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Uncertain yet hopeful future for Reno Air Races

Reno Air Racing Association CEO provides update

Nearly three months have passed since the Reno Air Racing Association gave official notice that 2023 would be the last year of air racing at the Reno/Stead Airport in Nevada. Since then, we have heard very little regarding the future of the races and what is next for this storied aviation event.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

“As a board we have four principal objectives—making 2023 the best and most successful year ever, and our second most important objective is finding a new home that can host the National Championship Air Races well into the future,” said Reno Air Racing Association Chairman and CEO Fred Telling. “I’m just proud and excited to see this one through.”

Telling, a former racer, said preparations for this last year at Reno/Stead are “going extraordinarily well. Ticketing, given that the unfortunate announcement that this is our last year at Stead, has obviously attracted a good number of people that have said, ‘Well this is on my bucket list for a long time I better get there if I want to see it in Reno.’”

Although several months remain until the races, 78 pilots will soon head to Reno/Stead June 4 to 9 to qualify to race in September. Among those 78 pilots, 42 have never raced before.

Looking ahead to September, Telling said, “Attendees can look forward to exceptional racing with some very strong military participation and performances both static and in the air,” in addition to a potential one-off event commemorating the last year of national championships at Reno/Stead. However, no official decision has been made yet.

In addition to preparing for the final races at Reno/Stead, the Reno Air Racing Association site selection committee is working double time to determine a suitable location for the future. “The request for proposal was just finished with the committee,” said Telling. “A number of places have already expressed direct interest before it was even available. We are probably going to host a conference for seriously interested bidders late in June.”

Although Telling wasn’t able to disclose all potential locations, he did share one contender: Buckeye Municipal Airport in Buckeye, Arizona. “Buckeye understands they can’t host all of the races, they don’t have the space to handle the fastest course, but they are very interested in hosting T–6 and below,” said Telling. “We think one of the advantages that’s going to come out of this process is we will probably identify a couple locations which can handle T–6, biplane, formula, and the sport medallion at least. Many of these racers don’t have other places to race so we’d like to make that possible.”

“There are roughly five miles from the home pylon to the farthest out pylon on the Unlimited course and about four miles across, it’s not exactly 20 square miles but it’s a lot of land that we have to have cleared to run these races, not including a large ramp, city within an hour that can handle the kinds of crowds that we get,” said Telling. “It’s a challenging set of logistics but we’ve had easily four or five locations that I think all have the potential to meeting it.”

While the excitement of a new location is on everyone’s mind, 60 years of racing history still pulls at Telling’s heart. “Reno isn’t our entire history, but the truth of the matter is unlimited air racing was reborn there,” said Telling. “If I have any huge disappointment, it’s that there is so much history and community support. We call it the ‘September family’—it always comes back together every year.”

“If we could find a place in 2024, that would be great, but I think that’s aggressive, so we have an agreement that we are allowed to host an airshow instead,” explained Telling. “We hope by then that we can announce the new location for the future home and that we will be set up there in 2025. Given that the new location site is undecided, it may not be held in September. If we go further south, it may creep into October. It has to be whatever works best for the weather and the winds, and other things that affect that community.

“What’s life without challenges? This is a big one, but we are all happy to rise to it.”

Cayla McLeod
Cayla McLeod Hunt
Cayla McLeod Hunt (previously an AOPA social media marketer) is a private pilot with a love for tailwheel and backcountry aircraft. She enjoys flying with friends and introducing others to general aviation.
Topics: Air Racing

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