50th Anniversary Reno Air Races Kick Off

** Voodoo (Photo courtesy of Michael Luvara)**

The 50th anniversary National Championship Air Races officially kick off tomorrow at the Reno/Stead Airport outside Reno, Nevada. And there is much to get excited about at this year's event. The most recent champion, Steve Hinton Jr., is no longer flying Strega, the airplane that he has won the Unlimited race category in during the past few years. Instead, Hinton Jr. is at the controls of another fan favorite – Voodoo. The Reno Air Race Association's published times for Monday's qualifying heat are still unofficial, but they indicate that Hinton Jr. flew the course in less than a minute, at an average speed of nearly 493 mph. Former astronaut Hoot Gibson was not far behind, flying a Sea Fury simply named 232, formerly known as September Fury, faster than 480 mph around the course.

There are several qualifying heats yet to come, with legendary airplanes such as Rare Bear, Precious Metal and Miss America still to fly their first laps. Strega will also take to the course, this time with air race veteran Matt Jackson at the controls. With such fast times in the initial qualifying round, it will be interesting to see what happens in the fastest class at the races toward the end of the week.

Pilots flying their roaring T-6s, smooth Jets and nimble Formula One, Biplane and Sport airplanes will also be pushing their airplanes to the limit and are sure to provide excitement in the grandstands.

In addition to the thrills of the races, spectators can look forward to what should prove to be a terrific show with great variety. With Breitling as the major sponsor of the races, Yves Rossy, aka Jetman, will fly the racecourse with his carbon-Kevlar strap-on wing, kept aloft by four mini-jets. Breitling is also presenting David Martin, who flies an impressive aerobatics show in a CAP 232. Other performers that are sure to wow the crowds include the Patriot Jet Team, Mike Goulian, Ken Pietch and more.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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