Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Aerobatic Heli Pilot Chuck Aaron Stunt Flying for “Spectre”

Behind the scenes with Chuck Aaron - ROCKSTAR - flying his Stunt Helicopter in the 007 movie, Spectre! Enjoy! 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Reno Air Races 2015 Recap – Part 3

Sport Class

A cast of thousands brought their brightly colored Sport Class Racers to Stead this year – or so it seemed. There were enough aircraft to produce 4 Races – Gold, Silver, Bronze and Medallion. And each Heat produced great racing – which really helped keep the fans engaged.

Over 40 racers registered, 37 showed up and 36 actually qualified.  Bob Mills had a Mayday during a practice flight in the Thunder Mustang – Clas Thunder – which ended his week early. At least in the Sport Class. But, as he is Sport Class President and was also racing in the Jet Class this year, he was quite busy all week. Go Bob!

Let’s review some of the highlights from the Sport Class week. The fastest RV or Rocket driver was Bill Beaton. A Canadian in his second year at Reno. He gained 10 mph over his Rookie year and flew a great line. He ended up fourth in the Silver. Nicely done, Bill!

One-off designs this year included the NXT Relentless flown by Kevin Eldredge. Not his fastest year, but a beautiful platform. Now they just need to figure out the right power plant and they will be back in the hunt. His top speed this year around 310 mph doesn’t come close to his best year – 2009 – at just over 393 mph.

Klaus Savier brought his Canard Savier EZ back this year - topping out at around 265 mph. It was the only “pusher” in the field and it definitely caught your attention. Klaus uses this aircraft as a test bed for his Light Speed Engineering Company. He has made so many changes to his Long-EZ, his speed has increased from 183 to that 265 mph he saw this year. Bravo, Klaus!

Dave Morss in Bill Hudgens’ Beautiful Doll Credit: Anthony Taylor

And another crowd favorite this year was Beautiful Doll flown by Air Racing veteran, Dave Morss. Doll is a Stewart S-51 using a 454 big block geared down Chevy engine. Approximately 70% all metal replica of the iconic P-51 Mustang.  This one is painted in the same scheme as Big Beautiful Doll.

While she was slow… she was adorable and had an awesome sound. I hope the owner, Bill Hudgens, enjoyed himself enough to bring her back – and maybe even race her himself. Or, let Dave Morss fly her again! Either way – win/win for the fans!

Now for the winner

John Parker WON!

John is a Racer, through and through, with a long history at the Reno Air Races. After being placed on reserve status from the Air Force in 1965, he began helping friends build their F1 racing engines and quickly developed a passion for the sport of Air Racing.

The Winners! John Parker and Blue Thunder II
Credit: Anthony Taylor

 He started American Air Racing in 1967 to further progress that passion.  John is an Aeronautical Engineer, a retired Airline Captain, a test pilot, air race pilot, experimental aircraft builder, A&P and IA.

He won the F1 class in 1977, 1978 and 1980 with his custom built racer, American Air Racing Special. This aircraft currently lives in Oshkosh at the EAA Museum.

In 1988, he became the third person to enter a custom built racer in the Unlimited Class.

In 2007, he saw his beautiful, Blue Thunder, engulfed in flames after a brake fire. This happened only a week or so before the races that year. Most people would have thrown in the towel. But not John. He started building Blue Thunder II immediately.

He is a fixture at Stead Field and hosts the annual Thunder Mustang fly-in at his hangar during race week. On the exterior, you’d think he was a bit of a curmudgeon – but John is a sweetheart. He is always available to help another racer out. Congrats, John!

I should also mention that the racing was unbelievably competitive this year in the Sport Gold. Behind John Parker, there were a host of talented and fast racers taking aim at the prize. Lynn Farnsworth, David Sterling, Gary Mead, Andrew Findley, and Vince Walker were all so competitive. The final sequence was John, Lynn, Andrew and then Gary, Kevin Eldredge (who found power over the week) and Vince taking the top 6 slots with Vicky Benzing and Colleen Keller placing 7th and 8th in a tight race. David Sterling DNF’d the flight – but I’ll bet he’ll be back.

Speaking of fast..

The Jets

The fastest racing aircraft on the field are the Jets. The class still consists of mostly L-39 Albatros, but throw in a few L-29 Delfins, one TS-11 Iskra, a one of a kind L-139 and a super-fast DH-115 Vampire and you have one heck of a group of racers.

Several years ago, the Jets were moved down to the far side of the ramp. At the time, we had limited room on the field and there was room on that side, so it made sense. The class could have taken this as a banishment. But, they didn’t. They ended up relishing in the extra room and really made a fun, competitive environment.

Seriously, if you haven’t been down there, you’re missing heaps of fun. The crews and the pilots all seem to get along great and have more fun than any other class – maybe.

This year, the fun in the pits was matched by the speed on the course. Rick Vandam in American Spirit, Sean Cushing in Fast Company and Pete Zaccagnino in the Vampire traded places at the top of the rankings, with Pete and that wild Vampire taking it all and going over 500 mph in the final race.

Pete is a well-known pilot and TV Star. A member of the Dangerous Flights cast from Discovery Channel, Pete has earned quite a fan club. He has flown over 240 different types of aircraft, and has crossed the North Atlantic over 600 times and the Pacific over 200 times – all in light aircraft. He is definitely hanging with a different crowd, being stopped in his hometown at the Sundance Film Festival for an autograph. 

Joe Gano added a 7th lap to the six lap race. The announcers and fans enjoyed it more than anyone else. They had a bit of fun with it – comments like “not a lot of wake turbulence on this lap” and “plenty of room to pass now” made it so much fun. He’s not the first to add a lap or two – and he likely won’t be the last.

And David “Killer” Culler was named Rookie of the Year. In Jets, the Rookie of the Year is honored with a scepter and a tiara -- and this year a tutu. Don’t ask me. However, “Killer” looked great.

Mark Pracy's crew was given the highly coveted Crew of the Year - which is celebrated with a paddle - as in up the creek without... Great job, you crazy Aussies! 

Close racing and a fun group of people!? What more could you ask for in a Race Class.

Congrats to the entire Jet Class; to Rick Vandam, the new Class President and to Pete for having another great year!

 Pete Zaccagnino in the Vampire
Credit: Anthony Taylor

Other news

The Reno Air Racing Association has had some difficult years, especially since the crash of 2011. The budget cuts this year were not popular with many people. But, they worked. RARA has made a profit for the first time in my memory. What does this mean? For one thing, it means there will be a 2016. 

And, 2016 brings the USN Blue Angels and their crowd pleasing, spectacular flying. This also means the crowds in 2016 will be larger than 2015.

Congrats to everyone at RARA, the internal team, the Board and the Volunteers for doing such a great job. Keeping your eye on the prize and doing what had to be done through much adversary.

Congrats to all the pilots and crews in all six classes. You/We are what people come from all over the world to see. Keep up the great work.

And to the fans, thanks for coming back and spending money and supporting your favorites.

Ruby Calendars

We have another great calendar available for our racing fans. Head on over to the website: to order yours. 

Get one for a favorite pilot, maybe one for the hangar, one for the office. Plenty to go around!

Gone West

Hep Porter was an integral part of the IF1 Class for many years. While he stopped racing a few years back, he was always there to help out the teams and to lend a hand. We lost Hep in November. We are grateful for your friendship and knowledge through the years.

In August, we lost John Parker’s wife, Jan after a long illness. She was a shining light in the American Air Racing hangar with a dazzling smile and a kind word for all who entered. John kept up his stoic exterior during the Races in 2015 – but we all know Jan was watching from the best seat in the house. I’m glad to have known you, Mrs. Parker.

Until next time,

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing
Pylon Place

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

DeLand airport to host air race March 12

The inaugural Sport Pylon Air Races event is set for DeLand Municipal Airport on March 12, the final Saturday of the 75th annual Bike Week motorcycle rally that runs March 4-13.

More than a dozen pilots from throughout the country are expected to compete in the event which will feature races in different categories of light sport planes, including those with single ("monoplane") and double ("biplane") wings.

More information here...

Budgeting, attendance help Air Races to profitable year

The year isn’t over yet and the ledger hasn’t quite closed, but the National Championship Air Races are expecting a profit from the 2015 event in the neighborhood of $100,000.

That’s a pretty respectable neighborhood for the 52-year-old special event that has had its financial woes through the great recession and a devastating crash in 2011 that killed a pilot and 10 people on the ground.

For more information click here... 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Reno Air Races 2015 Recap – Part 2

Last month, we covered the Unlimited Class at the Reno Air Races 2015. While we saw some amazing races in that Class, we saw pretty terrific stuff in ALL the Classes again this year. There are SIX Racing Classes at Reno each year. All of them are filled with dedicated racers who spend every day of the year thinking about and working towards that one week in September. Let’s recap three more of the classes and we’ll finish up next month with the final two. Enjoy!

International Formula 1

IF1 really lived up to the International moniker this year with the Air Race 1 Championship spanning three continents. Tunisia was the first race, with Spain following closely and Reno being their grand finale. With Reno being a separate championship – there were 2 winners.

Thom Richard won the Air Race 1 Series in his new Hot Stuff custom built Formula 1. But this is about Reno, so let’s get back there.

Incredibly Close Racing in IF1 
Credit Anthony Taylor

The IF1 Class was destined to see some amazing racing. There were 16 aircraft in the field – 8 in Silver and 8 in Gold. Depending on your Qualifying Speed, you are placed in Silver or Gold. But in IF1 you are able to “Bump” similar to the way the Unlimiteds do their pairings.

Of the 8 final aircraft in the Gold on Sunday, anyone could have won it all – depending on their start, their flying and some luck. The Race was really between Steve Senegal, Vito Wypraechtiger and Elliot Sequin. Steve and Vito have battled together for years and both have won the Gold in the past. Elliot has made some major upgrades to his Wasabi Special. 

After tossing it back and forth all week, Steve Senegal overcame a low call on Saturday to win the Gold on Sunday – in a nail biter.

Changing Runways – IF1 Wind Walk
Credit: Tim Adams

Great racing – seriously edge of your seat, jumping up and down and yelling at your favorites – type of racing. You need to wake up early and head out to catch the 8am races!


While you are there at 8am, you can also catch my Class – the Biplanes. This year had all the focus on Tom Aberle and his custom built Phantom. Tom set a Qualifying record of 284.454 … in a BIPLANE!  To give you an idea of how fast that is – he’s almost 130 mph faster than the slowest Biplanes – and nearly 50 mph faster than the fastest T6 Qualifier.
Tom also set race record of 264.656 this year during the Saturday Heat Race.
The biggest issue the Biplanes had this year was with the howling winds. Neither the IF1s nor the Biplanes handle these types of winds very well because of our small size and light weight. Two days of Qualifying/Practice were called off for Biplanes due to the ridiculous winds.
The weather is always interesting at Reno. We just learn to live with it.

Caption: World’s Fastest Biplane – Phantom
Credit: Tim Adams


The T-6 Class had some great racing again this year. Nick Macy led the Qualifiers, but was seriously challenged by John Lohmar, Dennis Buehn and Chris Rushing. The first Heat went to Nick. The second to Dennis and the final was all Dennis. This is Dennis’ third year in a row winning the Gold.
The other fun thing the T-6 Class did this year – a new Drag Race. Two Racers line up on the runway, flag drops – they both go for it. One lap and the checkered flag! This has been talked about for a few years – it finally debuted this year and it was a big hit!
And for you Sea Fury fans, Eric Woelbing, the new owner of Miss Merced and Furias, raced his T-6 this year – Bare Essentials. He indicated that Miss Merced would be back at Reno soon. Furias is not flying yet, but let’s keep our fingers crossed – we may see two old favorites back on the ramp in the future.

Great T6 Racing
Credit Tim Adams

Next Month
Next month we’ll recap the Sport Class and the Jet Class. These are the two highest growth classes at Reno.

Until then… Fly Low, Fly Fast and Turn Left!  

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reno Air Races 2015 Recap – Part 1

What a great time! What a crowd! What amazing racing! This was the best year in a long time!

The week started out with great weather but lots of smoke from the many fires in California. When the wind blew in, the smoke blew out – but the winds brought a new set of issues. The wind was so bad on Sunday, several classes had to stand down from their allotted course time because the winds were above their limits – as addressed in the Rules of Competition.

But by Monday, everyone was back on the course and qualifying began in earnest. The Unlimiteds had two sessions for qualifying each day. By the end of Monday, Stevo Hinton had put up a time of 464.246. Not the fastest he’s ever gone, but the fastest of the day.  Each class has their own rule, so in the Unlimiteds you can re-qualify if you want to better your time. Hinton probably thought this would hold, and if not, he could easily go back up by Wednesday to put a better number up.

Credit – Anthony Taylor
The Sun coming up on Strega! This was her year!

Dennis Sanders in Dreadnought put in a 432.860– which was pretty good for the 4360 powered Sea Fury. And Hoot Gibson went up in Strega to put down a pretty disappointing 430.052. Not what Tiger and the Strega Crew had in mind, I’ll bet.

Tuesday comes around, still cold and windy – but workable. Curt Brown goes up in Sawbones and gets a 417.949 and Stewart Dawson in Rare Bear goes up for two laps – getting a Disqualification on his first lap and getting a 480.644 on his second lap. Nail bite time. Stewart is now on the pole – with only one day left to qualify.

Wednesday’s qualifying session had all three of the “fast guys” in the air, Rare Bear with Stewart, Voodoo with Hinton and Strega with Hoot. Hoot drops down to the course and puts a nice 475.043 on the board. Voodoo and Rare Bear stay in the Hold and taunt each other … never actually going onto the course. Prevailing wisdom says they were both waiting for the other to react to Strega’s time. But there were no takers.

Credit: Anthony Taylor
The Rare Bear is BACK!

So, by the end of qualifying, we have 5 aircraft over 400 mph and a wonderful array of warbirds in the 300 mph range. This includes Dan Vance in Speedball Alice and Rob Gordon in Lady Jo – two aircraft missing for the last few years. Glad you guys are back! Also 2 Rookies – Dusty Dowd in Layla, his Yak-11 and Sal Rubino in his polished P-51D, Grim Reaper. Dan Martin shared the flying duties with Sal – but it was Sal’s week.

The weather changed for Thursday.  It was finally the warm weather we are more accustomed to during the September event. Thankfully, we put away our mittens and snow boots and were back in our Valley of Speed T-shirts.

The Unlimited Rules enable the three fastest qualifiers to stand down on Thursday and gives them time to relax, or thrash – depending on the year. Thursday’s Gold Race had Dennis Sanders in Dreadnought flying over 100 mph faster than Dan Vance in Speedball Alice.  Dan released a video showing Dennis zooming by which really shows two things, the focus of the pilot, in this case Dan Vance, while he is getting passed. And the closure rate of two disparate aircraft on the course.

The Race on Thursday had one other element I haven’t seen – probably ever. Dennis Sanders cut a pylon. No kidding!

Credit: Anthony Taylor
Not her best year, but Voodoo is always strong!

So Friday comes along and the Big Three are together again. This race has Rare Bear on the pole with Hoot in the second spot and Stevo in third – based on Qualifying. Dennis and Curt Brown round out the 5 ship formation based on their Heat 1A on Thursday.

With much jostling in the race, they end as they started – giving even more excitement for Saturday. They all seemed healthy and all of the pilots flew their hearts out. And the fans were thrilled!
Saturday’s race started as Friday’s did – Stewart, Hoot, Stevo, Dennis and Curt in the top 5 with Brian Sanders in Argonaut bumping from Silver to Gold based on his win in Heat 2B. And Saturday’s race was GREAT!

Hoot took the lead and kept in – averaging 484.793 through the race. Voodoo was behind him at 475.482 and Stewart was on his tail at 474.760. The top three within just over 10 mph – epic race!

After the race, Strega had some issues with a cracked exhaust stack. But, with all the talent on the field, that was easily fixed. And they were ready to roll again on Sunday.

Credit: Tim Adams
Strega’s Cracked Exhaust Stack after Saturday’s Race

Sunday arrives and the weather is perfect. The crowd is the largest we’ve seen in years. And we are all ready for the final Unlimited Showdown of 2015. Will it be Hoot, Stewart, Stevo – or will all three push each other too hard and set up Dreadnought for the win. Wagers were happening in the Pits and the Boxes. Fans were taking sides and everyone was in a great mood. It all comes down to this – the next 10 minutes tells who the victor will be – and who will be the first loser.

They all line up in front of the crowd, Hoot, Stevo, Stewart, Dennis, Curt, and Mark Watt this time in Argo and finally Korey Wells bumped up from Silver in 924. Trivia time – four different engines in four different Sea Furys. You don’t see that every day! But – I digress.

The come down the Chute, Gentlemen, you have a Race… Stewart briefly took the lead, then Hoot takes his lead back and never let’s go. Voodoo and the Bear go back and forth until the 6th lap when Stevo calls a Mayday. It seems Voodoo had oil coming out of the breather. The oil was showing has light grey smoke and Voodoo was out. Stevo made a beautiful landing and the race for the Gold continued.

There were no losers this day in the Breitling Gold Race. Hoot Gibson fulfilled his dream of winning the Gold Unlimited Race. He had some troubles on the course earlier in the week – but got it all together at the end. Who ever thought an Astronaut, a Farmer and a Witch could make such beautiful music together. Congrats to the entire Strega Crew!

Credit: Tim Adams
An Astronaut, a Farmer and a Witch walk into a bar…

Rare Bear was not a loser on this day. They regained their reputation as a FAST airplane. After being plagued by gremlins for years, Bear finally looked like her old self again. Congrats to Stewart and the entire Ezell and Rare Bear Crews for putting those awful gremlins behind you and giving us a great race.

Voodoo was not a loser on this day. The crew performed seamlessly. The Racer was ready – but one small issue kept them from reaching their goal. They’ll be back – and they won’t ever have that problem again.

To the rest of the Unlimited Pilots, Crew and Owners: THANK YOU! Thank you for putting so much of your lives into a one week a year event. Thank you for the time, the energy, the ingenuity, and the countless dollars you put into this amazing sport.

And to RARA: THANK YOU for never giving up. This was a great year and the new regime did an outstanding job. There were issues and minor problems all week, but you were receptive to hearing what people had to say and you made the best effort to take care of things. BRAVO! 

And to the FANS! THANK YOU for coming back! The stands were packed and the Pits were crazy with activity. So nice to see you back in your seats again!

Next month, I’ll cover the other classes and share more about the event and the plans for the future.
What a great year!

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

Monday, September 14, 2015

Biplane Record Broken at 52nd Annual National Championship Air Races

Reno, Nev. – The 52nd Annual National Championship Air Races is the world’s premier air racing event, and a new record was set today, Monday, September 14.
Pilot, Tom Aberle, set a new speed record in the Biplane class in Phantom, a Modified Mong Sport, with a speed of 284.454.
Tickets for the show are still available by phone at 775-972-6663 or online at For more information on the National Championship Air Races, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
# # #
About the National Championship Air Races:
Held every September just north of Reno, the National Championship Air Races have become an institution for northern Nevada and aviation enthusiasts from around the world. Last year’s event attracted more than 150,000 spectators and generated more than $66 million for the region’s economy. The event features six racing classes, a large display of static aircraft and several military and civil flight demonstrations. For more information on the National Championship Air Races, to obtain media credentials, volunteer or purchase tickets for this year’s event, visit

Monday, August 31, 2015

2015 Reno Air Races – Let's do it again!


As we go to press, we have 15 Unlimited Racers on the list – that is one more than we had last year.

Who is missing? Well, 232 is still sitting at Stead with a bad engine. As we all remember last year, Hoot Gibson showed off his deadstick skills one more time to bring 232 down safely before he even had a chance to qualify. I was so excited to see Hoot in 232 – I expected great things -- never happened.

Now, 232 is for sale. People have kicked the tires with their checkbook in hand, but nothing has been finalized. I look forward to seeing 232 with another owner/pilot combo next year. But for now – she sits.

Credit Tim Adams

Jim Tobul in Korean War Hero is not on the list this year. He has said that an Airshow commitment took him off the roster, but he has been talking about coming back in 2016. Let me say, Jim was a wonderful addition to the group and I certainly hope we have not seen the last of this great pilot and team.

Czech Mate is also MIA this year. Rumors abound – but I don’t like rumors. So let’s stay with the facts. Czech won’t be there. Sherman Smoot is the new President of the Unlimited Class – so he’ll be there. If he is interested in sharing why they are taking the year off, I’ll share. Otherwise, let’s hope they are back in 2016.

Who is back!? Dan Martin is back! Lots of Dan Fans out there who still remember his amazing races with Dago Red and Ridge Runner III. Dan sold RRIII and is returning with Sal Rubino’s Grim Reaper. Grim is a beautiful polished P-51. Not sure how fast she’ll be, but she sure is pretty. Sal went through PRS and is listed as the Primary Pilot – but I bet Dan will get a moment in the sun also. Sal will be there and is listed as the Primary. We know we'll get to see him in the air. 

Speaking of Dans.. Dan Vance is also back in Speedball Alice. Dan has been a fixture on the ramp at Reno and does double duty as the Safety Pilot during Practice and Qualifying.  We are happy to see him back for the whole week.

And Daryl Bond’s Lady Jo is back on the roster also with Rob Gordon flying her again. It’s very exciting to have the Santa Rosa crowd back on the ramp.

Voodoo ADT
Credit Anthony Taylor

One more new Racer/Pilot Combo is Dusty Dowd in his Yak 11, Lylia. Dusty bought her from Bill Shepherd, who will be his alternate pilot. It is very exciting to have a whole new team join us in September. My only concern – with a top speed listed as 286mph – will she make the 300 mph cut? 
Let’s see what happens.

The fast guys are back – except Czech – and that is a good thing. The Gold will probably include Voodoo with Steven Hinton piloting. He’s earned that seat by working on Voodoo nearly full time during the off season.

Also destined for Gold will be Hoot Gibson in Strega. Yes, these rumors are true. Let’s see what Hoot can do now that he finally has a full functioning champ to fly.

And Rare Bear’s team has been very quiet and busy this year. Stewart Dawson has been very serious during the off-season and I believe we may see a very positive showing from our Texas Team.

Rare Bear
Credit Ken Linde

Thom Richard will be racing in two classes this year; Formula 1 with Hot Stuff and Unlimited with Precious Metal. What changes has his team made this year? Very little specifics are out there about what has been done, but time will tell. 

The Sanders are bringing all three of their Sea Furys again this year. Dreadnaught – always a Gold Contender will have Dennis as the Primary and Brian as the Alternate. They will also have Argonaut with Mark Watt returning as Primary and 924 with Korey Wells. Brian and Dennis are Alternates on Argo and 924. What we do is look at the helmet colors to figure out who is flying!

Best guess has Curt Brown in Sawbones – another 3350 powered Sea Fury – rounding out the Gold contenders. I remember when the Sawbones team first showed up – they are now veterans and are really enjoying their rise to fame.

This is going to be a great year!

Sport Class

At last count, 41 racers are on the list for Sport Class! Last year we had 34 – and that was a LOT! 

There are plenty of fast ones – including the Thunder Mustangs – being raced by John Parker in Blue Thunder and Class President Bob Mills in Clas Thunder. Dave Morss will be racing a gorgeous Stewart S-51D – named, “Big Beautiful Doll” after the unbelievable P-51D that was lost when the pilot jumped during an airshow at Duxford a few years ago. I have no idea how fast Dave's S-51D will be – but she is adorable!

Only one NXT on the roster – Kevin Eldredge -  but 10 Lancair Legacys. WOW! Time will tell how fast they are. There are a smattering of other aircraft, including Glasairs and Lansairs 360s and every flavor of RV with two EZs.

One name that is missing is Jeff LaVelle – the winner for the last few years. Jeff has raced since 2007 and is taking the year off to deal with some personal issues. We hope to see him back when he’s ready. A great guy with a ton of talent. He'll be missed. 

But, his absence allows someone else to win the Gold. Who will it be? Kevin Eldredge? John Parker? Bob Mills? Lynn Farnsworth? Gary Mead? Or maybe Dave Morss? Let’s see what happens.   


We have 17 jets on the list – Joe Gano is back – and so is Larry Lee. Many will remember Joe owned the black L-29 called Viper. He shared the racing duties with Curt Brown until the oversized engines were outlawed. He’s back in a white and red L-29 named Sluggo, sharing the racing with Jon Socolof.  

And many will remember Larry Lee from the PRS incident where he collided with another L-39 and beyond all reason and logic, was able to land safely. Well, he’s back!

The fans love to see new aircraft on the field and this year we have a few. Pete Zaccagnino, who won in the past, is bringing a Vampire. And Vicky Benzing is bringing the world’s only L-139.  The big difference between an L-39 and an L-139 is the engine. I’ll let you head down to the Jet Pit to learn more about this one and only machine and their unique pilot. 


Biplanes have 14 Racers including three Rookies! Carl Robinson, Richard Anderson and Anthony Oshinuga will be joining us for the first time in September.

Returning Champion, Jake Stewart will be there to go head to head against Tom Aberle in Phantom. I’ll probably have a great seat in the back of the Gold to watch the action and to stay out of the way when they pass me.

Credit Ken Linde

Formula 1

There are 17 F1’s on the list currently, including several of the guys who flew during the Air Race 1 Series in Tunisia and Spain earlier this year. The final leg in the Air Race 1 Tour will be at Reno. Thom Richard won the last two races, and the real action will be between him and Steve Senegal. 

Maybe Vito Wypaechtiger may be there to throw a monkey wrench in their plans – or will it be Justin Phillipson in his new Racer.

Again, wake up early and watch the fun when the Biplanes and the Formula 1s take the course! You won't regret it! 


Will it be between Dennis Buehn and John Lohmar again this year?  Or will Nick Macy and Six Cat be back in fighting form and take the win? Or will Chris Rushing or Gene McNeely – or maybe one of the new racers, take the lead?

There is a lot of talent in the T6 Class and anyone could be the winner this year. Let’s see what happens.

Final Lap

This is another pivotal year for the National Championship Air Races. The new President has been baptized by fire – with everyone wanting to be heard. We know that we all need to work together if this is going to continue to happen.

So, fans – please do your part. Support your favorite teams by buying T-shirts and other swag. Support the Races by buying a ticket and being there to cheer us on every day.

Spread the word – bring a friend – introduce someone to the races by sharing this column or a video or a few pictures from the past years. We need you there!

I’ll be there. The whole Ruby Crew will be together again – racing and spectating and having a blast! 

This is my favorite week of the year – I bet it’s yours too!

Until we see you at Stead – remember to fly low, fly fast and turn left!

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing
The Pylon Place

Thursday, August 6, 2015

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Man Who Has Flown Everything – finally gets his chance in Strega.

Robert Lee Gibson, better known to Air Racing Fans as “Hoot” is one of the most highly decorated racers around. Will he finally get the chance to be a National Champion?

Hoot was born in Upstate New York, yet considers a town outside of LA to be his “hometown”. He, like so many others, soloed at 16 and earned his pilot's’ license at 17. He always knew he wanted to be a pilot – even at the age of 10 when his dad turned the Bonanza yoke over to his side and let him perform his first take off.  Both of his parents were pilots – and his dad was an Aeronautical Engineer. Flying and Aeronautics were a family tradition in the Gibson household.

He then entered the US Navy and was selected for pilot training in 1969. Between April 1972 and September 1975, Hoot served on the USS Coral Sea and the USS Enterprise flying combat missions over Southeast Asia. He had two tours in the F-4 and his final tour in the F-14.

In 1974 he saw a sketch of the new Space Shuttle. He decided then and there that he wanted to fly that Shuttle. Prior to that, Astronauts really didn't fly – they had capsules, not aircraft. But when he saw that sketch, he knew that’s where he wanted to be and to get there, he needed to be a Test Pilot first.

He is a graduate of the US Naval Fighter Weapons School, better known as “Top Gun”. Following service in South East Asia, Hoot returned stateside and was selected as an instructor in the then new F-14A. In June 1977, Hoot graduated from the US Navy Test Pilot School.

Following his dream, he was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in January, 1978. He met his future bride because of NASA – she was also in the class of 1978. So, he joined NASA to meet women?

While at NASA, Hoot flew 5 times in various Space Shuttles for a total of 36.5 days in space. His first flight was as Pilot of Challenger on STS-41B in February 1984, which is best known for the first test flight of the Manned Maneuvering Unit, the self-contained backpack that allowed Astronauts to fly untethered outside the Shuttle.

His second flight and first as Space Shuttle Commander, was STS-61C in January of 1986, the last successful flight before the Challenger was lost in an accident. After the Challenger accident Hoot worked on the accident investigation team and worked on the redesign and recertification of the solid rocket boosters.

Hoot greeting his friends from MIR
Credit: Hoot’s private collection
Hoot’s ride from 2011 to 2014
Credit: Anthony Taylor WarbirdFotos
Hoot’s Ride for 2015 – Go Hoot
Credit: Anthony Taylor WarbirdFotos

Following the Shuttle’s return to flight Hoot was selected to Command STS-27 the second Shuttle Flight after Challenger, which he did in December 1988. The details of this mission, flown in Space Shuttle Atlantis, were classified by the Department of Defense. The mission was so secret at the time that after the flight the crew received special medals from the CIA but were not allowed to take them home.

In September 1992, Hoot flew Endeavor on mission STS-47, which carried the Spacelab laboratory. This mission was a cooperative venture between the US and Japan and included the first Japanese Astronaut.

Hoot’s 5th and final NASA space flight came in June and July 1995 when he commanded, Atlantis on STS-71. This was the first mission to dock with the Space Station MIR. Hoot, a guitar enthusiast and collector, actually brought guitar strings with him to MIR as a gift to the Russian Cosmonauts. Apparently they had a guitar on MIR – with no strings.  It could be said that his guitar strings melted the Iron Curtain.

Once his NASA flying career was over, he served as Chief of the Astronaut Office and as Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations until leaving NASA in November 1996 to fly a more regular schedule with Southwest Airlines. 

Hoot has flown well over 100 different types of aircraft. This includes everything from single engine piston aircraft like his personally owned Cassutt and a J3 Cub to Helicopters and to several Gliders – known to some as Space Shuttles.

Unlimited Air Racing

In 1998 he started racing Riff Raff at the Reno Air Races. Riff Raff is a Hawker Sea Fury owned at the time by Mike Keenum.  Mike sold Riff after several years campaigning her with Hoot or himself at the stick. In 2012 he was asked to take over as pilot for 232, another Hawker Sea Fury. This one owned by Rod Lewis.

Unfortunately, the fact that 232 had won at the Air Races in the past – didn't count for much. The closest he came to the winner circle was in 2012 with a 2nd place finish. The last 2 years made him an expert on deadstick landings instead of a National Champion.


Tiger knew that 2014 was his last year -- his final retirement. He also knew that he needed a "ROCKSTAR" in the cockpit. And he found one in Hoot. (I did mention that Hoot plays guitar - right?) 

Tiger made the announcement in March at the National Air Racing Group Annual Dinner Meeting. Many raised an eyebrow – but not me. I immediately called Hoot to confirm – and he said YES! I could not be happier for Tiger, Hoot and for Strega.


So now it is “The Kid” – Stevo Hinton in Voodoo and “The Astronaut” – Hoot Gibson in Strega. Both are amazingly skilled pilots. Both are crowd favorites and both are hungry for a win. 

Let’s see how this goes. Pass the popcorn – see you at Reno!

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing
Pylon Place

Hoot's List of Awards and Honors
  • Awarded the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) "Louis Blériot Medal" (1991 and 2004)
  • Awarded the "Yuri A. Gagarin Gold Medal" by the FAI
  • Awarded the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) "Freedom of Flight" Award (1989)
  • U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame (2003)
  • National Aviation Hall of Fame (2012) 
  • Established FAI world records for "Altitude in Horizontal Flight," Airplane Class C1A in 1991, "Time to Climb to 9000 Meters" in 1994 and "Speed over a closed course" in 2004.
  • Awarded the William F. Shea award for contribution to aviation from the University of Nebraska-Omaha Aviation Institute (2012)
  • U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame (2012)

Military awards include the:
  • Defense Superior Service Medal
  • Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Air Medal
  • Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V"
  • Navy Unit Commendation
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation
  • National Defense Service Medal (2)
  • Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
  • Humanitarian Service Medal
  • Vietnam Service Medal
  • Vietnam Campaign Medal