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EAA at Reno

September 24, 2015 - One of the most exciting weekends in air racing took place this past week as the 52nd National Championship Air Races took off at Reno Stead Airport. A diverse group of aircraft took to the courses in Reno; race classes included Formula One, Biplane, T-6, Sport, Jet, and the popular Unlimited course. Attendees cheered on their favorites despite the cool weather early in the week followed by more typical 90 degree weather on the main days of the event, Saturday and Sunday. Regular ticket holders could take in the action in the air but anyone with a Pit Pass also got the extra benefit of what was happening on the ground. Guests with Pit Passes could see the race planes up close as well as observe the constant tweaking of the maintenance crews to ensure the engines were at top performance.

EAA members also had a special opportunity to visit the EAA Hospitality Tent located in the pits.  Over 1,200 members visited the tent throughout the five days of the race. Staff members Bill Fischer, Nadia Farr, Nicole Watts, Kevin Loppnow, and Tricia Rathermel made the trip from Oshkosh to provide members with a little shade and refreshments. This spot also made for a great meeting space and oasis for members as they continued to engage their passion for aviation.

The highlight and closing event of the weekend is the Breitling Gold Unlimited Race in which the champion is crowned. However, there was still plenty of excitement throughout the race week as well. Notably missing from the air was the Precious Metal unlimited team, which suffered a devastating engine fire at a fuel stop en route to Reno a few days before the Races.  The team was still on ground selling merchandise and raising funds to repair the plane. Then, early in the week, a new speed record was set in the Biplane Class. On Monday, September 14, Tom Aberle set the record of 284.454 mph in Phantom, his Modified Mong Sport. 

Excitement was on the rise when Rare Bear took the win in Friday’s Unlimited heat but Strega started to show muscle on Saturday with a seven second gap and an average speed of 484.703 mph. It seemed anyone’s race as the Gold Unlimited started on Sunday afternoon. However, Strega took an early lead with Voodoo and Rare Bear fighting for the second and third spots. A mayday call from Steve Hinton’s Voodoo in the sixth lap took him out of the race and secured a second place finish for Rare Bear and third place for Dennis Sanders in Dreadnought. The crowds were ecstatic to cheer Robert “Hoot” Gibson, EAA 219551, in Strega as he took the checkered flag and won the championship with an average speed of 488.983 mph. 

If race fans didn’t get enough excitement, or haven’t had the chance to attend Reno, pay attention to the airwaves in February 2016. NBC Sports was on site recording the action and conducting interviews. They are slated to produce a one-hour special about the National Championship Air Races.

EAA is a proud participant of the National Championship Air Races and support what this event does for aviation. The passion that runs strong in Oshkosh also radiates at Reno which is evident from the large amount of EAA member participation. Local EAA chapter members assisted with Air Race security, members enjoyed camaraderie in the hospitality tent, and even more filled the grandstands.  

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