For the first time,
Aero-News will have on-site coverage of the Reno
Air Races. You may recall that two years ago, after months
of build-up on these pages, our planned coverage was obviated by a
couple dozen terrorists. The following year, due to those same
terrorists, the NBAA had rescheduled its annual convention, and the
date conflicted with the races.
This year, with everybody's schedule back on track, we're able
to cover both NBAA and Reno! Unrepentant racing-fan/speed
freak/go-fast guy, Tim Kern, will be doing the honors for ANN --
when he isn't salivating over Rare Bear or trying to give Skip Holm
some flying lessons (grin).
What's it like?
Travelers to Oshkosh get a glimpse of Reno, as a handful of
Unlimited racers stage a few passes for the crowds; but there is
nothing like seeing two or three times as many of these thundering
machines, packed belly-to-canopy, close enough to the ground to see
the pilots' faces, as they pull Gs around Reno's pylons.
What kind of racing?
The Unlimiteds are only part of the story, of
course. Reno determines 'National Champions' in Biplanes, T-6s,
Formula 1 machines, Sport aircraft, and jets (L-39 Albatros
The Unlimiteds are the
'anything-goes' class: any airplane that's piston-powered can run.
The class has been dominated by WWII-era designs -- P-51s, Sea
Furies, Corsairs, and the rare Bearcats -- that are clean enough to
demonstrate laps -- around the course -- that average well over 450
mph. The jets, limited by strict formula rules,
aren't quite as fast: they're not nearly as specialized -- but
they're jets! Sport Class
airplanes -- Lancairs, Glasairs, Thunder Mustangs, Questair
Ventures, and even a Swearingen SX300, among others -- run over
300mph on a tighter course, in airplanes that are a lot closer to
what 'normal' people fly.
The Formula 1 racers, another strict formula
group, run a tighter course yet, and still pull over 250 mph --
from O-200 power, and with fixed gear. The muscular
T-6 gang, on a bigger course, goes nearly as fast
as the Formula 1 machines, their big radials churning up the lunch
you forgot to chew... and the amazing biplanes, on
the tightest course of all -- you just can't imagine how
something that looks like it's made out of that much drag, can go
The races are invitational -- pilots and owners need to be
approved by RARA, the sanctioning body -- but nobody disputes the
fact that, once a race winner is crowned at Reno, the bragging
rights to "World's Fastest" are his (or hers) to keep for the year,
Safety is emphasized: every pilot must attend, and pass, Reno's
pylon school; and every pilot must also stay current. Even National
Unlimited champions, and multiple-year winners must attend if a)
they haven't flown at Reno in the past two years, or b) they are
switching (or adding) classes. When you see multi-time champions
Darryl Greenamyer and Jon Sharp, for instance, at "school" (as we
did in 2000), you know safety's serious business!
A Race for Everybody's Budget, Disposition
The teams represent the spectrum of what makes aviation
addictive. From the F-1 pilot who flies his machine in, and is met
by his wife and mini-van, and considers Reno much like a really
intense 'fly-in;' to the mega-teams, that show up with
multi-million-dollar machines, pro- and astronaut-pilots, a fleet
of support vehicles, and full-time crew, Reno is about racing.
Racing is about going
as fast as possible for the money you've brought, for the
innovation you've dreamt up, and for the work and skill you've put
Fast is where it's at -- and inches count in the air. How low
can you go? Will pulling a tighter corner help, or hurt, your lap
speed? Can you make that pass safely? Who's above you? Below? How's
the temperature? The oil pressure? Will this engine hold up for one
more lap? If 'yes,' can I push it just a leeetle more? ...What's
Qualifying's already in progress; Racing starts Thursday.
Racing -- ya gotta love it! Aero-News will be