Thursday, December 6, 2012

That is One Fast Glasair …

Honoring my commitment to cover all of the Race Classes at Reno, not just the Unlimiteds, I wanted to introduce you to Jeff LaVelle, the 2012 Sport Class Gold Champion and his Glasair III. A seemingly mild mannered Glasair III, one that looks remarkably like the others you may see each weekend flying to the next $100 Hamburger location. However, this one is special --- very special.

But, all that is special is on the inside. Jeff LaVelle, like so many other Race Pilots, started out racing something else, for him it was Motorcycles. He always had competitive spirit that made him look for ways to improve. He became a pilot about 20 years ago and later attended the Reno Air Races, setting his sights on competing there.

Jeff LaVelle rounding the pylons in his Glasair III
Bruce Croft  -

 He founded a company in 1989 in aerospace manufacturing providing products to industry giants including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman. Watching and learning and finally taking some of his ideas for his clients probably helped him create his plan of attack at Reno.

He purchased a Glasair kit in 1998 and his focus turned to the brand new Sport Class. This provided him the perfect opportunity to use his piloting skills, his love for speed, and his knowledge of mechanical things. He attended PRS in 2007 and won Rookie of the Year for the Sport Class that year.

His first qualifying time in 2007 was 292.193 – over 100 mph less than this year. Now, that is serious improvement. By 2008, he was already making incredible strides qualifying at 335.180 mph that year. In 2009 his number was 357.863 and another smaller improvement in 2010 to 362.481.

A much larger difference was made by 2011. He qualified FIRST at an amazing 396.730 and really turned some heads. Unfortunately, the Races were canceled and he never got a chance to back up that number with a win. John Parker was crowned the Winner in 2011 based on the Sport Class Heat 2A Results on Friday. Jeff performed a precautionary landing during that race, based on an errant radio call. He assumed he had the weekend to make up ground, but things didn’t work out that way.

The changes he has made include turbochargers, a larger engine with more horsepower, different propellers and some aerodynamic changes. He says they do something each year, trying to make those modifications pay off. And they finally did.

This year, he wanted to win. He has been making changes over the years and this was his time. He won Fastest Type, Fastest Qualifier, every Heat Race and then the final championship race on Sunday.

He is missing only two records at this point: fastest qualifying time (409.297) for the class and the championship race record (402.896) – both records currently held by Jon Sharp with his NemesisNXT. Jeff has a new engine ready to be put on the Glasair for next year and he has a few other changes up his sleeve. I believe he will capture Jon Sharp’s records next year. And, I will be happy to cheer him on and wish him luck.

Jeff preparing for a practice session at PRS in June
Bruce Croft  -

Aviation Calendar

Don't forget to buy your Ruby Calendar - 2013 for all the pilots on your holiday gift giving list!

See you next year!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Return to the Races

We expected it to feel different, and it did. We expected it to be more difficult, and it was. But, we never expected it to be so cathartic.  At least I didn't.

The week started out earlier than usual. Racers were to be on the field by the noon on the Saturday before the races. This is by far the earliest we were told to be there. But we were there and we were together.

It was good to see some of the new aircraft, new paint jobs, new owners, etc.  And, of course, it was good to see all the new rookies and our old friends. Lots of hugs were exchanged and stories were shared about the off-season and how most of us were absolutely certain we wouldn’t be standing there – but we were.

Before I review the races, I wanted to share a quote from Tim Cone, Rookie Sport Class Racer: What do they call the pilot who places LAST in the Bronze heat of a Reno Air Race? An Air Racer! – And he’s right! Congrats to all the racers and especially the rookies.

International Formula 1

The race in IF1 was for 2nd place. Endeavour and Steve Senegal wrapped up the Gold with ease qualifying over 10 mph faster than Vito Wypraechtiger of Switzerland – his closest competitor. Steve flew the best he’s ever flown and had a great week. He had three aircraft competing, including Miss Demeanor in the IF1 Silver and his RV8 in the Sport Class.

Steve Senegal and Endeavour with Crew Chief, Cash Copeland 

Brian Reberry raced his new design September Fate in the Gold and Tony the Tiger, a stock Cassutt III-M in the Silver – bringing up the rear. September Fate was fast, but has much more potential. We look forward to whatever tweaks the Reberry team decides to bring in the future.

Little gremlins plagued many of the other competitors including Stephen Partridge Hicks who had all sorts of problems; Rookie Justin Phillipson had problems but was able to work them out and ended up finishing second in the Gold. Kevin Anderson another fine Rookie also had gremlins – which prevented him from completing his week. He put up a nice qualifying time and hopefully, we’ll see him again next year.

An influx of young blood was honored with Kevin Broughall winning Crew Chief of the year and Justin Phillipson earning second place in the Gold and Rookie of the Year. Congrats to you both and to all the IF1 racers and crews for making it such a great and safe year.

Justin Phillipson our IF1 Rookie of the Year 


The Biplane Gold was won from the back row by Tom Aberle flying Phantom. Tom was disqualified in the final heat race for low flying (something that happened quite frequently this year in all the classes) which placed him in the back of the pack for the final Gold Race. This meant that Tom had to pass everyone to win, and this time he only lapped six of the competitors. Karl Grove in Drag Racer started on pole and was the only biplane not lapped. Tom continues to amaze with his purpose built racer.

The Biplane Silver was won in fine style by Chris Schaich in his second year of racing. I ended up third in the Silver – at one point listed as second due to a low flight call for Casey Erickson. This penalty did not withstand the test of time and was somehow overturned, which put me back into third. Still, this was the best I have ever finished and my team is happy with our results.

Ruby with 232 watching over her shoulder

We are hoping for new competitors to join us at PRS in September, if you’re interested in racing, in any of the classes, drop me a line and I’ll help you.


The T6 class was competitive as usual. Nick Macy won the Gold with a new record of just over 247 mph. Dennis Buehn was in second place and John Lohmar came in third. John Zayak toasted his engine (technical aviation term) and was unable to finish out his week.

Gordo Sanders won the Silver with an amazing race against Gene McNeeley earlier in the week to take the pole position. Gene cut a pylon and Gordo was able to keep his position and was thrilled with the results. This was the first time Gordo has won. Congrats!

 Close racing between Gordo Sanders and Gene McNeeley in the T6 Class

Sport Class

The Sport Class has had their ups and downs over the years, and I believe they are really hitting their stride. In the beginning, it was Glasairs and Lancairs with a smattering of the Metal Mafia (RV-4, 6, 8, Rockets, etc.). Then, we had the Super Sport which was meant to increase the competition for larger engines and elevated designs. Now we have a mix of both.

Jeff LaVelle qualified at 395 mph in his highly modified, incredible Glasair III. If you took a quick glance at it, you’d think it was a perfectly normal Glasair, but alas, you would be wrong. We will cover more information about Jeff in future columns, but let’s just say, that is not your normal Glasair. Jeff qualified first, and ran all four races in the front without a flaw. He had a great week and we’re happy to see him do so well.

John Parker in his Thunder Mustang, Blue Thunder II, finished second, but was over 16 mph behind our leader. Lynn Farnsworth finished out the top three with Lee Behel in his beautiful GP-5 coming in a very respectable fourth place.

Jet Class

Rick Vandam owned the Jet Gold from beginning to end. He qualified fastest and won each heat race and the final Gold in American Spirit the super slick L39. Rick and Phil Fogg were the only aircraft the entire week to put up 500mph + times – and that was only in Qualifying.

Rick Vandam and American Spirit - Jet Class Gold

The 250 foot maximum altitude, which I’ve written about in earlier articles, was quite significant in the Jet Class (and Unlimiteds). Several of the racers were called for “High Flying” and were disqualified for their sessions. 

I would say that flying was watched more carefully this year and the Contest Committee, the final voice in penalties and disqualifications, were kept busy all week.


Steven Hinton and Strega provided the fans with a decisive win on Sunday in the Unlimited Breitling Gold Race. After winning in 2009, “Stevo” was named the winner in 2010, the Year of the Wind and in 2011, when racing was cancelled due to the tragedy. This year, he wanted to win it in the sky, the way you’re meant to win an Air Race.

232 and Dreadnaught battling for second place during final Gold Race

232 flown by former Astronaut, Hoot Gibson finished second with the Sander’s Dreadnaught coming in third. But, the final finish doesn't tell even half the story of 2012.

The Qualifying Sessions ended with Strega having a slight lead over Rare Bear, being flown by veteran racer, Stewart Dawson. Furias, the beautifully restored Super Sea Fury, qualified a distant third, however, on landing, Matt Jackson had a landing gear issue and Furias ended up in a dust cloud in the desert. Matt was okay and by the time he got back to the Pits he was already telling stories about how it all came to be. Sadly, Furias was not okay and is going home on a truck.

Our fourth highest qualifier was Precious Metal with Thom Richard as the pilot. Their speed of 463mph was the fastest that airframe has ever gone. Unfortunately, their gear door disappeared coming down the Chute on Sunday and he was the first mayday of the race.

Dennis Sanders flying the families Super Sea Fury, Dreadnaught qualified fifth and as always, flew perfectly awaiting the series of maydays that were sure to come. 

Some of the best racing during the week included watching Dennis Sanders in Dreadnaught trying to overtake Thom Richard in Precious Metal. Watching “The Buick” struggled to keep upright while flying closely on Thom’s wing reminded so many of us of watching Czech Mate and other racers struggled to stay behind Dreadnaught. The wake created by Dread really knocks the air around, and this time Dreadnaught was eating some of her own medicine.

Precious Metal tossing nasty wake at Dreadnaught

During the final race, Rare Bear pulled off the course after the penultimate lap, presumably with overheating problems, which plagued them all week. This left the door open for Rare Bear’s little sister 232 to jump into second place.

232 had a dismal qualifying time, but had been nursing early issues during the week. Electrical problems were the rumored cause of their gremlins. Fixed by Wednesday, each day they refined their racer and started to go faster. The second place finish was the best for Hoot and he had a great time working with the 232 Crew. 

Sawbones, flown by Curt Brown and Miss America, flown by Brent Hisey finished fourth and fifth in the final Gold Race. Both putting up very respectable times and both flying beautifully all week.

Miss America, Rare Bear and Sawbones in close racing on Sunday

This was Strega’s 11th win, Stevo’s fourth, and this will be their last as a team. Tiger Destefani, Strega’s owner, has confirmed that he will no longer campaign Strega at the races in the future. 

What does this mean? Will Strega end up in someone else’s hands and continue to race? Will Strega end up in a museum – or maybe become a flying museum?

What does this mean for our young champion? Will he end up racing another aircraft? Will he leave air racing? Continue racing in another venue?

The Strega Team worked as a well-oiled machine all week. It is sad to see them disperse. But, I would like to take this chance to thank Tiger for being Tiger and bringing Strega to the races for our entertainment. And, for giving us Stevo Hinton.

Tiger Destefani and Steven Hinton proved to be unbeatable - again

Final Thoughts

The crowds were not at pre-2011 levels, but the fans came back. The racing wasn’t edge-of-your-seat-action all week, but it was good and it was safe. There was a smattering of maydays, but only a few aircraft unable to fly home. All in all, I believe this was a successful comeback for NCAR. 

Congrats to all competitors and to RARA for putting on a great event.

Next month, we’ll get into more detail about the races and discuss some of the more interesting competitions happening on the course. We will take a closer look at some of the teams and what makes a team work well together. And, we’ll talk about the tragedy, the ceremony, the survivors and the future of the Reno Air Races.

Until then…


All photos used with permission from Bruce Croft -

Monday, September 3, 2012

Reno Air Racing Prep - 2012

Keeping up with the news surrounding the Reno Air Races this year has been exhausting. Racers and fans alike have so many questions, i.e., are we racing, what changes will we see, who will be there, who won’t, will the fans notice any changes? These are all good questions. I hope that I have, through this column, helped everyone understand what the process has been following the horrific event of September 16, 2011. I have tried to listen to the questions the fans have been asking and answer them here.

NTSB Review Board

NTSB Review Board provided their findings in a Press Conference on August 27th. Many of their recommendations have been discussed in this column earlier in the year. The final determination of cause was reviewed during this meeting. I have been following their investigation closely and am incredibly impressed with the depth of information they obtained, the amount of analysis which was done and their efforts. Generally investigations such as this one could take over two years to complete. Because they wanted to provide the information in time for the 2012 Reno Air Races, they pushed to get final recommendations and analysis done in time.

If you didn’t watch the Press Conference live or via video from their website, you missed some riveting information. I won’t go into the details, but the NTSB placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Jimmy Leeward as race pilot and aircraft owner.

My problem is; the checks and balances have always been in place. The FAA requires annual condition inspections, which are required for all aircraft – even experimental, exhibition and racers. RARA requires these documents be submitted each year with our racing packets. The class technical inspections are only required to make sure the aircraft adhere to the class requirements – they aren’t supposed to replace this annual condition inspection. If changes are made to an aircraft, the FSDO (Flight Standards District Office) must be notified in writing. A specific testing program is outlined to verify these changes are safe, generally a specific amount of time must be flown in the configuration and a final sign off by the pilot is required stating the changes were tested in accordance with the program and everything went well.  

To campaign a Race Team may look easy. It’s not. From the fastest Jet or Unlimiteds to the slowest IF1 or Biplane – special attention is taken to make sure the aircraft and the pilot are ready for the task at hand. For those of us who have been racing for years, we have seen our share of friends hurt or killed – so we know the level of risk involved. Our maintainers are keenly aware of their place in the event. We rely on each other to do the right thing and to present on race day the best possible aircraft we can. I truly believe this is everyone’s focus. No one tries to cut corners, to my knowledge.

With all of these checks in place, how could things get so far gone? To hear the NTSB describe the state of the Galloping Ghost was chilling. It clearly wasn’t ready to “beat Strega” as Jimmy stated a thousand times. I wish he was more cautious and less aggressive. But, he was a racer. And he was my friend, which makes it so much harder to hear those words spoken by the NTSB.

How do things look for 2012

While the number of competitors is down, we can still expect some terrific racing. Strega will be back for probably her final year. She’s still the one to beat and Steven Hinton is still the Wunderkind. Just in his mid-20s and already one of the most brilliant racers of our time.

Rare Bear will be flown by Stewart Dawson. He has been getting seat time and they are tweaking things to give her the best possibly chance in September.

Furias will be there in her new paint. She looks GREAT – thanks to Bucky Dawson’s paint scheme and amazing work (as usual) from the Sanders. Matt Jackson will be in the pilot – and he’s ready.

232 aka September Fury will be flown by Hoot Gibson. The aircraft has been going through some serious review to make sure she is ready. The rumor is the 232 crew wants to beat her big sister, Rare Bear. It’s a good natured competition – which is just what we need right now.

Dreadnaught aka The Buick is ready to jump into the lead if any of the front runners sneeze. They are always poised for great things.

Precious Metal has been reworking many things this year. Their team has been burning the candle on both ends and are working hard to toe the line the FAA has put down regarding aircraft changes and engineering reports. My understanding is the PM Team has completed all their paperwork and is finalizing the testing program and should be on the field with bells on for the first Pilot Brief of 2012. Thom Richard and crew are the only team in the Unlimited Division making major changes this year which now require these engineering reports.  It’s all new procedures for us and we’re just doing our best to figure things out.

That should be our top six in the Unlimited Gold. Miss America and Sawbones should round out the group. We will all miss Voodoo and Czech Mate, but the show must go on. At this time, we have just 21 Unlimited Racers scheduled to attend.

Other Notables

I wanted to make a special comment here stating that Lee Behel is bringing back the beautiful GP-5. His tenacity knows no bounds. I have always been a big fan, but his efforts with this aircraft are herculean. I wish him the best of luck.

I also wanted to mention that Mike Dacey, who had an engine failure and subsequent hard landing the day before the Galloping Ghost Incident is recovering. He will not be racing this year, but insists that he will be back. His determination is inspiring and I wish him the best as he rebuilds.

Final thoughts

To all the racers and crew who have decided to come back this year, I applaud you. We were not sure we were racing until the last minute and we had to have faith to put our time and energy into the difficult preparations to be there in September, as we have been for so many Septembers before.

To the Rookies who showed up at PRS and have decided to join our family, you are to be applauded as well. You came forward to try your hand at this incredible sport, without knowing what would happen. You have great faith, or you’re crazy -- but either way, I thank you!

To all the fans and volunteers who have decided to join us, we appreciate you. Without you, it would be just a bunch of really cool planes and friends looking for a race.

To the NTSB, I am grateful that you took your task so seriously. Also a big thank you to the civilians who assisted them, including Bill Kerchenfaut and Mike Luvara – to the aircraft owners who gave them access to their aircraft including Bob Button – to the Blue Ribbon Committee who came back to help the NTSB understand what we do including Jon Sharp and  Steve Hinton.

To each Race Class Leadership, you don’t get the credit you deserve, especially this year. Your dedication has been unwavering.

To RARA, thank you for not giving up hope and for continuing to pave the way for us to race again.

This entire process has just reminded me of how wonderful this community is and how close we were to losing the one event that brings us together.  Let’s all hope for a clean, safe and fun 2012 Reno Air Races.

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Let’s go RACING!

First the GREAT news!
As we are going to press today, we received word that we are in fact racing in September. The much publicized shortfall of $1M towards the event insurance was eradicated when the NCOT (Nevada Commission on Tourism) came forward to provide the final $600,000.

This was the last hurdle to racing in September. All of the waivers, permits, and requirements have been satisfied and now the final checkbox has been ticked and we are on the road to Reno!

Alan Crawford rounding the pylons at PRS
Credit: Bruce Croft

Other good news includes the addition of a new racer in the IF1 Class. Brian Reberry’s new racer, September Fate, has been completed, tested, approved and registered to race in September. It has been two years since the first time I saw an artist’s rendering of the racer – and it’s now real and ready.

Reberry was introduced to the Reno Air Races through the late, great Gary Hubler, another Boise, ID pilot and long time IF1 Winner. In 2005, he started racing with N-A-Rush. He sold N-A-Rush and put the time, money and energy into building his new racer. You can see the resemblance in the gear to Tom Aberle’s Phantom, which has dominated the Biplane Class for years. 

Brian gives plenty of credit to his team, sponsors and his wife for all the assistance over the last two years.

Reberry’s Racer, “September Fate”
Credit: Sherawn Reberry

Will Reberry’s design dominate the IF1 class? Will he give Steve Senegal and Endeavor a run for the Gold? We will find out in September.

Now for the not so great news…

It looks like Czech Mate will not make it again this year. Czech has been going through a speed increasing and airframe strengthening for the last several years. We had all hoped the work had been completed, tested and the racer would be ready for September, but sadly, that will not happen.

Czech Mate Fans will be disappointed this year
Credit: Tim Adams

John and Marcia Moore have owned the racer since 1997. They have made significant changes to it since it was owned by Bob Yancey and have always said they would not race it if they felt it wasn’t ready – and by ready, I believe they mean tested and tested and tested, again. We will miss Czech this year, but we know they are doing the right thing and it’ll be racing when it’s ready.

Other not so great news…

The numbers are down. For all classes except the Sport Class, we do not have full fields. This fact, coupled with the low attendance at PRS would normally send a slight panic through the air racing world. However, so many folks were waiting to hear that we were DEFINITELY racing in September; there was a “wait and see” attitude. It’s too bad the news has come so late. If we had heard by April, perhaps PRS attendance and the race numbers would have been higher. 

We still have time for late entries and there is always the hope that this will happen – but even if we’re down in numbers, we expect to see a full field of fans and fun!

The variety of classes racing in September
Credit: Bruce Croft

More info on Air Racer 3D
I wanted to end this column on a very high note. We have been working with the Executive Producers of the Air Racers 3D movie about possible venues to view the movie during the Race Week.  

I can now confirm that "Air Racers 3D" will be screened at the four existing multiplexes in Reno for an exclusive 2-week engagement (Sept. 7-20). Show times will be at 7:00 PM and 8:15 PM every day. Audience can already book tickets online at via the Cinemark Theater Website or through the new movie website

We are planning on a Team Ruby event at one of the theaters during race week and will make sure we give everyone more details as they become available.

New Ruby Logo
Credit: Thanks to Phil Riek and Tina Leong for creating and tweaking the new design

Our fans have been giving us feedback about our Ruby t-shirts. They fact that our current logo only works on light colored shirts and apparently working on airplanes is a dirty business, so we have a redesigned logo which will work on black t-shirts. You can purchase items with the new or old logo through CafePress.

See you in September
Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rancho Murieta Airshow is BACK!

Twenty-five years ago, the Rancho Murieta Airshow was legendary. This small privately owned airport southeast of Sacramento was centrally located to several military bases. Because of this proximity, during their heyday they were able to attract military acts from Mather, McClellan, and Beale to name a few. Pictures from those days show U2s, B-52s and even an SR-71 making appearances to the delight of crowds.

This year the new airport owner, Bradley Beer, along with Air Boss, Mike Smith joined together with local businesses and airport tenants to bring back the glory days in celebration of Armed Forces Day. With only three months to plan and put on the show, this was a great event all around.

The event started with the Performer and VIP Barbecue on Friday night while tenants of the airport put on a Flour Bombing event to the delight of the crowds. In Aviation, Flour Bombing is when a lunch bag filled with flour is dropped by a “bomber” while the pilot maneuvers the aircraft over the target – generally a circle drawn on the runway or in a nearby grassy area.

The next morning by 7am the airport was buzzing with activity. Volunteers and vendors had arrived and the final touches to the setup were completed. The crowds started to trickle in around 9am and the field closed at 10am to airborne traffic.

A lazy morning of RV formation flights by the West Coast Ravens Formation Group kept our eyes to the skies while Mike Carpentiero hopped rides for locals in “Stanley” his 1930 New Standard D-25 Biplane. Stanley holds four people in the front cockpit and he was kept quite busy with happy passengers all day on Saturday.

Credit: Ken Linde
Wide variety of aircraft in attendance. 

Military aircraft were on scene including a C-130 from Pt Mugu and a Chinook helicopter - both of which provided tours all day to the fans. Their crews were gracious to all of the attendees and were delightful to have around. 

The Show opened with the National Anthem and Dan Buchanan filling the sky with streaks of smoke and color in his version of “Rocket’s Red Glare, Bombs Bursting in Air.”
Sandy Sanders and Wayne Handley handled the announcing for the show. Many aviation facts were shared during the day, with many long time airshow fans in the audience saying, “I didn’t know that”.  Even I learned a thing or two that day.

Vicky Benzing showed her versatility with her Extra 300 performance. She has logged nearly 6000 hours in everything from aerobatic aircraft to helicopters and even flies her company’s Gulfstream. She is a very accomplished pilot and is the only other woman currently racing at Reno with me. Her airshow performance is filled with energy and excitement.

Then, Bill Stein took to the ski in his Zivko Edge 540. Bill had previously flown with the Red Baron Stearman Squadron and is now touring the US as a solo performer.  Besides his high powered performance, Bill’s aircraft sports an amazing paint scheme which actually changes color as the sun reflects against the state of the art paint. The California audience was lucky to see his show, since he’ll be on the road for nearly the entire season, showcasing his talent around the country.

Credit: Mark E. Loper
Stein’s Zivko Edge 540 with the cutting edge paint keeps your eyes to the skies

P-51 Mustang Aerobatics flown by veteran, Dan Vance, was up next. Dan is a true professional. He flies for a major airline and can be seen racing his Speedball Alice at the Reno Air Races where he is also a check pilot for the Unlimited Class. He puts on a wonderful aerobatic routine and a great addition to the Air Show Circuit.

Dennis Sanders was up next flying Argonaut, the Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 powered by an R2800 and outfitted with smoke generators on both wing tips, allowing it to visually demonstrate the effects of wing tip vortices and its awesome aerobatic performance.

Credit: Ken Linde
Argonaut with the smoke generators – always exciting to watch

Julie Clark closed the show with her “Smokin’ T-34 Mentor”.  Julie has retired from flying for a major airline, but is still available to entertain the crowds with her patriotic routine. She is also great with the fans, especially the kids. This is her 32nd year flying aerobatics in air shows and is a “mentor” to many of us! 

Credit: Ken Linde
Caption: Julie Clark's Patriotic Aerobatic Display

Before the weekend started, Bradley Beer, owner of the Rancho Murieta Airport , said “The airshow will not only be an exciting event in our community. It gives us an opportunity to support the USO by donating a portion of the proceeds to them. This will be the best airshow in our region this year.”

And he was right. He also said that if they broke even, he would be happy to do it all again next year. Now that they have more than three months to plan and execute – 2013 will be even better. Circle the first weekend in June 2013 on your calendars now!

Reno Update

The Pylon Racing Seminar was held in June with a great turn out of Rookies and Veterans taking to the course for practice and evaluation. The new Unlimited Course was flown by both Steven Hinton and Dennis Sanders to assess the changes. Both of them walked away with positive comments, so we should be okay with the new course changes.

 Also in June, the initial race entries were due to RARA. And it looks like we are in for a solid year of racing. While the numbers aren’t over the top, we have more than many expected – with 22 Unlimited Racers already registered. All of the other classes are short of a full field, but we are all hoping for additional late entries to round out the field.

Credit: Rob Miller
The Pylons are waiting… 

Air Racers 3D Movie

Also, you should know that the Air Racers 3D Movie is working on a premiere event at Reno during Air Race Week. Stay tuned for additional information, but we are looking at September 7th - 20th viewings around the Reno area. 

And don't forget the September 12th event in Sacramento. I will keep the information coming. 
Until then... 

Fly and you know the rest... 

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

PS... always looking for Race Sponsorship, if interested, drop me a note. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Planes of Fame Airshow does it again

The Planes of Fame Museum held their annual airshow the first weekend in May 2012. This year’s theme was “1942 – Turning the Tide” celebrating the 70th anniversary of our entry and participation in World War II. This is clearly one of the finest airshows in the US. And this year was no exception. 

The regular aerobatic acts including Hartley Folstad and Margie Stivers in their Silver Wings Wingwalking performance started the day off with beautiful “ballet in the sky”. Long time Chino regular, Tumbling Bear followed with his high energy aerobatic routine in the Zlin. Clay Lacy returned again this year with his Learjet Routine which is always fun to watch. 


New features this year included fan favorite and award winning performer Sean D. Tucker, who brought his amazing Oracle Challenger III Biplane to wow the crowds. His aerial high-jinx included his signature Double Hammerhead, Centrifuge, Helicopter Pass and the series of three ribbon cuts, all in different configurations – Right knife edge, Left knife edge and inverted. 

One criterion by which we judge an aerobatic act is the number of people who leave their seats and rush to the flight line to watch. No one was seated during Sean’s high powered routine. Sean has infectious energy and passion for what he does. And it shows in every single performance. 


Another aerobatic act which kept the fans standing was Stewart Dawson doing a graceful routine in Rod Lewis’ Tigercat called “Here, Kitty, Kitty”. His ability to twist and turn that giant plane was amazing. He took “Kitty” through a series of Loops and Rolls which we are more accustomed to seeing in a smaller, lighter aircraft with the twin engines just purring.  Seriously, this was one of my favorites of the show. 

The Horsemen were also in attendance. In previous years we have seen them in two or three P-51 Mustangs or in F8F Bearcats. This year, with Steve Hinton joining as their lead, Ed Shipley and Dan Friedkin remained in their P-51s while Steve led with the P-38 named Skidoo. The trio put on a wonderful combination of Warbirds, formation flying and aerobatics. 


The final aerobatic performance of the show featured Dennis Sanders in Argonaut, the R-2800 powered Sea Fury. This demonstration is different from all the others because it showcases wingtip Self-Contained Smoke Generator Systems. The fans love the way “Argo” creates smoke rings while doing a series of aerobatic maneuvers. Again, this show is a must see and a fan favorite. 

Intertwined with all of these wonderful performances, the Planes of Fame Museum put on an aerial display of their incredible warbird collection. For the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, three B-25s took to the sky to remind us of the importance of that event to “Turn the Tide” – the theme of the show.


A trio of Japanese Zeros made several passes during the show and provided the fans with a memorable experience. Bearcats, Avengers, Corsairs, Dauntless, Skyraiders, Texans, a Fairey Firefly and a Hellcat were just some of the aircraft taking part in the well orchestrated airshow. 

If you like jets, the Korean War Dogfight between the MIG-15 and the F-86 would have delighted you.  And the Heritage Flight included one of my favorites, the QF-4 from Holloman AFB and two P-38s and a P-51. The final low passes by the QF-4 were as loud and impressive as anyone airshow fan would want. 

One of the best ways to enjoy a show like this – if you’re not flying in it – is to volunteer. I spoke to easily 20 people who take vacation time from their jobs and spend their time volunteering for the show. There are also opportunities to help by sponsoring the airshow or at least becoming members of the Museum. 

If you haven’t made it to Chino and the Planes of Fame Museum and Airshow yet, what has taken you so long? See you next year? I hope so! 


Reno Updates

All indications point to a green light for the Reno Air Races this year.  As discussed in the past, there are several hoops to jump through and we are clear of all hoops, but two. Let me explain. 

The first thing we needed was the Reno Tahoe Airport Authority providing us with a Permit to hold the event. This permit was issued on May 17th. While in the past, the RTAA gave 5 year permits, this year they gave only one – and issued additional requirements for insurance and for RARA to comply with the NTSB recommendations made in April. 

The insurance requirement increased to $100million and the premium will now cost $2million to secure. This is an enormous increase for a onetime per year event, but is non-negotiable. 

The final hurdles include the FAA Waiver – which should not be a problem. The FAA has said if RARA adheres to the NTSB recommendations, they will grant their waiver. 

Another hurdle is actually paying for the $2m insurance premium. Which brings me to the final hurdle – getting people to come back to the races and start buying tickets, merchandise and setting up those hotel reservations. 

We understand that until now, most people still felt there was a level of uncertainty around the event in September. Hopefully, the above update will satisfy your fears and we can move forward and see each other again in September. 

To quote Mike Houghton, “I am very pleased to announce that we have, indeed, secured our required insurance policy of 100 million dollars, and are absolutely confident that we are or will soon be in compliance with all airport authority stipulations.”

Looks good to me! 

June is PRS and I know I’ll be there to meet and greet the rookies. I hope to have a full report about all the new and exciting racers we will see soon! 

Also, keep checking the Air Racers 3D website to see when the IMAX film about the Reno Air Races debuts at your local theatre. 

Until then…. 
Fly Fast… 

(Special thanks to Anthony Taylor from Warbirdfotos and congrats on your first cover!) 

Friday, May 4, 2012

State of the Races

On April 10th, the NTSB presented their preliminary recommendations during a well attended Press Conference at the Reno Tahoe Airport. Unable to attend in person, I was able to view the on-line version. I will say, the first time I really believed we were racing in September was after I heard the words of NTSB Chairperson, Deborah Hersman, state, "We are not here to put a stop to air racing, we are here to make it safer.”  With those words, I saw a bright light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. 

During the conference, several recommendations were addressed. I will review several here and give my comments.

Evaluation of Aircraft with Structural or Flight Control Modifications

Require aircraft owners, as a condition of eligibility to participate in the Reno  National Championship Air Races, to provide an engineering evaluation that includes flight demonstrations and analysis within the anticipated flight envelope for aircraft with any major modification, such as to the structure or flight controls.

What we know is when a new Unlimited Design is brought to the Races, (think Tsunami and Pond Racer) much scrutiny is lavished on the aircraft. But, because Galloping Ghost was a returning aircraft, had raced before in several configurations, was therefore considered to just be a modification and not a new design.  These modifications will now be viewed with a similar scrutiny as a new design.

But, what constitutes a major modification? The recommendation stated, “such as to the structure or flight controls”. This leaves some things to interpretation. We know that several of the Jets have had major power plant modifications – would this be a major modification under the recommendation?  It’s not specifically structure or flight control – but should be analyzed as well.

And about testing -- a specific point that was made clearly, "This pilot, in this airplane, had never flown this fast, on this course”.  While this is true, it is nearly impossible to test an aircraft within the race conditions, unless they are on the race course – with other aircraft. G-Forces, air pressure differentials, heat, winds, buffeting and the course design would all need to be replicated in a true test environment.

While I would concede that the Galloping Ghost should have been tested further. The ability to do that is not easy due to speed limits on aircraft under 10,000/18,000 feet and the inability to find true test environments.

NCAR Unlimited Class Course Design

Evaluate the design of the unlimited class course and safety areas to minimize maneuvering near and potential conflicts with spectators; if warranted by the results of the evaluation, implement changes to the race course

Over the years, modifications have been made to the race course as needed. It looks like RARA will be making additional changes to Pylons 4, 7, 8 and 9. Pylon 4 has been mentioned by several pilots as hard to see at race speed. I tend to believe Pylon 4 was going to be moved prior to the events of 2011. And, I wouldn’t be surprised if the relocation of Pylons 7, 8 and 9 may have also been on the list. My assumption is the deadline over at the Valley of Speed (Western edge of the course) will now be made larger.  This could also impact the flight path of the racers. The turn from 7, 8, 9 and home pylons has always been tricky – will it get even trickier?

I haven’t seen the old course and new course overlayed together to see how much the course will change, but I will share it with you when it’s completed and made available. Just assume there will be changes to the course.

Training and Mitigation Techniques for High G Operations

Provide high G training to pilots, including techniques to mitigate the potential effects of high G   exposure, as part of preparations before the Reno National Championship Air Races (NCAR) and during daily briefs at the NCAR.  Evaluate the feasibility of requiring pilots to wear G- suits when racing at the Reno National Championship Air Races; if the evaluation determines it is feasible, implement a requirement.

Most of the pilots who participate in NCAR each year are at least Aerobatic Trained, most are Commercial Pilots and many are Military trained. I can guarantee that we have all had conversations about G tolerances and have been exposed to high G maneuvers. You cannot get to this level of competition without this experience and knowledge.

I think it’s a great idea for us to have additional conversations about effects, exposure and preparation. I don’t think it’s feasible or practical for G-Suits to be required. We’ve done some research and a tank, systems and a G-Suit could be purchased for approximately $5k.Installation and design requirements would be additional - but, the weight is prohibitive to all classes except Unlimited and Jets.

As far as I know, the only racers who have worn G-Suits in the past have been in the Jet Class. Jets are more likely to already come with the systems necessary – which is why they were in use. I have never heard of anyone installing a system for racing.

I also want to say that a G-suit would not have changed things in the Galloping Ghost incident. Rapid onset of high G’s is rarely mitigated by these suits; they are more useful for sustained high G maneuvers.  Looking at the US Military Jet Teams, the Thunderbirds wear them and the Blue Angels do not.  The Angels do not wear the suits because of the potential for unexpected stick inputs when the suit “inflates”. If the pilot is bracing his/her arm on the top of their leg to have more firm stick control (standard) – this inflation could have an effect on the pilots’ ability to safely fly in formation close to other aircraft and close to the ground.

Fuel Truck Operations

Take the following actions to raise the level of safety for spectators and personnel near the race course: (1) relocate the fuel truck away from the ramp area and (2) in front of any area where spectators are present, install barriers more substantial than those currently in place.

This is another one that we have discussed in the past. The Fuel Trucks need to be available for Racers to obtain fuel prior to the races. But, they should probably not be between the Pit Area and the race course. Okay, I agree. However, the convenience factor needs to be considered.

What we’ve heard so far is that the Fuel Trucks will be in position between races and removed during all races. Okay, this could work and would be a happy medium between convenience and safety.


The Future

Mike Houghton said after the Press Conference, "I don't think any of these would have had an impact on the tragedy we experienced, but the association is open to changes that lead to a safer event.”  I agree with Mike and I know they are doing everything they can to keep us all safe and keep us racing.

This is what we know now. Believe me, we are constantly learning more. But, what I want to say now is, buy those tickets – because WE ARE RACING in September. And believe me; it makes me very happy to say that!

See you there!

Marilyn Dash