September 17, 2009
By Mike Collins
Mechanics work on Voodoo, the P-51D Mustang flown by Will Whiteside.
The 46th National Championship Air Races began Wednesday, Sept. 16, at Reno/Stead Airport, north of Reno, Nev., and continue through Sunday, Sept. 20.
Defending champion Bill “Tiger” Destefani of Bakersfield, Calif., won the Unlimited Breitling Gold race last year flying his P-51 Mustang, Strega, at an average speed of 483 miles per hour.
The event, held annually since 1964, features racing by six classes of aircraft. Racers in the Unlimited class—many of them highly modified ex-military aircraft from the World War II and postwar eras—reach speeds of more than 500 mph. The smaller, lighter Formula 1 and Biplane class races are held first thing in the morning, while the T-6, Sport, Jet, and Unlimited races take place during the afternoon. All six classes of aircraft are scheduled to race every day.
The event also includes a world-class airshow. Featured this year are the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team, flying the F-18 Hornet, as well as David Martin, the Red Eagles, Patty Wagstaff, and other civilian and military flight demonstrations.
Transient parking is not available at Reno/Stead Airport during the races, and pilots flying in the area are reminded to check notams because of airspace closures. Live streaming video of the races will be available on a pay-per-view basis through the Reno Air Racing Association’s Web site; live audio feeds are available for free, and race results are posted almost immediately following each heat. AOPA Online will provide a wrap-up report on the event next week.
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
A new FAA policy on obstructive sleep apnea that addresses many of the concerns raised by AOPA is scheduled to take effect March 2.
AOPA and the National Business Aviation Association have jointly filed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as part of the ongoing legal battle over the future of Santa Monica Municipal Airport.
AOPA worked with the flight training industry and FAA to quickly resolve a problem that suddenly put many rating applications on hold.
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