Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Beginning of Biplane Racing at Reno

The first Air Races in Reno started in 1964. Most of you know the story of Bill Stead and his dream to recreate the Cleveland Air Races in the high desert. But, not many of you know how the Biplanes became part of the project.

Legend has it that Bill Stead went to the Merced Antique Fly-In in 1964 and met up with Sandy Sanders. Sandy was there announcing for several of the Air Show Acts. Bill was there to promote the upcoming Races and to look over some of the acts with an eye on booking them for the Races. Bill told Sandy about the event and asked him to come up and assist with the announcing duties.

Clyde Parsons was also at the Air Show. Bill talked Clyde into bringing his Knight Twister Biplane up to race it in the inaugural Sport Biplane Race. At the time, it was called the Midget Biplanes because the Races also had Stearman Races – and compared to a Stearman.. we are Midgets!

The Knight Twister is a Homebuilt Sport Biplane designed by Vernon Payne. Clyde was heard saying that the bathtub in his home was bigger than the Biplane – and it probably was.

Clyde Parsons went on to win the first Biplane Race at Reno. He flew his Knight Twister at a speed of just under 145 mph in the Gold Final. Clyde finished second in 1965 and was the first President of the Professional Race Pilots Association – Biplane Division.

The Knight Twister dominated that first year at Reno with the top three finishers. By 1966, the Twister in its basic configuration was outlawed based on the new rule for wing area. Interesting fact, of the planes which flew in that first race, none of them were Pitts, which now dominate the class.

The competitive nature of racers made it essential for rules to be established. Paul Poberezny, then President of the EAA, assisted the Class in developing the Rules. The wing area minimum was 75 square feet, as it is today. Fixed pitch props, fixed gear, and maximum of 290 cubic inches are all the same; these rules are close to the way they are today, except our engines are now up to 360 cubic inches.

The Class was intended to serve the purpose of being a relatively inexpensive way to go racing. Our speeds have increased over 100 mph in the 47 years since that first race. The size of the engines, the closed canopies, and several safety features have also changed. But, we should probably thank Clyde Parsons and the other four competitors that first year, for going racing.

Aviation Calendar

Ruby Red Racing Calendars are available this year. We put together a collection of our favorite Air Racing Photographs over the last year or so and created a wonderful first edition Calendar. Buy one for your favorite aviator and one for yourself – here…

Thank you and have a great Holiday Season. We’ll be back next year with more. Until then, be good to each other, and don’t forget to fly low, fly fast and turn left.