But Association President Warns That There Are Many Hurdles To
Reno Air Racing Association president Mike Houghton said
Wednesday that the organization's objective is to have a full air
race event in 2012, but that there is still a great deal of work to
The announcement answers a question that has been hanging over
the event for months, since a tragic accident at the 2011 race
killed pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 others watching the race.
During his news conference, Houghton said that the accident
"would not be the concluding epilogue of the National Championship
Air Races." He said that the organization is "committed to working
side-by-side with permitting partners including ...
the FAA, in addressing concerns and making necessary changes
to assure the sustainability of the event."
Houghton said that in meetings held with sponsors, families of
those killed or injured in the 2011 accident, and others that he
has heard "universal support to see that the event moves forward."
He said fan support has been overwhelming, and people from all over
the world have already lined up to buy tickets for the 2012 event,
currently planned for September 12-16 at Reno-Stead Airfield.
But Houghton warned that there is no guarantee that all the
pieces will fall into place. He did say that there would be some
kind of air racing event on those dates in Reno, but if the
undertaking proves to be unsustainable because of monetary or other
considerations, the air race association will present a
"one-of-a-kind" final aviation event on those dates. " But,"
Houghton said, "It would be the last for us."
The association has formed a blue-ribbon panel made up of
industry experts to assess what changes may need to be made. Those
named to the panel include:
- Jim Hall, former Chair of the NTSB.
- Nick Sabatini, former FAA administrator for Aviation
- John Sharp, Aeronautical engineer and designer. Winningest
pilot in the history of air races.
- Steve Hinton. Two time unlimited champion, pilot of the event
pace plane, and Hollywood aviation stunt coordinator.
The panel has been asked to make recommendations as to how to
assure spectator and pilot safety, and those recommendations
are expected within 90 days.
Houghton said it is much to early to make announcements about
"things we're going to do out there." He said the air race
association will defer all questions and comments concerning the
accident its self to the NTSB. He said the association cannot and
will not make comments on an ongoing investigation.
The NTSB meets next week for a special hearing concerning air
show and air race safety. Houghton said the National Championship
Air Racing Association will be represented at that meeting, but it
is not a hearing specifically associated with Reno, or last year's