Reno Air Races

March 9, 2012
Imagine you’re standing in a crowd, on a hot September day with the roar of jet engines and propellers all around you. Imagine the thrill of seeing planes flying 50-500 feet above the ground, wing-tip to wing-tip at upwards of 500 miles per hour. Now imagine the crash that changed everything, the crash that killed 11 people, including pilot Jimmy Leeward, and injured countless others. This is air racing, one of, if not, the most dangerous sports in the world. Now imagine the hundreds of thousands that wouldn’t have it any other way. The ones that believe air racing should continue to encourage young pilots and push technology to its limits.

The National Championship Air Races are the last pylon-racing event in the world. Beginning in 1964 by a man named Bill Stead, the Reno Air Races have been a huge part of Nevada’s culture. Bringing millions of dollars to our economy, thousands of people to our town, and once in a lifetime opportunities, the Reno Air Races are a great place to experience the thrill of being up close and personal with the planes and pilots themselves. However, with such a dangerous sport, there are many risks. For example, accidents happen. The crash in September of 2011 was the third-deadliest air show disaster in U.S history. When pilot Jimmy Leeward’s plane had just passed the last pylon in fourth place, his North American P-51D Mustang suddenly pitched upward, rolled inverted, and pitched down landing in an area just in front of the grand stands killing 11 people including himself.

Some would say this crash gives reason for the Races to be canceled. However, there are many who disagree. The Races can only be made so safe. Every pilot, every spectator, every fan who enters those gates knows and is aware of the risks. Everyone knows that accidents happen and there is only so much that can be done to prevent those accidents from happening. Sometimes things go wrong and pilots are forced to call “Mayday” and withdraw from the race, for their own safety. Of course, how safe can you get when you’re flying upwards of 500 miles per hour at 50 feet off the ground? But that’s the great part of the Reno Air Races! Pilots aren’t afraid to push their planes and themselves to their limits.

This is the Reno Air Races. Sure, they’re dangerous. But they’re no more dangerous that Nascar, which, is essentially the same thing except on the ground. When there are deadly crashes during the Indy 500 for example, there isn’t a huge uproar about how that should be canceled. Why should Air Racing be canceled then?

The Reno Air Races are a huge part of not only my life, but a huge part of the lives of the millions of dedicated race fans. They have opened the eyes of many young pilots, including myself, and given them the opportunity to meet celebrities of the aviation world along with providing once in a lifetime experiences. The memories created will stay for years to come and we must continue to allow the races to inspire kids and future pilots.

Works Cited:

"History | National Championship Air Races and Air Show - September 12-16, 2012." Reno Air Racing Association. Reno Air Racing Association. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <>.

"Reno Air Races." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <>.

"Reno Air Races." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <>.

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