A Legacy speed record and multiple maydays made for an exciting weekend.
Another exciting week has come to its conclusion in Reno as the 55th Stihl National Championship Air Races were held at the Reno-Stead Airport west of Reno, Nevada. Five classes of aircraft battled it out around pylon courses at altitudes barely above the sagebrush-covered valley floor.
A big upset happened in the Sport Class, which has been dominated for the past few years by Jeff Lavelle who flies Race 39, a Super Glasair III. The airplane named One Moment, Race 30, piloted by Andrew Findlay, took the lead in the second to last heat, earning Findlay the pole position for Sunday’s final race. Findlay averaged 403 mph around the course, the first time a Lancair Legacy had broken the 400-mph mark, while Lavelle experience engine problems, putting Findlay at the top of the podium.
Rick Vandam, who won the Jet Class last year in American Spirit, an Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros, gave up his seat this year to Mike Steiger, who held off Pete Zaccagnino in the L-29 Just Lucky.
The Silver heat in Friday’s Jet Class race got a bit too exciting as Race 37, piloted by Brazilian Alexandre Eckmann, and Race 13 – Reality Czech – flown by Nathan Harnagel bumped into each other on the course. Though there was significant damage to both airplanes, the stellar pilots got them on the ground safely with some help from chase pilot Jeff Turney, a highly experienced racer who is a founding member of the Jet Class and Sport Class.
While there were no speed records in the Unlimited Class, which lacked fan favorites Strega and Voodoo this year, the roaring warbirds put on a terrific performance that put Dreadnought, a Seafury piloted by Joel Swager, first with a speed of 417 mph.
In the T-6 Class, John Lohmar took the trophy with Radial Velocity. Gene McNeely, who was part of the stellar four-ship AeroShell Aerobatic Team until last year, placed second in the Silver heat and flew a stellar T-6 80th anniversary demo as part of the airshow. Justin Meaders won Formula One in Limitless, a Snoshoo SR-1, while Andrew Buehler took home the Biplane trophy in Phantom, a modified Mong Sport.