RENO 2006: National Air Races and Air Show

In September each year Reno Stead Airfield just to the north of Reno, Nevada in the USA becomes the focus of the National Air Races for all the classes of aircraft competing in this sport, recognised as the Fastest Motor Sport in the World when the Unlimited Class aircraft take part.

The natural amphitheatre to the front of the grandstands allows everyone to view the aircraft as they fly low around the pylons. There are several distances flown taking into account the speeds of each class, from the slowest Biplanes through the Formula One, T6s, Sport, Jet and then to the fastest Unlimited racers with speeds reaching over 500mph in the straights.

The engine sounds echo back from the low hills, buzzing from the smaller engines to the familiar rasp of the T6s and their propellers close to the speed of sound, even the sound of a swarm of angry hornets from the Sport class aircraft to the indescribable howl as the 4,000hp plus Unlimited class engines at full throttle blast their way around the pylons, enough to excite even the most blasé of spectators.

The sights and sounds along with ease of access to the pits make for a must do trip so as to fully appreciate one of the most famous events in the Aviation World; Reno Stead is the place to be in September. On top of all this is a full blown air show with the USAF, US Navy and Marines plus classic barnstorming shows from the likes of Gene Soucy in his Grumman biplane fill the day with plenty to interest for all the family. - Related websites - Reno or Air Races

A number of people were overheard to say that 2006 was the year the British built Sea Fury aircraft took over from the P51 Mustangs which had for many years dominated the National Air Races in Reno. Much of this change has been brought about by Bill 'Kerch' Kerchenfaut, the crew chief of the September Pops team. 'Kerch' as he is affectionately known as was without dispute the Man of the Reno Air Races in 2006, in the winner's circle at the end of the final Unlimited Class Gold Finals Race, a chant went up, KERCH, KERCH and on and on. The reason, Bill Kerch had been taken on by Michael Brown, owner and lead pilot of the September Pops team after Bill had lead the teams of Dago Red and Strega to victory in previous years, his obvious leadership qualities and never ending attention to detail had this year, 2006, brought overall victory for the September Pops team in both the Gold and Silver Races on the final day, Sunday 17th September. An incredible achievement.

More info:

Biplane Class

The Biplane Class is represented by small, aerobatic aircraft like the Pitts Special, the Mong, and the Smith Miniplane, giving pilots a chance to apply their skills to racing on a 3.18-mile course at speeds exceeding 200 mph.

Formula One Class

Formula One aircraft are all powered by a Continental O-200 engine (the same 100 hp engine used in a Cessna 150). Weights and sizes of every major engine part must be within stock limits. The cam profile and carburetion are strictly controlled. Race aircraft must have 66 square feet of wing area, weigh at least 500 pounds empty, and have a fixed landing gear and fixed pitch propeller. The fastest Formula One aircraft reach almost 250 mph on the 3.12-mile race course at Reno. Many Formula One aircraft are built by the pilots that race them and are a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy the excitement and satisfaction of air racing.

The Jet Class

The Jet Class was inaugurated in 2002 as an invitation-only class, featuring match racing with Czech-built Aerovodochody L-39 "Albatros" jets, racing at speeds in the 400+ mph range. In 2004, sponsorship and interest had developed to the point where the Class was opened to participation by any qualified pilot and aircraft.

Sport Class

The Sport Class highlights the new and innovative work being done in the development of high performance kit-built aircraft. Competition in the Class is fierce, with the rapid introduction of race-driven engine and airframe technology. Eligible aircraft include production model kit-built aircraft, of which 5 or more kits have been produced and delivered to customers by the manufacturer, powered by a reciprocating engine of 650 cubic inches or less. All aircraft must have a current FAA issued airworthiness certificate.

The T-6 Class

The T-6 Class features match racing between stock aircraft, including the original T-6 "Texan", the Canadian-built "Harvard", and the US Navy "SNJ" version aircraft.

Unlimited Class

The Unlimited Class is open to any piston-driven aircraft with an empty weight greater than 4500 pounds [the weight restriction was added in 2005]. Aside from a very few "scratch-built" aircraft, the Unlimited Class has generally been populated by stock or modified WWII fighters, the most-often-flown types including the P-51 Mustang, F-8F Bearcat, and Hawker Sea Fury. Aircraft speeds in the Unlimited Class reach 500 mph.

In Flight

Bob Hoover's original Ole Yeller P51 Mustang. No47 flown by John Bagley during the Unlimited Silver Class race finals coming in 5th Sunday 17th Sept.2006. 367mph

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Miscellaneous Scenes

21 photographs © Robin Norton

John Travolta flies by with his Boeing 707B in the original Quantas V Jet livery


Detail Selection

57 photographs © Robin Norton

Yak 33 and Tigercat