Friday, October 2, 2009

Reno Air Races - Not Your Average Race Day

OK Yesterday I said there is nothing in the world like having a jet fly past your head at 250 miles per hour... that was until I had eight high performance World War II fighters fly past my head at over 500 miles per hour. I am still trying to find the words to describe that one; yes I still get goose bumps when I think about it.

A couple of weeks ago I had a rare pleasure. I was able to attend the Reno National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada.

This is not NASCAR racing. Oh no! It is so much more. The event had its fair share of beer drinking race fans, all wearing the name, number and corporate sponsor of their favorite driver. The pilots and their planes don corporate logos from head to toe; nose to tail.
Yes, they even make a lot of left hand turns, but from there the similarities quickly vanish.

First of all, you have the obvious bit about being in an airplane. It is road racing with the added dimension of altitude to contend with. I don't mean high altitude either. I am talking seat of the pants, ground skimming altitude. Some of these pilots are flying at less than 100 feet off the deck at speeds in excess of 500 mph. Show me a NASCAR driver going that fast and I will eat my hat.

The races are run in six classes:
  • Bipane Class - Small aerobatic aircraft (200 mph)
  • Formula One Class - Stock 100 hp engines (250 mph)
  • Sport Class - Mostly Kit Aircraft (350 mph)
  • T-6 Class - Stock Aircraft - T-6 Texan, Navy SNJ and Canadian Harvard (240 mph)
  • Jet Class - New class in 2002 (400+ mph)
  • Unlimited Class - High Performance piston engine aircraft like the p-51 Mustang, Bearcat and Sea Fury type (500+ mph)

This being my first air race I was green when it came to the best camera settings. As you can see from my lack of variety in images that I was only able to get away with one race with decent shots. I learned a lot from the experience and hope to be able to get better shots next year.
Not only will I have a better camera, I will have a hat and sunblock. It was seriously bad planning, on my part, to stand out in the Nevada sun in September at mid-day with no protection. At least I had plenty of water. My head is still peeling from that sunburn.

At the end of the day I had a great time, learned a few lessons and have a sunburn and goose bumps to take away.

Next year the race is September 15 thru the 19th. If I can get another media pass I will be taking the week off of work and shooting the event. By then my writing skills may improve to the point where I can write a feature story about it. What?! A man can dream... Can't he?

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Sunny said...

Your photos are amazing, you have captured the excitement of the air race!
Sunny :)

Silvia said...

Wow! Amazing photos! Reminds me of "The bridge to Eternity" of Richard Bach. Makes me wish to buy a little airplane and just fly. Don't worry... I don't have money not even to buy a bike. LOL