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Pilot Marilyn Dash takes us on a flight during the Reno Championship Air Races. Jason Bean/RGJ

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The 54th National Championship Reno Air Races returns Sept. 13-17 to the Reno Stead Airport to feature in-sky races and performances, a STEM education area, on-ground military aircraft displays, a USO-style showcase and free admission to military personnel.

With a long history of working with and supporting the military, this year’s National Championship Air Races will pay tribute to those who have served our country by offering up to 1,500 complimentary tickets Sept. 16 for active duty, reserve, National Guard and retired military.

“We are proud to dedicate an entire day to honor and celebrate the service so many brave men and women have given and are giving to our country,” said Tony Logoteta, COO of the Reno Air Racing Association. “As always, the National Championship Air Races are showcasing a number of military static displays during race week and we look forward to our current and retired military fans being able to see these types of aircraft up close.”

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USO show, science zone

A 90-minute USO-style show will follow Saturday’s races to continue the military appreciation theme. The Bama Girls Troupe – a song-and-dance group composed of former Miss Alabamas – will perform and all military personnel will be honored, including World War II veterans who will be in attendance with Honor Flight Nevada. The group will also sing the National Anthem during Saturday and Sunday’s opening ceremonies.

The “education discovery zone,” an area designed to deliver science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for all ages, will return to race week thanks to Global Robot and Drone Deployment and the Nevada Business Aviation Association.

“GRADD and NVBAA have worked with the Air Races for the last two years to provide thousands of youths and adults with learning experiences focused around aviation, 3D printing, robots, technology displays and safety training/operations using Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and we are thrilled to expand our offerings this year,” said NVBAA President Reza Karamooz. “Whether young or old, the STEM Education Discovery Zone will be an incredible spectacle to behold amidst the excitement of the Air Races.”

Organizers say this year’s STEM Education Discovery Zone will be better than ever, offering some re-imaginations of old technologies, including a PACMAN game experience tucked in a vintage Samsonite briefcase and an old rotary phone repurposed to function like a cell phone. The display will also include virtual reality demonstrations, eight flight simulator stations, a drone flight training area, and wearable computers and sensors.

Bonus for students and teachers at the STEM Education Discovery Zone: four 3D printers working full-time to provide free software, training and printing for no charge to any student or teacher anywhere in Nevada.

Air racing

And of course, there’s the races. The event features six racing classes, a large display of static aircraft and several military and civil flight demonstrations.

The Texas Flying Legends Museum will race four planes and perform with six planes at the event. The U.S. Air Force will bring its A-10 Heritage Flight Team, featuring an A-10 Thunderbolt II and the Lockheed P-38 Lightening. The U.S. Marine Corps will show off an AV-8B Harrier II, the military’s only short-takeoff, vertical-landing jet aircraft in current inventory. Brad Wursteen Airshows will appear at the event as this year’s acrobatic performer.

A little closer to ground (but still airborne), Livfast FMX will perform dirt bike stunts on the ground in-between the races.

Also new this year, the National Championship Air Races has partnered with Costco to offer discounted Saturday or Sunday general admission tickets to the event. Tickets are available here for $59.99 (regularly $76.30).

Complimentary tickets for military personnel can be reserved first-come, first-served basis by calling the Nevada Air National Guard, 775-788-4585; the Naval Air Station Fallon, 775-426-2836; and the Nevada Army National Guard, 775-384-5811.

On-site parking at the airport for the event is located within the main gate for $25-$30. Or leave the car behind and catch a shuttle to the air races at the Eldorado Resort Casino, Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, Nugget Casino Resort, Grand Sierra Resort and Casino and Peppermill Resort Hotel. Tickets may be purchased at the shuttle locations and at Stead Field. Tickets range from $11.50 per person one-way and up to $71 for a four-day pass.

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