On Monday, the organizers of the National Championship Air Races at Reno identified the pilot of Sunday’s fatal crash of a jet during the Jet Gold race as Aaron Hogue of Paso Robles, California. He was 61. The Czech-built Aero Vodochody L-39 was banking along with other jets on the third lap of the race when Hogue’s plane began descending toward terrain, seemingly under control and in a constant bank, before hitting the terrain below at very high speed—estimated at close to 500 mph—and bursting into flames, killing the pilot in the impact. No one on the ground was injured, and the organization cancelled the remainder of the racing.
Hogue, who is a relative newcomer to Reno racing, was named Reno’s rookie of the year in 2021.
Content warning: The following video shows the tragic crash. It might be upsetting to many viewers.
Chairman and CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association, Fred Telling, briefed the media on the crash on Monday, saying, “Yesterday we lost a member of our race family during the Jet Gold Race on the third lap, Jet race #29, ‘Ballista,’ piloted by Aaron Hogue.”
In his prepared statement, Telling discussed the powerful impact the crash had on people at and behind the Reno races. “Aaron’s death affects everyone in our September family deeply. While we cannot change this tragedy, I would ask everyone to think, pray, and to honor Aaron and the passion he had for life, and certainly for air racing,” and added, “I hope that all who are affected by this sad event can support each other through the stages of grief so we may all begin to find healing. I ask you all for prayers and well wishes for Aaron’s family who were present and witnessed this tragedy.”
After the crash, Reno suspended the flying for the rest of the day, as well as the Sunday night awards ceremony. Telling explained that instead of participating in the usual awards ceremony, all at Reno were invited, “…to be together to help each of us deal with the grief we feel, and hopefully find strength in our being a true September family.”
The NTSB has launched an investigation, which could be a complex one, as there were no seeming signs of trouble or likely reasons for the mishap.