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.
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