Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reno Air Races 2012

The tradition lives on in grand fashion!

More than 100 racers competed at the 2012 Reno Air Races, to the delight of fans.
Early Monday morning under gorgeous Nevada skies, the dark cloud was blown away over the Reno Air Races as the Formula One Class took to the skies. Many questioned whether there would be a race after the tragic crash of legendary Jimmy Leeward in 2011. Those naysayers weren't aware of the passion and dedication of the Reno Air Race Association (RARA), the pilots and plane owners that make the Air Races the great tradition it is. With the 2012 races just days away, the excitement was in the air along with the smell of avgas, as planes and pilots got ready for a week of the fastest motor sport on the planet.

In 1964, the National Air Races began as a revival of the air racing tradition that became famous at the Cleveland Air Races. Bill Stead, then a Nevada rancher, started the Reno Air Races at Sky Ranch with five classes: Unlimited, Formula One, Midget, Stearman and Cherokee 180s with women pilots. In 1966, it moved to its present location and new home for the races, Stead Airport, named for Bill Stead's brother. The races have evolved into six classes of aircraft competing for the gold in their individual classes: Sports, Formula One, Biplanes, T-6, Unlimited and Jets. In 2012, 108 aircraft met at Stead Airport to challenge the course and defy gravity.

A Reno tradition is the Duck Walk. All the Unlimited Gold racers, planes, pilots and crew parade in grand tradition in front of the grandstands. There, they're all introduced to the great delight of the crowds. Then it's down to business: Pilots take to their aircraft, props turn and crews make their last preflight check for the big Gold Race.

The gorgeous Hawker Sea Fury Furias takes off for the qualifying round in the afternoon heat. Just out of the paint shop, having been restored for the last couple of years, this was the only opportunity to watch this great racer on the course. On landing, it had a gear problem causing damage, and it was out of the races for the rest of the week.

Old meets new! Doug Matthews' F4U-4 Corsair is the background for the brand new September Fate, which many see as the future of racing.
The Unlimited Class are World War II/Korean-era aircraft with the restriction of being propeller-driven, piston-powered aircraft. The Jet Class consists mostly of L-29s and L-39s, having the requirements of no afterburner with wing sweep of less than 15 degrees. The Formula One Class has the requirements of fixed landing gear and pitch propeller, empty weight of 500 pounds or more, wing area of 66 square feet and specific engine. Sport Class (formerly Midget) restriction is engines of 650 cubic inches or less. Biplanes have the same general specs as Formula One, but with two wings. The T-6 Class—World War II trainers while racing with "stock" trainer equipment—have a number of restrictions covering how much modification can be made to the stock specs. Starting on Wednesday, racing within their class, they would all fly in heats in elimination style to compete for the final Gold Races on Sunday.


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