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Reno Air Racing Moving Forward With 2012 Race Plans

Blue ribbon panel to study possible changes to ensure safety

Mike Houghton
Mike Houghton, Reno Air Racing Association president and CEO, announces RARA’s intentions to conduct an air race event in September 2012. (Image from KRNV News 4 live stream)

January 4, 2012 - Citing an overwhelming desire by the aviation, aviation racing, and local communities, the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) is moving forward with plans to hold the 49th Reno National Air Races September 12-16, 2012, at Stead Airport, said Mike Houghton, RARA president and CEO, at a press conference Wednesday in Reno, Nevada.

With several sponsors, fans, and victims in attendance, Houghton said the association is in the process of acquiring the permits and FAA waivers required to hold the event, which was cut short last year by the crash of Jimmy Leeward’s Galloping Ghost unlimited P-51 that resulted in 11 deaths and more than 70 injuries.

“We’re moving ahead,” Houghton said, noting that preparing for the air races is a year-round process. He called last year’s crash – the first-ever at Reno that resulted in the death of spectators - a terrible tragedy that “will not become the concluding epilogue of the historic Reno National Air Races.”

As plans for the event proceed, an appointed Blue Ribbon panel of aviation experts will study all aspects of the races - both on and off the pylon course - to determine what can be done in the areas of safety. Panel members include:

  • Jim Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board from 1994-2001;
  • Nick Sabatini, former associate administrator for aviation safety with the FAA;
  • Jon Sharp, winningest pilot in the history of air racing, whose Nemesis Air Racing won a record 15 Reno championships;
  • Steve Hinton, unlimited champion Reno racer and one of the world’s most well-known and respected pilots.

After reviewing all aspects of the races, the panel will make any determinations and recommendations within 90 days, Houghton said.
If for any reason it is determined that the air races cannot be held, Houghton said an alternative aviation event and memorial tribute to the 2011 victims would be organized.

Houghton also cited the races had received overwhelming support from the Reno community in the wake of last year’s crash. “The Air Races annually draw more than 200,000 in attendance and have an $85 million impact on the local economy,” he said. RARA lost about $1.5 million last year when the deadly crash caused Saturday and Sunday races to be canceled.

Houghton said future updates would be posted on the RARA’s website and Facebook page.

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