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Reno Air Races Day 2 and 3

Wednesday at the races things begin to get really exciting. That’s the day qualifying starts for all six of the different classes of aircraft. So for the first time the planes are racing against each other instead of checking out their engines. At the Warlock pits we were cheering for Marilyn Dash in the biplanes, Heather Penny in the jets, Philip Goforth in Formula One, and Gordo Sanders in the T6s. None of them placed above 4th in their respective class, but we cheered anyways. There is a bond between the fans and their racers quite different than NASCAR; in air racing it’s very easy to meet the pilots. And for the most part the pilots are very friendly and quite enjoyable people.

There are some fantastic airplanes here this year. The Reno Air Races are also the home of the National Aviation Heritage Invitational, where historic aircraft are displayed. This year even included the first Boeing airplane, a beautifully restored mail carrier from the 1920’s. Rolls-Royce sponsors the event and the winner is picked by hand ballots from the airrace fans. Quite an interesting and educational event.

I saw my friend Fuzzy and his wife Marie at the Information booth near the Invitational. They come all the way from Twain Harte every year to volunteer to be part of the races. They are a great source for information, too, because they have the knowledge of many years watching the sport grow. Ask Fuzzy or Marie about any airplane there and they can tell you the pilot, the engine, and and usually a story or two told with a knowing wink and a nod. They are great people.

Wednesday evening after the qualifying is over has been the time for many years for the Warlock pit party. This year would be the last, held in memory of Al Goss. I always have enjoyed the party. For the past three years I’ve joined the Warlock band with my guitar, and this year I knew I’d have to play better than I ever have. I’m not the greatest player but somehow the idea of playing for my fallen hero had me really determined. I had to do it right. Quite a big crowd showed up, about 300 people. It was fantastic! We played really well, and there were several people who took the microphone to talk about Al. So even though we all shed a few tears we had fun, and that is what Al would have wanted.

Thursday morning was painful for me, both from the "effects" of the party and just overall soreness from sunburn and walking such long distances with a 50lb Nikon. The races are BIG! From one end to the other is a mile or more. I wanted to see everything so I walked the length several times shooting pictures and getting aquainted with folks. It’s a lot of fun but it hurts. I suppose some things in life worth doing require a bit of doing and this for me is one of them.

We’ve been lucky this week. The only incidents have been the propeller coming off on Tuesday from Relentless, and Rare Bear’s mayday with a deadstick landing on Thursday. Relentless was unexpected, but Rare Bear was expected by most of us in the pits. It has a reputation of being a very tempermental aircraft, prone to mechanical problems. As it was, the Bear had blown an engine earlier in the week and was testing a new one after the day’s event. As it taxied up to take off we could all hear it sputtering and some of us even commented that John Penney would be deadsticking. We weren’t worried at all because John is an excellent pilot and Stead has a lot of runways and he can glide Rear Bear like it weighed as much as a hummingbird.

Got back to the Grand Sierra in time to write this, very tired and very determined to write more tommorrow. For now I will let this blog go and get some much-needed sleep. See you then…