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Strega's Canopy Implodes at 500 mph
Photo: Will R. Lynch
The competition in the Unlimited Class at the National Championship Air Races taking place in Reno, Nevada, this week is off to an exciting start. On Tuesday, during the second day of qualifications for the Unlimited Class, part of the canopy on Strega, the airplane that won the class during the past few years at the hands of Steven Hinton, flew off. Strega’s pilot Matt Jackson told Flying he had been cleared to attempt a course record and the airplane was indicating 500 mph as the “main canopy on the airplane, the one directly over my head, imploded and just exploded in my face. Fortunately I had my face shield down and my oxygen mask and helmet secured tight.”
Despite the shocking emergency event, Jackson made a perfect wheel landing at the Reno/Stead Airport.
“They’re putting a new canopy on, which is generally a four to five-day event, and we have to do it in less than two days,” Jackson said. “So the pressure is on to get the canopy installed and we have to replace the entire windscreen because, of course, every one is slightly different than the other.”
There may be much work to be done, but the race is not over yet for Strega. While Jackson was not able to fly a qualifying heat, there is still a possibility that he will snatch the trophy. Jackson will start in the Silver Heat on Friday and if he wins that heat he will get bumped up to race in the Gold Heat on Saturday, giving him an opportunity for a good position in Sunday’s final Gold race. “I really want the pole position for the start on Sunday,” Jackson said. After being one of the top racers in the Unlimited Class for years, Jackson has yet to take home the trophy.
If the qualifying heats are any indication, there is no doubt that the competition for the 50th Anniversary race is tough. The top airplanes, Voodoo, 232 and Rare Bare, piloted by Steven Hinton, Hoot Gibson and Stewart Dawson respectively, had qualified times within a couple of seconds, all inching up on the 500 mph mark.