Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Teamwork - Bill Kerchenfaut - RIP

“Individually we are all very good, but collectively – we can be magic.”

“That’s one thing you learn when you race at Reno. There’s all these airplanes, the noise, the action… But, then you meet the people and get to know them. It becomes a family. Pretty soon you realize it’s really about them. “– William “Bill” Kerchenfaut

One of my favorite people in the world left us this November.  William Evan Kerchenfaut, “Kerch” to his friends, was so much more than a “guy with a screwdriver” he was an amazing mentor, a kind soul, and a winner.

For many of his closest friends, we were all treated to these late evening phone calls that came to be known as “Kerch-a-thons”. He would always start with “Am I interrupting anything?” almost apologizing for calling. I was always happy to hear from him and sat in a comfy chair, poured myself a glass of Merlot and prepared to get today’s life lesson.  

Many of you know him, know of him, know his legacy – but let me tell you a little bit about the Bill you didn’t know.

Bill grew up on a farm in Illinois. His dad owned a J3 Cub and he learned to fly back then – seems that was how it was done back then. No radios, no towers, no FAA – just jump in the Cub and go. He learned about hard work, how to fix machines and how to constantly search for more knowledge. 

He enlisted in the Air Force but wasn’t able to get a coveted flying spot. He ended up in the next best thing, Aviation Maintenance.  Here he excelled.

Later he came to Air Racing. Kerch was always part of winning teams, including Conquest, Dago Red, Strega, 232, and Voodoo. It wasn’t a coincidence – he was a big part of those winning programs. 

Winning was in his blood.

Working with great individuals including Darryl Greenamyer, John Crocker, Tiger Destefani, Mike Brown, Bob Button, Stevo Hinton, Skip Holm, and Bruce Lockwood, he was exposed to some of the finest.

When he started working with Darryl, he had never seen a Bearcat before.  But, he was a quick learner and was later known to say, “If you want to really go fast, get a Mustang”.  So much for the Bearcat, I guess.

He was known to say, “You need three things to win Reno, good airplane, good pilot, and good crew”. All of those things need to work together, all of them are important.

I wanted to share this with you, something that was shared with all of us at his Memorial. And if you ever had the pleasure of sitting with him for a while, you heard many of these. As you start the New Year, please keep these Kerchisms in mind.

Have a wonderful 2017. 


by Bill Kerchenfaut

We are all in this together

We must trust each other.
We must help each other.
We must RESPECT each other as human beings.
We must accept our own strengths and weakness and those of others.
We don’t have to get along all of the time, BUT we don’t have to be mean.
Everyone has feelings – respect them.
The job is easier if we cooperate.
In doing a job or solving a problem the TRUTH is what matters.
BLAME will not solve a problem nor get the job done.
Making someone look bad will not make YOU look good.
Everyone is different and unique – enjoy the difference – don’t judge.
I Don’t Know is an acceptable answer.
If there is a problem, try to come up with a suggestion or a solution.
Perception is not reality – TRUTH is REALITY.
Realize that people are dynamic – they are in constant change.
It is OK to change your mind based on new information.
Ask for help -- Offer to help.
Praise each other for a good job and for hard work.


Photo Credits: 
Anthony Taylor

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

International Formula 1 – 2016 Recap

The IF1 Class always has exciting racing and this year was amazing! Most racers in other classes arrive in their best racing configuration or have a few tweaks to make during the week. But, in IF1 – they are constantly adjusting and testing and tweaking and wrenching and more then more testing. 

Anyone who walks around their side of the Biplane / IF1 Hangar will notice more cowls off than on.
You would also notice a family atmosphere and camaraderie like no other. With Kelly Goforth feeding the teams and everyone pitching in to help each other, it’s just one big, happy family.

This big, happy family is also befitting of their International moniker.  With competitors this year from the USA, Canada, Austria, Scotland, and the UK – plus crew members from Australia and Spain– they really are International!


Lowell Slatter started racing in IF1 in 2013 with his airplane Fraed Naught.  His first year, he qualified at 233mph. In 2014 he was unable to race her himself because of work constraints – and asked Justin Phillipson to fill in for him. Justin, a highly respected racer and pilot, qualified her at ... (Drum roll please) 233mph - again.

And now Lowell is back. This year he qualified at … 253mph. That is a full 20mph faster she was able to go in recent years. What changed? No one is talking – but we are very curious! Care to share, Lowell?

Lowell unseated the previous champion, Steven Senegal in Endeavor. He also went faster than anyone expected – even faster in the Gold Race on Sunday – at 256. Vito Wypraechtiger of Austria/Switzerland - placed 2nd in Scarlet Screamer. He was the Gold Winner in 2013 in the same plane.

Justin Phillipson placed third in the second year for his ShoeString Racer, No Strings Attached. . This is Justin’s fifth year – having flown Outrageous for 2 years, Fraed Naught for one and now No Strings Attached for two more years. Looks like he really is getting the hang of it and that trophy will look great among the others.

James Jordan cut a pylon and ended up in fourth – after some amazing racing during the week. Phil Goforth placed fifth – flying multiple airplanes in Gold, Silver and Bronze – more on that later. Madness, flown by Steve Temple ended 6th.

Goforth is also on the Pilot Committee – charged with getting more pilots and airplanes to Reno. He did a fantastic job on this as well. The #s grew from 13 in 2014 to 16 in 2015 to 23 in 2016! And it seems everyone I spoke with was looking for a competitive IF1 airplane to get in on the fun!

The Silver Race was won by Des Hart from Scotland. He flew Chaos Theory (previously known as Sly Dog). Des was a Reno Rookie this year, but did take part in International races through Air Race 1. I believe Des enjoyed his debut at Reno!

To clarify, IF1 does a race progression – so if you start in the Bronze and win – you can move up to the Silver and bump someone back to Bronze – the same with Silver and Gold. Each heat race result sets the grid for the next race. This way, as teams work their magic through the week, they are rewarded with a better grid spot. This explains why racers move back and forth all week, but the final standings are what we will be reporting here.

It also explains why it’s difficult to race more than one airplane in this class – hopping between Gold Silver and Bronze.  For example, Goforth raced in all three heat levels, Gold, Silver and Bronze and in three different planes, Knotty Girl, Sonic Zoom and El Bandito. He actually won the Bronze Race in El Bandito.

El Bandito

Longtime fans of IF1 will remember George and Bobby Budde form Oklahoma. George raced several different airplanes over the years, including Okie Twister, Stroker and Streaker . Bobby was a one airplane man, and that airplane was El Bandito.  

El Bandito started racing at Reno in 1968. She has a vintage look and historic appeal. That appeal is what drove Goforth to chase the airplane down over the years. He got in touch with the Budde brothers to find out what the status of Bandito was – and found out she was in a trailer in Oklahoma. 

The next thing you know, Phil is headed to OK.

While Phil and his team worked to get her going again – she last raced in 2000 – the excitement within the Class and the Budde Family continued to grow. There was a For Sale sign on her, but after the amazing showing of winning the Bronze – Bob Budde’s grandson decided it had to stay in the family and bought her. I love a good history lesson with a happy ending.

In 1996, this was said that about the Budde Brothers -- “No other two people in the sport’s history have introduced as many new pilots to air racing, nor used their own time and treasure to check out so many in Formula One aircraft, nor helped so many get seats or acquire planes in which to complete.” …  I believe Phil is cut from the same cloth. Well done.

Goforth in the Bronze Winner - El Bandito
Tim Adams Photography

Slab Wing Contest

As we mentioned in the September column – the Dash for Cash contest provided $1000 prize to the fastest Slab Wing Cassutt – that was won by Paul Newman (not that one) in Fast & Easy. Congrats, Paul!!

Rookie of the Year

With so many Rookies in IF1 this year, the decision was not an easy one. But, our friend, Justin Meaders (who we wrote in the August column) was the winner. Congrats, Justin!

Justin Meaders - Rookie of the Year
Anthony Taylor – 

Take-off Incident

As you probably heard – there was an incident on take-off during the Gold Final on Sunday. Two racers collided during the start. To explain, the IF1 Class (and Biplanes) does a ground start for the race. We call it a horse-race start. In IF1, all of the racers are staged in a grid (3 front row, 2 second row and 3 back row) on the runway and when the flag drops, all of them take off at the same time (slightly different from Biplanes).

Racers are given a countdown – starting at 10 minutes – when you have time to start your engines and get them warmed up, do a mag check – whatever you need to do to prepare for your takeoff. At 2 minutes the runways are cleared and at one minute the focus goes from a line flag man to a single Starter. It is a highly charged 10 minutes.

I believe because of the Incident, there may be a review of the way we do our take-offs. I’m just happy the pilots are all okay. Airplanes can be repaired or replaced. I’ll keep an eye on the discussion and will report back if/when things change.

Classic IF1 Takeoff
David Atkinson - Aviation Images Unlimited

Thailand and Air Race 1

Several of the airplanes are now headed to Thailand to perform a Race for the King of Thailand – no kidding.  Goforth, Justin Phillipson, Justin Meaders, Steve Temple and Des Hart are scheduled to be the Racers.

Looks like Air Race 1 is heating up again and the boys will be circling the globe in their sweet, little racers. 2017 will bring them to Spain, Puerto Rico, Thailand and Reno. Good luck – and have fun!  

Final Thoughts
We will continue to run through the races each month and give a close up view and recap- stayed tuned for the Best of the Rest.

Until then…

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing
Pylon Place

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Voodoo and Stevo Hinton do it again!

Back in 2008, Rookie Race Pilot, Steven Hinton was able to get a few laps in, first in Lady Jo and later that week in Sparky. He finished as high as 2nd in the Bronze and was probably the happiest guy on the ramp.

Stevo flying a perfect line
Anthony Taylor of

Who would have guessed that same young man would be a seven time Unlimited Champion – 4 in Strega and now 3 in Voodoo? All I know is – I’ve had a front row seat to his incredible journey. I could not be happier for him, his entire family and the Button Family and the entire Voodoo Crew! 

Qualifying at 475.027, some expected them to go for the Qualifying Record of just under 500 mph – but there was no one in his rear view mirror – so why push it. As we say in racing – “2nd place sets the pace”.

Speaking of 2nd place -- Jay Consalvi flew Czech Mate, the highly modified Yak-11 to a 444 qualifying lap and a well flown 2nd place finish. A pretty impressive showing for a Rookie! But, Jay is only a Rookie at Reno. With quite an impressive pedigree, we are happy to have Jay join our little family of racers! 

Jay Consalvi, Reno Rookie all around amazing pilot in Czech Mate
Anthony Taylor of

Brian Sanders flew Dreadnought to a 440 qualifying time and a safe 3rd place finish. Curt Brown in Sawbones was 4th. Joel Swager – another Rookie – came in 5th in Argonaut just ahead of his father-in-law, Dennis Sanders in 924.

Rookie Joel Swager flying Argonaut to a respectable 5th place finish
Anthony Taylor of

Dusty Dowd took the Silver in Lylia, another Yak-11. Dusty comes to us from Syracuse, KS and is – a Crop Duster. We’re hoping the bugs stay away each September so he can continue to grace us with his flying.

A real surprise was Mrs. Virginia; the Allison powered P-51A owned by the Planes of Fame Museum. John Maloney flew her to some pretty impressive speeds – good enough to beat out several of the Merlin Powered P-51Ds.

Those P-51Ds included Wee Willy flown by Rob Patterson, The Rebel flown by John Currenti and Doug Matthews and Sparky/Blondie flown by Brant Seghetti.

This year’s event was another series of ups and downs. Over the next few columns we will dissect each Race Class in detail – but until then – here are your winners this year.

Congrats to all the teams and to RARA for running another spectacular event.

  • Jet ClassAmerican Spirit, L-39 Albatros, Pilot Rick Vandam
  • Sport Class, Race 39, Glasair III, Pilot Jeff LaVelle
  • T-6 Class, Baron’s Revenge, AT-6B, Pilot Chris Rushing – First time winner
  • IF1 Class, Fraed Naught, Gilbert DG2, Pilot Lowell Slatter – First time winner
  • Biplane Class, Reno Rabbit, Mong Sport, Pilot Jeff Rose – First time winner

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Getting Ready for the Races 2016

It’s that time of year again – everyone is getting ready for another exciting Reno Air Race week. There is a lot of new happenings, some returning racers who were missed and other news to share. So let’s get started.

Sport Class

As we have said in the past, the Sport Class is the place to be. The Class is coming off an amazingly successful PRS week with 54 pilots and instructors, 48 planes flying a total of 500 sorties between the FAST Formation event and PRS. That was 8 days of flying – and makes herding cats look easy.

They originally had 49 entries and are expecting a group of 44. This will allow them Gold, Silver, Bronze and Medallion Races. The guess is you’d have to be over 400mph to win the gold. Over 300 to win the Silver and 270 would be a good time in Bronze and the Medallion race will be faster than anything in the past as well.

The Gold group will see John Parker attempting to repeat in his beautiful Thunder Mustang, Blue Thunder II. Jeff Lavelle is back with the world’s fastest Glasair and we know he’s ready. Dave Sterling, Andrew Findlay and Lynn Farnsworth are all in the hunt for the crown. Gary Mead and Vince Walker may be there as well – and who knows what Kevin Eldredge in Relentless has up his sleeve.  

Jeff Lavell is BACK! And he’s FAST! Credit: Rob “Phred” Miller

Two fan favorites should be back this year, Elliot Seguin is signed up to bring back Darryl Greenamyer’s old ride, #33 with the help of Andy Chiavetta. And Colleen Keller is slated to bring back Dennis Stutes old Super Legacy. This will be a very exciting group to watch.

The other big news in the Sport Class is the inaugural Slalom or Match Race. The concept will be one on one competition between two Sport aircraft. Both aircraft will be on the course doing a side by side slalom race. They will utilize the Formula/Biplane course.  They practiced and trained for it during PRS and it looked pretty fun! Currently they are looking for a bracket of 8 pilots with single elimination. I’m pretty excited about seeing this and also interested in the crowd’s interest in events like this for the future.
And Race 33 should be there 
Credit: Tim Adams


The Jet Class is also a growing group and they seem to be working on a very competitive event this year. Rick Vandam in American Spirit will be taking on last year’s winner Pete Zaccagnino in his Vampire. Sean Cushing in Fast Company will also make it interesting. Zach McNeill is also bringing a Vampire. This all sounds good to me. The Jets will again offer close racing and a lot of fun!

Formula 1

This Class has been reinvigorated over the last few years. With years of pilot and aircraft decline – we were concerned about the future of the F1 Class -- but, not anymore! This year, they have a full field of 24 racers. To put it in perspective, the last time they had a full field of 24 was in 2002. The record was 29 in 1991. 

Three things have happened to bring life back to the Class.
  • Air Race 1 – while they did not have any contests this year, the excitement of a World Wide Air Race for Formula 1 sent several people scrambling to dig through the barn and get their airplanes flying again.    
  • GripLockTies and Creighton King put together the Slab Wing Dash for Cash. $1000 Cash Money (as Creighton likes to say) will go to the fastest Slab Wing Cassutt (or other Slab Wing racer) He is putting up the money for Fastest Speed (determined by Qualifying time and Race Speed – there is a formula, of course.)  I think it’s a great idea – money talks, as we know! 
  • And the final element is a sense of camaraderie this group has developed. Between Justin Phillipson and his West Coast operation and Phil Goforth and his Midland, TX based Fly Boyz Race Camp and the IF1 Doctor, Steve Tumlin – there is just renewed interest and support for those just starting out in IF1 Air Racing.

Grip Lock Ties is sponsoring the Slab Wing Dash for Cash
Credit: Tim Adams

This Class will be very exciting to watch this year. And – all you need to do is wake up early enough to be there at the start. You shouldn’t miss it!


Biplanes are having an interesting time this year also. With Tom Aberle announcing that he and Phantom are taking the year off – there is an open spot at the top. I know several of the Gold Racers have been putting in the extra effort to get the win. Jeff Rose is probably the favorite in his bright yellow Mong, Reno Rabbit. Of all the racers on the roster this year, he has the fastest time in the past. But – that doesn’t account for what others have done in the off-season. The Gold should be very exciting this year. And a New Champion will be crowned!


It seems the T6 Class has the same three guys at the top each year. Nick Macy in his gorgeous Six Cat, John Lohmar in his Radial Velocity and Dennis Buehne in Midnight Miss III. Last year had Chris Rushing coming out of the Silver to give Dennis a run for his money at the end – but Dennis still won.

This year, I have an idea things may be a bit different. See, Eric Woelbing is not bringing his Bare Essentials this year. Nope, he’s bringing Eddie Von Fossen’s old Miss TNT. I have a feeling he will be in the mix for the Gold! T6 Racing is always close – and always fun to watch.


The Unlimited Class is having a difficult year. It seems Rare Bear decided to take a year off at the same time that Strega decided to take the year off. That brings a completely new view at the top of the leaderboard.

Jay Consalvi was to fly Strega this year, but he will be flying Czech Mate instead. So, I have a feeling most of the Strega fans will be pulling for the little Yak this year.

Shafter Power
Czech Mate will be taking Strega’s place this year
Credit Rob “Phred” Miller

Voodoo with Stevo Hinton will be there trying to win back the title. They have been making subtle changes and testing during the off-season. I know they will be ready to go.
And there is always everyone’s favorite Sunday Ride – Dreadnaught. Dread has won before and if anyone else has a hiccup, this could be the Sanders’ year. They are always poised and ready to rock and roll.

The rest of the roster is light – yes, we know. But we need to support the races during the lean years, so there will be better years. Just be there! Wear your favorite team’s colors and let them know you are still cheering them on!

The Show

THE BLUE ANGELS WILL BE THERE! They put on a heck of a display and I cannot wait to see them back at Reno. We’ll see you there – September 14-18! But, if you’re a REAL FAN – you’ll be there by the 11th to watch all the Qualifying Action!

Fly Low, Fly Fast and Turn Left!
See in at Stead.

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing
Pylon Place 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Help out Team Ruby for 2016!

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Story About Air Racing

This month, I’m going to tell you a story. This story, like many others, has its ups and downs. There are heroes and there are lessons. Hopefully you’ll enjoy my story.

First, there was a guy named Jay Jones. Jay loved to fly. He loved to race. He loved to tinker with things to make them go faster. He was also the guy you could always go to if you needed a wrench, a kind word, or someone to fix your wheel pants (Jay’s specialty – it seemed).

Jay Jones in his Quadnickel

When I say Jay loved to fly – I mean he flew his IF1 Cassutt Racer from his home in Buena Vista, Colorado to Oshkosh – several times. That means about 1000 miles each way, in a plane that needs to land about every hour or two. Oh, and there is really no place for luggage. And there are no instruments to fly with – it’s basic stick and rudder flying.

We lost Jay on July 4th. He was returning to his home airport after a fly-in about 100 miles away. His aircraft, a Seawind, had some sort of emergency, he radioed a mayday – but wasn’t specific about what type of trouble he was having.

He ended up trying to land in a small field while avoiding populated areas all around. It is largely believed he deliberately steered away from those more populated areas. Either way, he’s gone – but he’s not. There is much more to his story.

Jay had 2 daughters, Haley and Allison. His daughters were the apples of his eye. We all know Allison as she was part of our racing family and has been to the Races several times before.

Allison Jones was born with a defective leg. Her parents had to make some difficult decisions when she was born to remove her bad leg – knowing she would be better off with a prosthetic device. From that moment, I believe Jay was always coming up with ways to make that prosthetic better for her – whether the idea was to make it faster or more comfortable, his mind was always coming up with better, faster, lighter, smarter.

Justin Meaders flying Quadnickel with his hand controls

Allison excelled in sports, mostly skiing and cycling. She will be representing the USA in her 8th Paralympic Games in Rio this summer.  Jay was so excited – he wasn’t going to race this year, because he was going to Rio and watch her in her final Paralympic Games.

Now, the story gets even more interesting. Jay meets up with another pilot – a man named Justin Meaders.  Justin and Jay had many things in common. They were both skilled craftsmen, pilots and both were touched by disabilities. See, Justin lost the use of his legs in a motorcycle racing incident years ago.

Even as a child, Justin was a bit different. On his 5th birthday, he received his first motorcycle. He learned to ride it that day and never looked back. From that moment on – speed became his drug. He was always looking for ways to make that bike faster or to make it handle better.

Unfortunately, during a motorcycle road racing event, he was launched off his bike, over the handlebars while traveling about 150 mph. The bike then cartwheeled in the air after him – probably pouncing on him several times. He woke up before medical assistance could get to him and knew he was in trouble. But, he certainly didn’t lose his spunk. While flying in the medical helicopter, he asked the pilot if he could ride up front with him. The pilot laughed and said, “Maybe next time”.  

His spunk has never left him. While his dad was a pilot, Justin didn’t get around to flying until after his accident. He stumbled onto the International Wheelchair Aviators group and found they were based in TX – where he lived. He drove down and met their president, Mike Smith. Mike helped Justin understand the types of hand controls available for certified airplanes, how to install them and use them. After a few lessons with Mike, Justin then found a school closer to his home which worked with him on his hand control needs.

Through many delays and truckloads of paperwork, he was granted his FAA Medical and now the sky is no longer the limit.

Team Quadnickel

Justin had been following IF1 for several years before. He was introduced to the Air Racing Family in 2013 when he crewed for another Justin – Justin Phillipson. When he started to talk to other IF1 pilots about building his own race plane which could be flown without the use of legs – they were all quite interested – Jay especially.

Justin’s airplane wasn’t going to be ready in time for the Races this year. And since Jay was heading to Brazil to watch Allison – it took Jay about 5 seconds to say – “How about we put your hand controls into my race plane, Quadnickel?!” – And that’s all it took.

The next thing you know, a group of IF1 pilots and crew headed to Midland, TX to the Flyboyz Race Camp to install the hand controls and get Justin ready for PRS – Pylon Racing Seminar – aka “Rookie School”. He probably had more time in Quadnickel than most first time Rookies at PRS. His first flight had everyone at the airport standing by cheering him on. We’re still cheering him on!  
Justin Meaders is now a Race Pilot. He is a member of our Racing Family and we are happy to have him and his infectious enthusiasm.  

And Jay lives on in our hearts, minds and in the air – with Justin at the controls of his Quadnickel.

That’s my story.

Photo Credits:
Tim Adams,
Anthony Taylor, 

National Championship Air Races to Include Two Concerts this year

RENO, Nev. – For the first time in its 53 year history, the National Championship Air Races will feature two on-site concerts this year. The concerts, which will be on Friday and Saturday night, will occur after the day’s final air race and are free to race attendees.

“We know that when the final air race is complete, it is sometimes a rush to the gate and our fans occasionally experience a traffic jam,” Mike Crowell, President and CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association said. “This year, we are going to showcase two great bands after the final race Friday and Saturday which will give our fans an opportunity to mix, mingle and avoid the traffic jam.”

The Juantanamos, whose music reflects the diversity of their surroundings by drawing inspiration from a wide range of musical styles, will perform Saturday night. The band will present over two hours of live music including some of rock’s biggest hits, songs from their debut “Ghost Tracks,” a sneak peek at a few songs from their upcoming second album, and a surprise special guest appearance sure to bring down the hangar!

The Nick Lawrence Band, focused on Texas country music with a twist of southern and alternative rock, will play Friday night. The band’s newest release, “Moonshine,” hit the online market in April 2016 and features two tracks that listeners are particularly captivated by, Hashtag Moonshine and Backside of Blue. Nick Lawrence has opened shows for artists including George Strait, Gary Allan, and Diamond Rio and has performed the AT&T Center for San Antonio Spurs halftime concerts.

Tickets are on sale for the 53rd Annual National Championship Air Races held September 14-18, 2016 at Reno Stead Airport. For more information, or to volunteer, visit

About the Reno Air Racing Association:
The Reno Air Racing Association (RARA), a 501(c)(3), holds the National Championship Air Races every September just north of Reno. The Reno Air Races have become an institution for northern Nevada and aviation enthusiasts from around the world. Last year’s event 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

Media Contact:
Mary-Sarah Kinner
The Glenn Group

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pylon Racing Seminar 2016

In 1997, it was decided there should be a better way to help prepare pilots for the National Championship Air Races held each year during September, in Reno, NV. Previously, hopeful race pilots may arrive a few days early in September and be taken through a series of air maneuvers the weekend before the races.  As the races started to attract more classes and more racers – a better, more structured training became necessary.

This June marked the 19th Pylon Racing Seminar AKA Rookie School. And - for the fourth year in a row – a record number of participants were in attendance.  Between the 6 Race Classes, 79 airplanes and 130 participants from all over the world made their way to Stead to practice, to qualify to have fun.

“We are beyond excited to have hosted a record number of planes and participants at this year’s Pylon Racing Seminar, Mike Crowell, President and CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association said. “Not only is PRS an opportunity for new pilots to get a feel for the course and understand safety guidelines, it is also a chance for returning pilots to train for September. It was a great few days for the Reno Air Racing Association and we are looking forward to this year’s National Championship Air Races.”

There are only two periods per year when racers are able to fly on the course –during PRS and during Race Week. So, PRS doesn’t just attract new racers, but returning pilots and veterans who want to have a little fun or knock the rust off their skills.

Each Class spends part of the time in a General Session learning about NCAR and the Reno Air Races. Then they split up into their specific Classes and learn the specific operations for their group – basically Ground School. The final 2 segments of the training include specific Air Work, based on their Class’s requirements. Then, they can finally get on the race course.

Specific skills are required for each different Class. For example, if they have a ground start like the Biplanes and Formula Classes – they will practice take-offs with a maximum 10 foot deviation in either direction. And to ensure racers know how to get out of bad air on the pylons, they may be asked to do aileron rolls – right and left. If they have an air start, they are required to fly formation and simulate a typical join up and chute approach. And most classes will have the attendees perform a simulated Mayday to show their understanding of their aircraft and the flight characteristics during an emergency.

Something else which is relatively new is the ability for a racer to come to PRS and go through the General Sessions, the Ground School and hold the Air Work for September. This works great for people coming from further away – where flying across the country twice would be quite difficult.  It opens up the field to pilots who have always wanted to race, but couldn’t make both PRS and Race Week.

As expected, the Sport Class was the big winner with over 50 attendees, including rookies, returning racers who have not raced in the last 3 years - to recertify, veterans interested in practice or testing and instructors. Even with all of the attendees, in disparate aircraft and skill levels – the Sport Class worked like a well-oiled machine. Each session was planned out in advance with the instructors, flight leaders and rookies mixing it up and getting it done.

Over 20 participants in Formula 1 mark their best year ever. This seems to be another Class getting renewed interest from the Sport Pilot community. Philip Goforth and Jay Jones have been instrumental in locating pilots around the country who own Formula 1 racing planes and talking them into joining the movement. More on this Class in next month’s column – but for now – know that they are on the move!

The T-6 Clubhouse was buzzing with happy pilots. Jerry Thurman’s hangar has become the “Happy Place for the T-6 Class”. They do their pre-flight and post-flight briefs in this facility and rarely venture too far away. Some great new pilots have joined their #s including Chris LeFave and active duty USN Aviator, Peter Stavrides. Congrats, gentlemen!

Also, Eric Woelbing was there in preparation for his sophomore year. If his name sounds familiar, he is the proud owner of famous racing Sea Furys, Miss Merced and Furias.  But, he will be racing his T-6 – Eddie Van Fossen’s old Miss TNT. I expect we will hear much more from him and his racing team in the future.

Yes, you Unlimited Fans – there were Unlimiteds at PRS. In fact, 2 new pilots were certified – Joel Swager and Bernie Vasquez. Joel flew Argonaut while Stevo Hinton and Bernie shared Voodoo during the week, with Bernie going for his certification and Stevo looking to get some telemetry on the aerodynamic modifications they made prior to the 2015 season – but with their engine not making the power they expected – they felt they never were able to get clear numbers to justify the modifications. PRS is a perfect time to do things like this.

Two other returning racers came back to take Ground School and will finish up their recertification in September. John Maloney and Jim Thomas will likely be flying John and Sue Paul’s P-51B, Boise Bee – and one of their P-40s (likely Sneak Attack) in September. A Big THANK YOU to John, Jim, and the Pauls for coming back!

Three Rookies were also in attendance for Ground School only. Ira Saligman and Olivier Langeard will be flying Yaks in September and Trevor Merton returned – but not sure what he will be flying yet.

Jay Consalvi attended PRS in 2010 in a Corsair. Since then, he hasn’t raced, but has always been around Warbirds. He is a retired Naval Aviator with time in both the F-14 and F-18. He is also the male lead in the movie Speed and Angels – which was touted as the “Real Life Top Gun”.  

Originally, Jay was looking to race Strega – but it looks like Czech Mate may be his ride this year instead. Either way, he is a welcome addition to the roster. With his name on the list, it looks like we will have approximately 18 Unlimiteds in September. Great news for you Warbird Fans!

Special thanks to all the volunteers who helped out at PRS – especially the photographers, race control and the TUG GUYS! The unsung heroes of keeping us on schedule! And of course, Anthony Taylor and Warbird Fotos for providing the amazing shots for this month.

There is more to come in the next few months. We will be focusing on a few racers who have a great story to tell and will keep the fans up to date with the exciting happenings in preparation for September.

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

Marilyn Dash
Pylon Place
Ruby Red Racing