Photos: Record Broken at Reno’s Air Races

A Legacy speed record and multiple maydays made for an exciting weekend.

stihl national championship reno air race
Sport Gold heat at the start of the race on Sunday with the winner, Andrew Findlay, in the pole position.Pia Bergqvist

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.

reno air races
You're about to see a lot of close up photos of some really fast aircraft but what about the venue. This is Reno-Stead in all its AM beauty. Home of the Reno Air Races.John King, FlyerFocus.com
reno air races
The smell of sagebrush and a drop of dew. A glint of sunshine on a prop and it's time to go. The perfect day to race.John King, FlyerFocus.com
reno air races
What's better than a good dogfight in the morning ... a rhetorical question.John King, FlyerFocus.com
reno air races
Peter Balmer of Interlaken, Switzerland pilots the Thunder Mustang, 'Swiss Thunder' in Thursday afternoon's Sports Class race.John King, FlyerFocus.com
reno air races
An airline pilot out of Dallas, here's John Lohmar flying his SNJ-5, 'Radial Velocity', past Home Pylon in Friday morning's T6 race.John King, FlyerFocus.com
reno air races
Saturday afternoon's Jet Race with Lachie Onslow of Armidale, Australia in 'Drop Bear' duking it out with Reno's Jeff Turney in 'Robin 1'.John King, FlyerFocus.com
reno air races
T6s side-by-side on a very loud Saturday morning. Here Michael Pfleger, doctor from Scottsdale and Police Officer Chris Lefave battle for position.John King, FlyerFocus.com
reno air races
Sunday afternoon Gold Jet Race at Reno Photographer's coveted outer pylon 5. Here's Vicky Benzing in 'Darkstar II'.John King, FlyerFocus.com
reno air races
'One Moment' is the name of the plane, and Andrew Findlay, engineer from McCall, ID is the pilot in Friday afternoon's Sport heat.John King, FlyerFocus.com
reno air races
Flying 'Darkstar II' in Friday afternoon's Jet Race, here's professional airshow pilot Vicky Benzing.John King, FlyerFocus.com
reno air races
Rounding the West pylon in Saturday afternoon's Sports Class race, here's Sean Vanhatten in #3 'Havoc' and David Robinson in 'Desert Lightning'.John King, FlyerFocus.com