The Green Flag Dropped at Reno

It’s here and we are back.  If there was ever anything that was up in the air in the past, it would be the 2012 Reno Air Races.  After last year’s tragic accident, the thought that the Races would go on was seriously in doubt.  Mike Houghton, President and CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association did a remarkable job leading the effort to save the event (with a lot of help from RARA members, fans, and the local community).  When the insurance premiums ballooned from $300,000 to $2,000,000 a year (and that’s really not a year; its only a few weeks of coverage), he lead the effort to raise the money to save the event. He finally went to the Nevada Counsel on Tourism and got a one time $600,000 grant to pay for the insurance.

Ticket sales were slow until the commitment came to actually hold the races. At this time, ticket sales are at least keeping up with sales from last year.

I’ve been there for 3 days now during qualifying, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference from any year in the past (and I’ve been at the Races for for close to 20 years).  There are slightly smaller classes, but in general the planes are here.  There are 19 unlimited racers.   There are a lot of other warbirds on the field along with many other classes of racers.  In short, the pits are filled with airplanes and the parking lots are filling with spectator’s cars. This is going to be a good year.

Mostly the people are here. There is a very unique crowd that attends the Reno Races, they are like no other group in aviation. The fans are different than the ones who come to airshows at any local, state or national level.  Not only do they love aviation, they also love racing, and the latest high tech gadgets. All those items are components of the racers here.

Of course the races are unlike any other sporting event held on this planet. This is the only regularly held air race in the world and his been for 49 years.  The speeds are amazing. NASCAR is nothing compared to it.  There are biplanes racing that are faster than anything that NASCAR can offer. The next faster sport classes are simply faster than anything on wheels.  The unlimiteds are the fastest racing vehicles on the planet with speeds exceeding 500 MPH. Nothing at Reno is boring.

For those who wonder about the Unlimited Champion, well at this early date and time, it looks like Steve Hinton Jr and Strega are the favorites.  As you may well expect that opinion isn’t shared by the fans of Rod Lewis’ Rare Bear. Stewart Dawson is flying the Bear and it looks really good in qualifying.  Another promising entry was Chuck Greenhill’s Furias.  This is a single seat, 4360 powered Seafury, last year it was in the late testing stages and never ran to its full potential.  It looked good this year until the right main landing gear didn’t lock on it collapsed on landing, resulting in a ground loop and a premature end to the season.  So once again, the classic racing rivalry of Rare Bear and Strega is once more in full swing.

The races look good, and if you aren’t here yet, you should be. Do whatever it takes to show up in Reno this weekend. The National Championship Air Races are an event that has no equal. If you don’t get here soon, you’ll have to wait until next year.  Short on cash?  Sell a kidney, having two is greatly over rated. Raid the kid’s college fun, they can work their way through like the rest of us did.  If nothing else, the wife usually has a stash of cash in the cookie jar that she doesn’t really need.  Do whatever it takes, just get here.  See you in the pits.

I would like to thank Valerie Miller, Director of Marketing of the Reno Air Racing Association for making this story possible.

You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.

Mark Hrutkay

Mark has been a member of the International Association of Aviation Photographers (ISAP) for several years and attends all their events and seminars. He has won several awards for his work and has been published in several aviation magazines, domestic and foreign. You can contact Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.

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