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