On Tuesday, 01-May-2018, at approx: 7:40pm, we lost a Reno Air Race legend.
A three-time Formula One Champion, John Parker, had dedicated his life to air racing and the need for speed. He was even been known to say, “I’ve been doing this all my life. It’s part of my DNA. I enjoy everything about it – the history, the mechanics, the metallurgy, the people - all of it.”
John retired from the Air Force in 1965 and then he joined American Airlines. Soon after, John found himself building engines for Formula One race teams at Stead Field. John quickly became known as a “Speed Merchant” after working as a mechanic at the air races and assisting other race teams.
In 1967, John founded American Air Racing and became part of the history at Stead field. Though the main focus of American Air Racing is to offer complete builder support and to perform speed modifications for kit-built aircraft, this provided the perfect environment for John to dedicate his time to the development and improvement of fast flying aircraft.
In 1977, at the National Championship Air Races, John raced and won his first Formula One Championship in a plane called “Wild Turkey”.
He continued to make improvements and adding to his trophy case by winning the Formula One Championship in 1979 and 1980 with his “scratch-built” Formula One racer named the American Air Racing Special, which now resides in the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
John went on to race in the original CAFÉ 250 and CAFÉ 400 in the twin-engine division.
In 1988, John entered a “scratch-built” aircraft in the Unlimited Division at the National Championship Air Races.
In 1998, John placed fourth in his first Sport Division Championship race.
Since then, his primary focus had been his relentless pursuit of increased performance in his Thunder Mustang named Blue Thunder, which finished in Second Place in the Sport Division in its first year of racing (2002).
In the 2004 National Championship Air Races, he set new records for the Sport Class Qualifying speed and for the fastest race flown in the Sport Class.
In June of 2005, he set more records in Marysville, CA:
New C1c 3 km World Speed
Record: 374.250 mph
New C1c 15/25 km World
Speed Record: 376.180 mph
Fastest Normally Aspirated
Aircraft: 383.302 mph
At the 2005 National Championship Air Races, he surpassed his previous Qualifying Record.
In 2011, John rolled out Blue Thunder II and took 1st place in the Sport Class. In 2012, he picked up another First Place win with a speed of 356.738 in the Sport Class with Blue Thunder II, followed by another win in 2015.
John was many things; an aeronautical engineer, retired Air Force pilot, retired Airline Captain, test pilot, air race pilot, experimental aircraft builder, A&P mechanic (with Inspection Authority), a mentor, a competitor, but most importantly, he was a friend who will be dearly missed.
From a humble beginning, John had become an air racing legend. For John Parker, air racing was not a sport; it was his way of life.
Rest In Peace, John.
Special THANKS to Naomi Dschaak, Anthony Taylor and Tim Adams!