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Reno Air Races 2010

There is something to be said for the scarlet morning skies of Stead Airport north of Reno come September every year. The colors are so vivid with the sun rising to a chill that bites to the bone. But there is also a sense of great anticipation in the cold morning air. Soon the silence of the high desert will be full of the sound of the greatest air show, the fastest motor sport on the planet— the Reno Air Races!

  This year marks the 47th annual celebration of the event. Way back in 1964, a man with a vision, Bill Stead, organized the very first Reno Air Races at Sky Ranch, near Pyramid Lake northeast of Reno. Five classes of aircraft raced that year; Unlimiteds, Midgets, Formula One,Stearman, and Cherokee 180s with female pilots. The pilots wanted to take off from Reno Municipal but due to an agreement with ABC-TV, they had to use the 2000ft dirt runway. Talk about the wild west! Unfortunately, Bill Stead crashed shortly after the races in 1965 and never lived to see his dream come true. In 1966 the races were moved to the old Stead Air Force base north of Reno. Ironically the base had been named for Bill’s younger brother, Croston Stead, who was killed in an air crash while flying for the Nevada Air National guard in 1958.

  Stead brought new life to the races. The first year at the old air base showed not only a profit to the organizers but a draw for the city of Reno and the surrounding areas. Soon the Reno Air Races became known as the premier event in aviation worldwide. Classes of aircraft racing refined and the technology blossomed. Warbirds of WW2 became faster and soon sported bright team colors. Biplanes and Formula One home builts discovered composite fibers and new racing engines. "Fly low, fly fast and turn left" became the mantra of the new pilots who took to the air.

   I first went to the races in 1967 as a child. I can never forget the thrill of seeing such daring aviators risking it all just to fly so fast. It became a part of me and five years ago I went again as the protege of Alan Winston Smith, of Twain Harte. Alan has gone to the races since the very beginning in 1964. He introduced me to the Air Race Press Corps, a bunch of crazy photographers, and to the T6 Warlock Team. I became a member of the Warlock Air Race Team, and joined the press corps. Now it’s in my blood and every year I make the trek to Reno to tell the story again.

   I hope you will like the story this year. This year’s theme is "a new beginning"… which fits. We lost the Warlock this year and a lot of us will be looking for new teams to belong to, including myself. There is a great sadness in losing the plane and our great champion Al Goss, but I think he would want us to continue on.

   So, for my part, stay tuned. Come September 14th I will posting here every evening. I suspect some great stories and fantastic photos. It’s a great thing to be a part of, and I’m proud to say my hometown is right here in Twain Harte. There are a lot of us from this area who go and you will be hearing from them too.

  I will post more soon.