The 2012 Reno Air Races passed a key logistical hurdle last week by obtaining a one-year special permit for the event, further clearing the way for the competition that has remained somewhat shrouded in uncertainty following last year’s fatal crash.
The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority Board of Trustees approved the permit on Thursday under the condition that the event acquires a $100 million insurance policy and makes any necessary changes to adhere to new safety rules. The Reno Air Racing Authority (RARA) must also cover any additional insurance charges sustained by the Airport Authority because of the event.
Mike Houghton, president and CEO of the Reno Air Races, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that he hopes to have proof of the policy this week, and that event organizers are currently busy working to raise funds for it.
The organization is also busy revamping its safety policies in light of new suggestions released by the NTSB last month, aimed at preventing a recurrence of the 2011 accident that killed 11 people and injured at least 70 when Jimmy Leeward’s highly modified P-51 crashed into a crowd of spectators.
Those recommendations include a proposal that the race course be altered to enhance spectator safety, that the event organizers consider making all contestants wear g suits and that eligible participants provide an engineering evaluation of any aircraft that has undergone significant modifications prior to the event.
In addition to the NTSB safety review, RARA established its own safety panel to investigate and address concerns raised by the crash, which is scheduled to present its findings this week.
The 2012 Reno Air Races are currently slated for Sept. 12-16 and will constitute the 49th year of the historic event. Exactly what shape the races will take this year, however, is yet to be seen.
Despite regulatory hurdles and financial constraints -- the RARA announced it took a loss of up to $1.5 million last year -- organizers behind the Reno Air Races continue to reiterate their commitment to preserving the event and their gratitude for the continued support of air racing fans across the country.