for himself and Rare Bear, so it’s going to be a great race again this year. We shall see what happens?
There is judging for the Rolls Royce Aviation Heritage Trophy. An event that pits all kinds of airplanes against each other in a static display layout ,voted on by the public. No classes here, classics compete against warbirds and biplanes against multiengine aircraft. The best of the best in the country show up for this one. The best of the best will also be the winner.
Aerobatics scheduled include David Martin in the Extra 300S as well as Gary Roe in the MX-2. Kent Pietsch in the Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet does several different routines and is an amazing pilot; he was ultimately awarded the VERY coveted Art Scholl Award for his air show performances. Pilot quality varies from exceptional to the best on the planet. Flying the pace plane T-33 is Steve Hinton Sr, who is one of the best on the earth. Steve has flown a wide variety of warbirds as the President of the Planes of Fame Museum. He’s also the father and coach of last year’s Unlimited Champion, the “other” Steve Hinton; as well as a former Unlimited Champion himself. Steve’s ability to fly about anything with wings shows up during the POF air show; when he flies several different high performance planes in a single day as well as running the air show.
The best that has been off the earth would have to be Robert “Hoot” Gibson. Hoot is semi-retired, he retired from the Navy in F-4s and F-14s; as well as a retired Southwest Airlines Pilot; he also used to be NASA’s Chief Astronaut, and during his NASA career flew the Space Shuttle… 5 times. Now he’s a part time test pilot and flies jet demonstrations for a biz jet manufacturer. Awesome is a word that we use too much, but it barely scratches the surface of Hoot’s flying skills. By the way, last year he was one of three former Space Shuttle pilots racing.
The jet team this year is the Canadian Snowbirds. Flying nine CF-114 Tutors, they fill the sky with jets and color. There are five, seven, and nine ship formations; they are always great.
Last, is why we are here, racing. Everything from biplanes to jets gets to fly. The warbirds have a chance to turn a few laps and some of the specially built and modified racers are here too. The team owners vary from guys who punch time clocks for a living in the slower classes to millionaires and even at least one that must be pushing on being a billionaire. Guys who are big fish at their home field are not even special here at Reno. This is truly the land where the Big Dogs come out to play. The event is really put on by a lot of dedicated volunteers.
In the past, I’ve talked to people who have been volunteers at Reno since the sixties and seventies, what a group. Even the ladies get into the act. If you need ADI fluid to get maximum power out of the P-51, you need to see Jan Fisher who works the ADI Truck and sells it. Jan is known by her custom painted fingernails with a racer on each one and diamond airplane jewelry. The fans are great too. These are some people you will not see at any other aviation event. They are more here for the “races” than specifically for the “airplanes”. If you see people running around in orange T-Shirts covered in autographs, they are from Section 3. Section 3 is a group of pretty darn rabid air race fans who sit together in Section 3; so they got together and started a club. Yes, you will find people with orange painted faces in there too.
Of course vendors are there with food and every kind of imaginable aviation item you may need. Last but not least, are the rumors; there are going to be some interesting airplanes racing that have not flown for a while. I can’t write them here, there are simply too many, but this year is going to be great.
Oh yeah, I did mention the six P-38s that are supposed to show up for the races. Yes, they will be there; and that in and of itself will make coming to Reno this year well worth it.
See you there.