Story and photos by Ken Kula
With the surprising announcement that the 2023 STIHL Championship Air Races at Reno – Stead Airport will be the last one at that venue, we present a look back to the warbird collection of racers, air show participants, and static display at the 2014 event. That event featured warbirds in the T-6 Class, Jet Class and the Unlimited Class races – some aircraft stock and others highly modified – and made headlines for a number of reasons.
Steve Hinton in Voodoo won the Unlimited Gold race for his sixth time, with Sherman Smoot finishing second in the modified Yak-11 Czech Mate.
Althgough it looked like Thom Richards took third in the Precious Metal P-51 Mustang, he was disqualified due to crossing an out of bounds line on race course. That made Dennis Sanders in the Hawker Sea Fury Dreadnought your third place finisher in the final Gold Class race.
Back to the present – here’s a recent announcement from the Reno Air Racing Association that confirms the 2023 races will be the last ones at Reno-Stead Airport. As of the date this is published, no announcements have been made about where future races will be held, if they will happen at all. Tickets will be going fast for this event, a link to the race’s web site and home page is contained towards the end of this announcement.
“To Our Loyal Fans and Passionate Community
It is with heavy hearts that we write this to let you know that, after nearly 60 years of air racing in northern Nevada, 2023 will be the last National Championship Air Races at the Reno-Stead Airport. While we knew this day might come, we had hoped it wouldn’t come so soon. Citing the region’s significant growth amongst other concerns, the Reno Tahoe Airport Authority has made the decision to sunset the event. For so many around the world, Reno has become synonymous with air racing and it is hard to imagine the National Championship Air Races gracing any other skies than those in the Sierra Nevada. However, we are confident the event will continue. In fact, we are currently exploring several other possible locations to host the event in the future but it starts with making this year’s event the biggest and most successful it can be. In essence, the future of the National Championship Air Races starts now. And, we need your help.
As we take off for one last time in Reno, we are inviting the community and race fans from all over the world to join to send off the National Championship Air Races in style. Consider it a celebration of six decades of thrills, history, pageantry, camaraderie and family. Reno has been the event’s home for the last 59 years, and we could not leave without recognizing the community that has embraced our event and helped make it one of our region’s signature events. We look forward to seeing the many faces the Air Races have brought joy to over the years, as well as new ones who will get the chance to see the only racing event of its kind for the first time this year.
While we discuss the future of the Air Races, we are grateful for our time at the Reno-Stead Airport and our partnership with the Reno Tahoe Airport Authority. Our event has generated hundreds of millions of dollars for the local economy, while instilling a love for flying in the community and becoming a valued partner to many charities and non-profits. We have always been so thrilled to show off the beautiful Reno Tahoe area to the tens of thousands that flew in just for our event and we’re looking forward to doing that again this year. The support from both our community and visitors has been overwhelming, and the impact they helped us make in Reno is immeasurable.
The last National Championship Air Races will take place from September 13-17. The 2023 event is set to return with more than 150 planes and pilots as well as several ‘hands-on’ displays and experiences including the GRADD-NVBAA STEM Education Discovery Zone, heritage displays, military demonstrations and static displays and more. The event will also mark the third year of competition for the STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) Drag which has become a phenomenon in the skies. While this is our last year at this location, the Reno Air Racing Association is committed to preserving and growing this great event and developing the next generation of Air Race fans. We look forward to seeing you in September. You can save your spot now by purchasing tickets at www.AirRace.org
With much appreciation and love,
The Reno Air Racing Association Board of Directors”
Here is a compilation of most of the warbirds present during the 2014 week, along with a few classic airframes that seem to fit in too!