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NATIONAL AIR RACES
The dream of flying, freed from the bonds of mortal earth and the adreneline thrill of speed have mixed since the first recorded air race competition, the Prix de Lagatinerie, was held in France in 1909 in the first early days of flight to mark the opening of a new airfield. Only four airplanes were entered in the competition and only two of them actually flew. The winner of the race was sculptor and air pioneer Leon De Lagrange who won the race at the less than hair-raizing speed of 24 miles per hour. The heyday of air racing came in the time between the world wars as manufacturers and entrepreneurs competed in the development of new aircraft designs with the Bendex Trophy for cross country distance records and the Thompson Trophy presented at the National Air Races held at Cleveland. With the arrival of the Second World War, racing competitions ended. As aircraft development turned to the machines of war and speed entered the supersonic era, air racing lost much of its original purpose as a technological showcase, with the last Cleveland races held in 1949 after a deadly crash. Air racing trophies lost their draw, not because flyers didn’t want to compete, or a shortage of aircraft, but sponsors were more interested in military contracts than air show billboards.
In 1964, Bill Stead, a Nevada rancher and unlimited hydroplane boat racing champion had the idea to reawaken pylon air racing over the open high desert of northern Nevada, and the National Air Races at Reno were born. Billed as the “World’s Fastest Sport”, aircraft in 6 classes, from Bi-planes to Unlimited and now Jets, streak across the high desert sage brush at speeds up to 500 miles per hour, around a pylon marked course, flying just 50 to 250 feet off the ground. The Reno Air Races are the last surviving pylon course air racing competition in the United States. (Red Bull Air Racing has a timed trial aerobatic race and a new European based competition the Aero GP mounts a pylon race at different airshow venues with sports planes.) You might spot some of these incredible aircraft at air shows around the country, but Reno in September is the only time and place in the world where they go wingtip to wingtip a hair's breath from earth.
Reno Air Races dates for 2010 - September 15 - 19
The Reno Air Races are held over 5 days in mid September at Stead Airfield north of Reno-Sparks with air show events and presentations with world class aerobatic performers and military aircraft held between the race sessions for an uninterrupted entertainment extravaganza of aerial derring-do. For a week of an air enthusiast’s wetdream, thrill to the thunderous roar of unlimited piston modified World War II warbirds honed into pure racing machines, or the nimble buzz of Formula I race planes, and the whine of jets, over courses of varying distance between the hills of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. As well as the Gold National Race trophy for speed, the Heritage Invitational Trophy attracts restored historic aircraft to Reno for a look at the latest recovered rare birds of the glory days of flight.
Attending the Reno National Air Races
Tickets for the National Championship Air Races at Reno go on sale April 1, though the website or over the phone (775) 972-6663. General Admission tickets include general admission seating, access to static displays and concessions, with prices from $10 on Wednesday to $27 on Sunday or $75 for a Season Pass, (season pass basically means the full week). For reserved grandstand seats prices are from $11 to $40. Pit Passes are in addition to General Admission tickets and range from $7 at the beginning of the week to $30 on race day. If you have a gang of friends you can get a private box on the flight line for 10 people, including pit passes for the five days for $3,50 to $3,300. To hobnob with the pilots, military guests and other VIPs, admission to the Chairman’s Hospitality tent is $100, if purchased in advance, $125 at the door, if there’s room left.
Stead Airfield is about a 15 minute drive north of downtown Reno. There is parking at the field, but is limited. Shuttles run to the air races from major hotel-casinos in Reno. There is reserved parking for $20 and $25. Reserved RV parking is available at the airport, but with no hookups, from $175 to $300 for the week and requires proof of ticket purchase. For pilot fly-ins Stead Field is closed to general aviation during the races so nearest landing is Reno-Sparks International.
The National Championship Air Races at Reno reach about 200,000 admissions every year, though that’s over the week, so you’ll only have to compete with about 60,000 spectators at your elbow. The hotels and motels of Reno and Sparks fill up, so plan ahead. The hotels and lodges of Lake Tahoe are about 45 minutes away. The Reno Air Races are held the week after Reno's big and free Hot Air Ballooning party (see The Great Reno Balloon Race), so if going for the week, you can combine the two. © Bargain Travel West
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