Reno Air Races

The Reno Air Races, officially known as the STIHL National Championship Air Races from 2016,[1] is a multi-day event tailored to the aviation community that takes place each September at the Reno Stead Airport a few miles north of Reno, Nevada. Air racing is billed as "the world's fastest motor sport" and Reno is one of the few remaining venues. The event includes races in six classes and demonstrations by airshow pilots.[2][3][4]

Reno 2015 Unlimited Gold Line Up
Strega, with pilots "Tiger" Destefani and "Hoot" Gibson the 2015 Unlimited Air Race Champions
Aerial view of Reno Stead Airport, looking due south, during Reno Air Races, early morning, September 12, 2014


Control Tower during the 2016 National Championship Air Races Pylon Racing Seminar
Static aircraft on display at the 2014 Reno Air Races

Begun in 1964, the Reno Air Races feature multi-lap, multi-aircraft races among extremely high performance aircraft on closed ovoid courses which range between about 3 miles (4.8 km) (Biplanes and Formula One) and about 8 miles (13 km) (Jet, Unlimited) in length per lap. The chief organizer is the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA).[5]

The first Reno air races, in 1964 and 1965, were organized by World War II veteran Bill Stead. They took place at Sky Ranch airfield, a dirt strip barely 2,000 feet (610 m) long, which was located in present-day Spanish Springs. After Stead Air Force Base (20 miles to the west, and named in honor of Bill's brother, Croston Stead) was closed in 1966, that field was turned over for public use, and the races have been held there since then.

Aircraft in the Unlimited class, which consists almost entirely of modified and stock World War II fighters, routinely reach speeds in excess of 400 miles per hour. In 2003, Skip Holm piloted Terry Bland's modified P-51D Mustang, Dago Red, and reached an all-time Unlimited class speed record of 507.105 mph in a six-lap race around the 8+12-mile course. The recently added Sport Class racers, mostly homebuilt aircraft, are reaching speeds in excess of 400 mph. In 2009, Curt Brown set a record of 543.568 mph in his jet-engine L-29 Viper.[6]

The Reno Air Races include two and a half days of qualifying, followed by four and a half days of multi-aircraft heat racing, culminating in the Unlimited Class Gold Race on Sunday afternoon. The event also features civil airshow acts and military flight demonstrations between races, plus vendor areas and a large civil and military static aircraft display.

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 caused the 57th annual race to be cancelled and deferred to 2021. In 2001 the remainder of the event was cancelled because of the grounding of US aviation following the attacks on 11 September.[7]


  • Unlimited
  • T-6
  • Biplane
  • Formula One
  • Sport
  • Jet

Significant participantsEdit


Steven Hinton, Jr., 2014 Reno Air Races champion



Before 2011Edit

From 1964 through 2010, 19 aviators lost their lives due to crashes and collisions in the course of the competition and airshow.[8] In 2007, three pilots died over the course of four days in separate incidents: Gary Hubler, Steve Dari, and Brad Morehouse.[9] Racing was suspended for one day after the last of the three incidents.[10][11]

2011 crashEdit

On September 16, 2011, a heavily modified P-51D Mustang named "The Galloping Ghost," piloted by Jimmy Leeward, crashed near the stands during the Gold Heat of the race, killing Leeward and ten spectators, and injuring 69.[12][13][14][15] Race organizers cancelled all remaining 2011 races after the accident.[16]


A custom built race plane named "Sweet Dreams" crashed on the course during qualifying for a Sport Class heat race on September 8, 2014, killing the pilot, Lee Behel.[17][18]


In the third lap of the Jet Gold final race on September 18, 2022 an L-29 Super Delfin went down on the back section of the course killing the pilot Aaron Hogue.[19][20]


  1. ^ "STIHL Signs on as Presenting Sponsor of the National Championship Air Races". 7 September 2016.
  2. ^ "Celebrating 50 years of the Reno Air Races". Reno Gazette-Journal. September 16, 2013. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  3. ^ "FAQs". The Reno Air Racing Association. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  4. ^ "National Championship Air Races". Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  5. ^ "Reno Championship Air Races | History". Retrieved 2015-10-24.
  6. ^ "Reno National Championship Air Races, Reno Stead Field". Retrieved 2015-10-24.
  7. ^ Sagar, Wayne (2001-09-19). "Reno 2001 Cancelled - Bill Eck's Announcement". Retrieved 2022-09-24.
  8. ^ "Fatal Accidents associated with the National Championship Air Races". 2011-09-17. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
  9. ^ "Reno Air Races end with plane crash". HULIQ. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
  10. ^ "Two Planes Collide at Reno Air Races". Fox News. 2007-09-14. Archived from the original on 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
  11. ^ "Officials: air races to resume Saturday | Reno Gazette-Journal |". 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2015-10-24.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Region in shock over deadly crash at Reno air races; death toll rises". Reno Gazette-Journal. September 17, 2011. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  13. ^ "Plane Crash at Air Races at Reno-Stead Airport". KTVN News. 2011-09-16. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
  14. ^ "Vintage plane crashes into crowd at Reno air races". NBC News. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  15. ^ "Pilot/Race 177, The Galloping Ghost North American P-51D, N79111 Reno, Nevada September 16, 2011 Accident Brief NTSB/AAB-12/01" Archived October 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "3 people dead in Reno air race crash". CBS News/AP. 2011-09-16. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
  17. ^ "Air Races: 1 dead in plane crash at Reno-Stead Airport". 2014-09-09. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
  18. ^ Guy Clifton and Emerson Marcus (2014-09-08). "Plane crash kills 1 during qualifying at Reno Air Races". Retrieved 2015-10-24.
  19. ^ Boatman, Julie (2022-09-19). "Reno Jet Gold Race Ends in Tragedy". FLYING Magazine. Retrieved 2022-09-19.
  20. ^ "One killed in crash at Reno Air Races".

External linksEdit