Three-Time Champ John Parker Is Blacklisted
For more than three
decades, John Parker and American Air Racing have been highly
noticeable fixtures at the Reno Air Races. In fact, when John
retired from his flying job at the airlines, he decided to move to
Stead Field in Reno (NV), home of the annual races and air
That was six years ago. Now, the three-time national champion
and his aircraft have been banned from participating at the Reno
event this year. Parker says, it's all because his name was
associated with a band of Stead tenants whose complaints about RARA
restrictions at Stead during the two-week event led to a meeting
between the local airport authority and the RARA executive
committee. Parker, it would seem, is guilty by association.
On August 5th, Parker returned from Oshkosh (WI) to find a
letter on his desk. It was from Mike Houghton, the RARA executive
director. The letter informed Parker that his racing privileges had
been suspended because he was deemed a troublemaker. So, RARA's
Houghton wrote Parker, "This decision is not negotiable, as the
Executive Committee had recently heard that you have personally
made attempts to interfere with the relationship between the Reno
Air Races and the Airport Authority of Washoe County (AAWC), as
well as the tenants of Stead Airport. Your continued activities in
this vein are most disturbing. As the Reno Air Races are
"invitational" in nature, we are withdrawing our invitation to you
as an owner, primary or alternate race pilot."
In short, Parker lost
his "invitation" to race his Thunder Mustang in the Sports
Division. Also, his Glasair III, which he leased to Lee Dodd of
Tahachapi (CA) to race in this year's Unlimited competition, has
also been grounded by RARA. Since Dodd can't race the Glasair-III,
Parker has terminated the lease. That, he says, cost him
What's The Beef?
Parker says he and his fellow Stead tenants virtually have to
shut down for two weeks out of every year for the Reno Air Races
and the accompanying show. Specifically, they're torked about the
dusk-til-dawn restriction on traffic at 4SD. While the festivities
end each day at between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., the airport only
remains open to general aviation traffic from 4:30 or so until
local sundown. Parker says he was told by the RARA it's a matter of
security. They don't want to staff the flightline and all the
accompanying exhibits 24/7. But Parker says that's cutting into his
aircraft-building business and besides, it's just not fair to the
people who park at Stead all year long.
And for expressing that opinion, Parker is banned.
"It's a really nice place, 50 weeks out of the year," Parker
told ANN in a telephone interview Sunday. What Parker doesn't
understand is the RARA's relatively new, cold-shoulder attitude.
"The problem is only coming up now," he said. "I think our success
changed RARA's attitude. Issues of access and use have always been
there. This all of a sudden came up."
Parker is a three-time
NARA champion and, since becoming involved in the organization in
the 1960s, has almost always finished "in the money."
"My reaction was major disbelief," Parker said. "There were not
interested in talking about anything. They sent the CEO (Michael
Houghton) over to talk with me. We spend an hour together and I
didn't say 20 words."
So Now What?
Parker continues to ready his TM-1 Thunder Mustang for this
year's races. "But personally, I don't hold much hope," he said.
"But we're continuing to plan our race participation." As far as
more meetings with RARA aimed at perhaps reaching an accommodation,
Parker says "Nothing is scheduled. The Executive Committee is
sticking with its decision to throw me out."
ANN tried to contact RARA President and CEO Mike Houghton, but
got no response.