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Jets clip wings at Reno

Weather delays several championship races

Weather seldom interferes with the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, but the event saw “interesting” weather part of the day Sept. 15 that canceled some races and postponed others until Sunday. Strong winds and gusts on Saturday did not abate, even after a little rainfall, said Texas photographer Robert Fisher, who regularly attends the races. “The winds stayed even after the skies turned blue,” he said.

The showcase Unlimited Gold race was won by Joel Swager of Ione, California, flying Mk 20 Sea Fury Dreadnought. Swager posted an average speed in the race of 417.735 mph. Second place went to Brent Hisey of Ardmore, Oklahoma, flying P–51D Mustang Miss America, averaging 410.927 mph; Curt Brown of Hudson, Wisconsin, captured third flying Sea Fury Sawbones at an average 401.721 mph. There were eight aircraft in the Unlimited Gold field.

The audience experienced some excitement when two Aero L–39 Albatros jet trainers clipped wing tips during Jet Heat 2B on Friday morning. Nathan Harnagel of Friendswood, Texas, flying Reality Czech, appeared to be overtaking Alexandre Eckmann of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who was piloting Race 37, when their wing tips collided. Although the collision reportedly took place out of view from the grandstands, the crowd had ringside seats for the jets’ recoveries. Both aircraft sustained damage, although Eckmann’s jet—which lost a portion of its right wing, and also had visible damage to its vertical stabilizer—appeared more heavily damaged. The pilots immediately climbed above the race course, and both aircraft landed safely. There were no injuries.

The Reno Air Racing Association’s video team captured dramatic video of the collision, and documented the safety procedures undertaken as both damaged aircraft recovered. 

Mike Steiger of Cypress, Texas, won the Jet Gold race flying L–39 Albatros American Spirit. He averaged 486.208 mph in the championship race. Pete Zaccagnino of Park City, Utah, took second in the L–29 Delfin, Just Lucky, averaging 477.900 mph; Pete Stavrides of North Haven, Connecticut, captured third in the six-jet field flying L–39 American Patriot at an average 474.612 mph.

Andrew Findlay of McCall, Idaho, surprised many when he won the Sport Gold race flying Lancair Super Legacy One Moment at a remarkable 402.716 mph. Second and third in the race went to Super Glasair IIIs flown by Jeff LaVelle of Kenmore, Washington (second place) and Bob Mills of Reno (third).

Winners in the other classes of the fifty-fifth National Championship Air Races were:

Formula One, Justin Meaders of Ft. Worth, Texas, flying Snoshoo SR–1 Limitless, 239.521 mph.

Biplane, Andrew Buehler of Olalla, Washington, flying modified Mong Sport Phantom, 221.721 mph.

T–6 Class, John Lohmar of Dallas flying SNJ–5 Radial Velocity, 228.612 mph.

Complete 2018 race results are available online. Next year’s National Championship Air Races will take place Sept. 11 through 15. For more information, see the Reno Air Racing Association website.

  • Although Pete Stavrides' L-39, American Patriot (Race 8), appears to be overtaking Pete Zaccagnino's L-29 Delfin, "Just Lucky," Stavrides placed third behind Zaccagnino during the Jet Gold race at the 2018 National Championship Air Races. Photo by Robert Fisher.
  • Andrew Buehler won the Biplane Gold race at the 2018 National Championship Air Races in Reno. "Phantom," his modified Mong Sport, averaged 221.721 miles per hour. Photo by Robert Fisher.
  • Joel Swager flew away with the Unlimited Gold win at the 2018 National Championship Air Races. "Dreadnought," a Mk 20 Sea Fury, averaged 417.735 mph in the Gold race; his fastest speed during the week was 433.285 mph during qualifying. Photo by Robert Fisher.
  • Joel Swager poses with the Unlimited Gold trophy at the 2018 National Championship Air Races. Flying "Dreadnought," a Mk 20 Sea Fury, he averaged 417.735 mph in the Gold race in Reno. Photo by Robert Fisher.
  • Justin Meaders flew "Limitless," a Snoshoo SR-1, to first place in the Formula Gold race at the 2018 National Championship Air Races. He was more than 9 mph faster than Steve Senegal, flying "Endeavor," an Arnold AR-6. Photo by Robert Fisher.
  • John Lohmar turns his SNJ-5 "Radial Velocity" outside a pylon at the 2018 National Championship Air Races in Reno. Lohmar won the T-6 Gold race with an average speed of 228.612 mph. Photo by Robert Fisher.
  • Andrew Findlay flew his Lancair Super Legacy, "One Moment," to the Sport Class Gold win during the 2018 National Championship Air Races. His Gold average of 402.716 mph was his fastest speed of the week. Photo by Robert Fisher.
  • Chris LeFave, flying Race 2--Harvard MK IV "Bare Essentials," at lower left, watches Michael Pfleger in AT-6C "Miss Informed" as they approach a pylon at the 2018 National Championship Air Races. They met in a heat race and again in the T-6 Bronze race. Photo by Robert Fisher.
  • A flight of T-6 racers bunch up as they approach a pylon during the 2018 National Championship Air Races. The annual event is held in Reno, Nevada. Photo by Robert Fisher.
  • Brent Hisey, flying P-51D Mustang "Miss America," appears to overtake "Sawbones," a Hawker Sea Fury flown by Curt Brown, at the 2018 National Championship Air Races. Hisey took second in the Unlimited Gold race and Brown third, although Brown posted faster speeds in two earlier heat races. Photo by Robert Fisher.
Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Technical Editor
Mike Collins, AOPA technical editor and director of business development, died at age 59 on February 25, 2021. He was an integral part of the AOPA Media team for nearly 30 years, and held many key editorial roles at AOPA Pilot, Flight Training, and AOPA Online. He was a gifted writer, editor, photographer, audio storyteller, and videographer, and was an instrument-rated pilot and drone pilot.
Topics: Air Racing

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