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Heading to the 53rd annual Reno National Championship Air Races? The Air Races are back this year with all of the classic favorites, but with a few new show-stoppers, too.

The event began Wednesday and will continue through Sunday at the Reno Stead Airport. Attendees can expect at least two new events aimed at attracting more people to this year’s Reno Air Races.

Here’s a look at a few cool things happening this year:

Naval aviators take to the skies: The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are back at the Air Races after seven years. The performance is a demonstration of flying skills by naval aviators, who will showcase their maximum speed and capabilities in 10 minute shows.

Pilots will also show their precision flying maneuvers as a unit for the six-jet Delta Formation. Attendees can also expect to see aerobatic maneuvers of the four-jet Diamond Formation along with the fast-paced, high performance maneuvers of its two Solo pilots.

The Blue Angels performances features the Wings of Blue U.S. Air Force Skydiving Team. The team operates the Air Force’s Basic Freefall Parachuting course, also known as Airmanship 490. Team members devote most of their time to teaching students about parachuting and training them to make unassisted freefall skydives.

The event also features routines by Jim Peitz in a Beechcraft F33C Bonanza and Mike Wiskus in the Pitts S-1-11B, the last design of the Pitts Special line. Wiskus, who was a member of the United States Aerobatic Team, flew the aircraft, also known as the Super Stinker, in the 2004 World Aerobatic Competition in Sweden.

The event includes a showcase of the Smoke 'n Thunder Jet Car, driven by Bill Braack.

For a list of all the Blue Angels performances, visit the Reno Air Races website at www.airrace.org.

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Blue Angels scheduled events:

  • 11:25 a.m. Thursday – Blue Angels Diamond Circling Maneuvers
  • 12:25 a.m. Thursday – Blue Angels Solos Circling Maneuvers
  • 2:15 p.m. Thursday – Blue Angels practice show
  • 1:25 p.m. Friday – Blue Angels practice show
  • 1:25 p.m. Saturday – Blue Angels show
  • 1:10 p.m. Sunday – Blue Angels show
  • 4:50 p.m. Sunday – Blue Angels depart

Micro-Drone racing is a go: The third annual Drone Zone exhibit is expected to draw 7,000 to 12,000 visitors this year and will include 15 professional vendors. But the new attraction is the three-day micro-drone racing, which will be held Thursday through Saturday by the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center. The Innovation Center is part of the University of Nevada, Reno and also oversees the Drone Zone.

Attendees 16 years old or older can participate in the micro-drone race using personally owned micro-drones for a $40 fee. The event includes three-minute heat races and a five-minute main event featuring three racers per race.

Daily demonstrations are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Information on when the races will be held was not immediately available on Wednesday.

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The Reno Air Races hosted an expanded Drone Zone for unmanned vehicles. Seth A. Richardson/RGJ

New to the military static display: The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, piloted by U.S. Air Force Maj. William Andreotta, will make its first appearance at the Reno Air Races as part of the Air Force Heritage Flight program. The jet is based at the Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix.

Let there be music: The Reno Air Races will also feature two on-site concerts for the first time this year. The concerts are scheduled at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday after the day’s final air race and is free to race attendees.

The Juantanamos are set to perform for more than two hours on Saturday night. The band is set to perform a wide-range of musical styles, hit songs from their debut track “Ghost Tracks” and a few sneak-peek songs from their upcoming album. Attendees can also expect a special guest appearance.

The Nick Lawrence Band is scheduled to perform Friday night. The band focuses on Texas country music with a twist of southern and alternative rock. Nick Lawrence has opened shows for George Strait, Gary Allan and Diamond Rio, among other artists. The band has also performed halftime concerts at the AT&T Center.

For a full list of scheduled events and performances, visit the Reno Air Races website or click here.

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Video: A view from the pylon at the Reno Championship Air Races. Jason Bean

Marcella Corona covers breaking news for the Reno Gazette-Journal. Contact her at 775-788-6340, email her at mcorona@rgj.com or follow her on Twitter at @Marcella_Anahi or on Facebook at Facebook.com/Marcella.Anahi.

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