The fifty-third annual National Championship Air Races concluded Sept. 18 in Reno with pilot Steve Hinton Jr. of Chino, California, winning the Unlimited Gold championship. It was his third Unlimited Gold win in the highly modified P-51D Mustang Voodoo, averaging 460.306 mph during the championship race. Hinton’s fastest time in Voodoo this year was 475.027 mph, achieved during a qualifying heat on Sept. 12.
Second place in the Unlimited Gold race went to rookie racer James Consalvi of Midland, Texas, averaging 450.582 mph in Czech Mate, a Yak-11 previously raced by Sherman Smoot.
No injuries were reported from any aircraft incidents during the week. An in-flight engine fire was reported during a Sport Class heat race; pilot Chiwami Takagi-Read was able to land and evacuate her Glasair I before it caught fire. One of the two de Havilland Vampires competing in the Jet Class suffered a bird strike, and ingested debris caused an engine failure; the pilot made an emergency landing in the dirt between the runways and the single-engine jet was substantially damaged, although the pilot was able to exit the aircraft.
Thom Richard of Kissimmee, Florida, the pilot of Formula One racer Hot Stuff, miraculously avoided serious injury when the wing of another race airplane passed above his head during an accident on the runway.
Richard posted online that during the run-up for the Formula One Gold race on Sunday, his engine was not running well, and that he shut down as a signal to starters to halt the starting process, per racing procedures. However, the aircraft to his right started rolling, and a few seconds later the No. 6 and 8 aircraft—from the row behind Richard on the starting grid—went past on either side. Moments later the No. 7 aircraft impacted Richard’s airplane, removing several inches from the vertical stabilizer and striking Richard’s right hand, which was holding up his canopy. The other pilot was not injured.
A video camera on Richard’s glareshield captured the collision. Be forewarned that the footage is graphic.
Hot Stuff suffered severe damage, Richard posted online. “I’m not the slightest bit upset over the accident. I, in fact, consider myself a very lucky man,” he wrote. “There’s risk in everything we do. But the counterpart to that is reward. I choose to cross the street because the risk of crossing the street is worth the reward of getting to the other side. Same thing with air racing, I’ll be back.”
Winners in the other classes of the fifty-third National Championship Air Races were:
Jet Class, American Spirit, an L-39 Albatros flown by Rick Vandam; 497.921 mph.
Sport Class, Race 39, a Glasair III flown by Jeff LaVelle; 383.397 mph.
T-6 Class, Baron’s Revenge, an AT-6B flown by Chris Rushing; 231.193 mph.
Formula One Class, Fraed Naught, a Gilbert DG2 flown by Lowell Slatter; 256.728 mph.
Biplane Class, Reno Rabbit, a Mong Sport flown by Jeff Rose; 217.858 mph.
Full 2016 race results are available online. Dates for next year’s fifty-fourth annual National Championship Air Races have not yet been announced; check the Reno Air Racing Association website for the latest information.