2016 Event Review

National Championship Air Races, Sept 10-18, 2016
Location: Reno-Stead Airport, Reno, Nevada

: $14-$35 General Admission, $20-$34 Pit Passes

Parking: $10-$15
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: 9.9

Mike Wiskus in his Lucas Oil Pitts during the air show

For the 53rd time, the National Championship Air Races thrilled the crowd at Reno with plenty of awe-inspiring aircraft both in the air and on the ground. The major highlight of this year's event was the United States Navy Blue Angels, coming to the races for the first time since 2009.

The static ramp featured a wide variety of very special military aircraft including the unique F-15C Eagle of the Oregon Air National Guard painted up in honor of the division's 75th Anniversary. Along with that rare bird were two soon to be retired QF-4E Phantom IIs, F-16N and F-15N Aggressors and EA-18G Growler from NAS Fallon, F/A-18F Super Hornets of VFA-41, Hawaii Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III, Thunderbirds F-16 Fighting Falcon Mock-Up, the new F-35A Lightning II, and much more!

Highlights of the air show performances this year were aerobatics by Mike Wiskus in his Lucas Oil sponsored Pitts Special and Jim Peitz flying his Beechcraft F33C Bonanza. Other acts included the United States Air Force Academy's Wings of Blue Parachute Team, Bill Braack in his Smoke 'n' Thunder Jet Car, and a rare Dassault Falcon 7X flight demonstration. On Friday, the crowd was treated with some very exciting flybys of the F-35A Lightning II and QF-4E Phantom II formations as the jets came to land for static display. The stars of the air show acts were the Blue Angels. Under the command of Cdr. Ryan Bernacchi, the Blue Angels took to the skies of Reno for the first time in seven years with the precise maneuvers they famously showcase across America. Following the tragic loss of former Solo pilot Jeff Kuss earlier this year, the team modified their takeoff routine by having the solo pilots depart separately.

The race course this year didn't feature as much high end competition as seen previously since both "Strega" and "Rare Bear" were unable to participate in the Unlimited Class. On Friday, the defending Jet Class champion, Pete Zaccagnino crashed his rare DeHavilland Vampire making an emergency landing, but managed to exit his aircraft unharmed.

The champions of this year's races were Jeff Rose in "Reno Rabbit" for the Biplane Class, Lowell Slatter in "Fraed Naught" for the Formula One Class, Jeff LaVelle in "Race 39" for the Sport Class, Chris Rushing in "Baron's Revenge" for the T-6 Class, Rick Vandam in "American Spirit" for the Jet Class, and last but not least, Steve Hinton in "Voodoo" for the Unlimited Class. To get a full list of race participants and their aircraft for the 2016 Air Races, click the link here: http://reports.airrace.org/2016/2016.Pilots.Report.html

Despite the less tightly matched races this year, the air show performances by the Blue Angels and the other great acts made this year's Air Races a huge success. Special thanks goes to the pilots, volunteers, and attendees for their support in making the great event of Reno happen in 2016.

US NAVY Blue Angels
A pair of Sea Furies in the Unlimited Race
Air show performers included:

United States Navy Blue Angels
F-35A Lightning II 2-Ship Formation (Friday Only)
QF-4E Phantom II 2-Ship Formation (Friday Only)
United States Air Force Academy “Wings of Blue”
Mike Wiskus in his Lucas Oil Pitts
Bill Braack in his Smoke ’n’ Thunder Jet Car
Jim Peitz in his Beechcraft F33C Bonanza
Dassault Falcon 7X

Static displays included:

Boeing F-15C Eagle - Oregon Air National Guard 75th Anniversary
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II - Luke AFB
McDonnell Douglas QF-4E Phantom II - Tyndall AFB
Lockheed Martin F-16N Fighting Falcon - Naval Strike and Warfare Center
Boeing EA-18G Growler - NAS Fallon
Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet - VFA-41 “Black Aces”
Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon - Thunderbirds Mock-Up
Northrop F-5E Tiger II - VFC-13 “Saints”
Boeing C-17 Globemaster III - Hawaii Air National Guard
Lockheed C-130 Hercules - Nevada Air National Guard “High Rollers


Report and photography by Geoffrey Arnwine - The Aviation Magazine

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