Racing under way in Reno

Milestone year for National Championship Air Races

September 12, 2013

Voodoo got a new engine after qualifying. Photo by Robert Fisher

Reigning champion Steven Hinton has a new ride, and the smoke from the California wildfire raging in Yosemite cleared just in time to give him a chance to practice a little Voodoo, pushing the P-51 by that name to 492 mph in qualifying at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nev.

Working on a round motor at the National Championship Air Races. Photo by Robert Fisher

The fiftieth edition of the event is expected to draw a crowd of 200,000 or more during the week, which will feature both the fastest pistons on the planet, and appearances by a jet-powered daredevil: Yves Rossy, the Jetman follows up his crowd-pleasing appearance at EAA AirVenture with several flights scheduled during race week, tumbling from a helicopter to fly with tiny turbine engines and a wing strapped to his back.

As for the racing, Hinton posted the fastest qualifying time in Voodoo, but may have more speed in store. The crew set to work installing a different engine after the qualifying heats, and more speed is expected. Hinton won last year’s race flying another P-51, Strega, which has dominated in recent years and now competes with Matt Jackson at the controls.

Racing will continue through Sept. 15, and the FAA has issued a temporary flight restriction to keep traffic clear of Reno/Stead Airport during the event.  

Smoke from the raging wildfire that has scorched a large swath of Yosemite National Park had blanketed portions of Nevada in recent weeks, cutting visibility in Reno to just more than a mile at times. A high-pressure system shifted the winds from south to west, clearing the air just in time for pilots to practice for the event.

Doug Matthews competes in the F4U-4B Corsair dubbed Hudner in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Thomas J. Hudner, U.S. Navy (ret.) at the National Championship Air Races. Photo by Robert Fisher
Jim Moore

Jim Moore | Online Associate Editor, AOPA

AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.