What are the National Championship Air Races?
Held every September just north of Reno, the National Championship Air Races have become an institution for Northern Nevada and aviation enthusiasts from around the world. Last year's event attracted more than 150,000 spectators and generated more than $66 million for the region's economy. The event features six racing classes, a large display of static aircraft and several military and civil flight demonstrations.
There are a few highlights to consider when purchasing tickets and coming out to the Reno-Stead Airfield Sept. 16-20. Check out the event information below and mark the calendar for this year's air race and show.
What types of planes are flying?
• Unlimited Class - Stock or modified WWII fighters with the P-51 Mustangs, F-8F Bearcats and Hawker Sea Fury being flown most often. The Unlimited Class flies in speeds exceeding 500 miles per hour.
• Jet Class - Aero Vodochody L-39 "Albatros" jets, non-after-burning jet with less than 15 degrees of wing sweep. The Jet Class planes fly at racing speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour.
• Sport Class - Super Sport and Sport classes consist of kit-built aircrafts powered by a reciprocating engine with displacements of 650 cubic inches or fewer.
• T-6 Class - One of three different types World War II trainers: AT-6, Harvard's, or SNJ's. The racers who compete in this class on a 4.990-mile race course create some of the tightest competition seen at the National Championship Air Races.
• Formula One - A minimum dry empty weight of 500 pounds, non-retractable landing gear, a minimum wing area of 66 square feet, a fixed-pitch propeller constructed of either wood or composite materials and a 100 HP 200 cubic-inch Continental engine. The Formula 1 class has several races across the country throughout the year, with Reno serving as the site for their National Championship and their biggest purse. At Reno, the race course distance covers 3.1068 miles.
• Bi-Plane Class - Biplanes must have a minimum dry weight of 500 pounds, at least 30 percent of the required 75-square-foot wing area must be contained in the smaller of the two wings, non-retractable landing gear, a fixed pitch propeller, and the largest engine permitted is the 360-cubic-inch, 180 HP Lycoming engine.
Notable pilots this year include Robert "Hoot" Gibson in Strega and Steve Hinton in Voodoo, in a culmination of a years-long rivalry with wins from both planes for first and second place.
Notable military performers this year include the F-16 Viper Demo/Heritage Flight and USAFA Wings of Blue Jump Team. Notable civilian performers this year include the Breitling Jet Team, Tora Tora Tora, David Martin, Red Eagles, Falcon Demo, and B-25 Fly-by.
"This is arguably one of the most competitive fields in the history of the National Championship Air Races," said Mike Crowell, CEO of the Air Racing Association (RARA). "Truly, with such a stacked racing field, our fans are in for an unforgettable experience."
This year also includes an expanded Drone Zone and The Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Challenge, the famed "Big D and Bubbah", and a bevy of individual air performances from some of today's most talented aerial stunt pilots, including Breitling Jet Team and Tora Tora Tora.
"The Drone Zone was wildly successful with people of all ages at last year's event. We're thrilled to offer even more unmanned aerial vehicle opportunities this year, and it's been a great way to get visitors excited about the event and advancements in UAV technology," said John Agather, Chairman of the Board for RARA.
The 52nd annual National Championship Air Races is the world's premier air racing event. Qualifying events for the race were Sept. 13 through Sept. 16. The races kick off Sept. 16 and continue through Sept. 20 at the Reno-Stead Airfield. Visit www.airrace.org for a complete list of events.