Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mid Year Updates

Mid Year Updates – what is happening in the world of Air Racing?

Mid year is always a difficult time to write my column. So many things are happening, but nothing is “on the record” quite yet. Airplanes are being sold, Crews are moving around, Pilots are changing, and modifications are happening faster than we can monitor.

So, let’s discuss what is solid.

Reno Airshow Performers

The US Navy Blue Angels flying their F-18 Hornets will be at Reno this year. I couldn’t be happier. After several years of both the Thunderbirds and the Snowbirds, it will be a nice change of pace for those of us who are there every day and watch the show multiple times. I would like to thank RARA for making that happen.

Caption= US Navy Blue Angels are returning to Reno this year
Photo Courtesy of Curtis Fowles, Mustangs Mustangs

David Martin, who is sponsored by Breitling, will also be returning to Reno this year. He has a high powered Airshow routine in his Extra 300S. David has a nice background and training from Competition Aerobatics to TX Air Guard, to super Airshow skills. I know you will enjoy his show.
Patty Wagstaff, probably one of the most decorated women in Airshow History, will be joining us this year. She will also be flying the Extra 300S and putting on a dynamic show. This will probably be the first time many of the West Coasters will see Ms Wagstaff. I’m sure they will not be disappointed.

Joining these two superb individual acts will be The Red Eagles, a two-ship formation biplane team. They fly a low and tight show which will likely keep your attention during their show. I’ve seen them before and am very happy to hear they will be joining us this year.

What else can we expect at Reno this year?

Several of the fan favorites have changed hands this year. Dago Red, we discussed last month. But Furias is now in new and very capable hands. Hopefully we will learn more about her changes next month.

Also, Mike Brown’s September Pops Air Race Team has been sold to Rod Lewis. Yes, the same Rod Lewis who purchased the fan favorite, Rare Bear. I guess the best way to make sure you’re in the Gold Race is to buy a few of the Gold Racers.

Caption = Mike Brown’s Gold Racer, September Fury, now owned by Rod Lewis
Photo Courtesy of Curtis Fowles, Mustangs Mustangs

Mr. Lewis also purchased a project known as American Spirit. His goal is said to be establishing several records, like Lyle Shelton and Steve Hinton, Sr. did several years ago. American Spirit will be used for those speed records first, and maybe have a career at Reno afterwards. In my opinion, anything that brings positive press and fan attention to aviation is good for all of us. So, thank you, Mr. Lewis. I hope I get a chance to interview him this year in the off-season before things heat up. Rumor has it we may even see him at PRS this year.

Speaking of PRS, the dates are set and the entry package is already available on the RARA website. If you are considering bringing your aircraft to Reno this year for the first time, you need to attend Pylon Racing School June 17-20, 2009.

Red Bull

The biggest news to Reno Fans that touches on the Red Bull Races is the fate of the much loved P-38 known previously as Lefty Gardners’ White Lightning. She is currently on a boat to Europe to be added to the Red Bull stable in Austria.

For those of us lucky enough to see her before she was shipped, she is a beauty. The Ezell’s did a great job getting her back into immaculate condition. We are sorry to see her go.

Caption = The Red Bull P38 Performed for us at the Nellis Airshow this year.
Photo Courtesy of Curtis Fowles, Mustangs Mustangs

Red Bull Air Races

Red Bull, in an attempt to attract a younger crowd perhaps, has added some new blood in the way of younger pilots. Pete McLeod, Matthias Dolderer, Yoshi Muroya, and Matt Hall are all yes blood adding to the already exciting competition between Paul Bonhomme, Michael Mangold, Kirby Chambliss, last years champion, Hannes Arch, Peter Besenyei among others.

Pete McLeod is a Canadian and will be the youngest pilot to fly in the Red Bull Air Race World Championships. He earned his pilot certification before he was able to drive a car. And now, he is flying in the World Championships at a mere 25 year of age,… sigh, I feel old.

Dolderer is from Germany and followed the success of last year’s champion, Hannes Arch closely. He is looking to make a name for himself this year. Yoshi is from Japan and the first competitor from Asia I can think of to join the group. Matt Hall will be joining the us from Australia.

Red Bull has put together a terrific group of pilots and competitors. I know this will be an exciting year for all of us to watch. They will be returning to San Diego in May and Windsor, Canada in June.


The new kid on the block which we covered a few months ago already had their first race of the season. To no one’s surprise, Zoltan Veres took the win in Al Ain, UAE back in January. Smokey Young, a F1 Driver and Aero GP competitor took a satisfactory 4th in his new aircraft.

This was the first time Smokey was able to perform the Bombing Contest. What a great idea, and sounds like an amazing amount of fun for the pilots and fans alike.

We can only hope that Aero-GP will be able to make a showing here in the states sometime in 2009 or 2010.

Caption=Zoltan Veres wins another trophy
Photo courtesy of Aero-GP and Sly Dog Air Racing

Another kind of Pylon
Photo courtesy of Aero-GP and Sly Dog Air Racing

Well known Reno Racer, CJ Stephens helps out at Aero GP
Photo courtesy of Aero-GP and Sly Dog Air Racing