Welcome to the Races!

Reno Air Race 2016 ramp
A wide variety of Sport Class aircraft populated the staging area on the ramp, getting ready to fly for practice and qualifying.

Race week is here, and airplanes from all over have come to Reno, Nevada to see who is fastest – and the largest single class of racing machines are the homebuilts – Sport Class, to be specific! Of course, we don’t want to discount the Formula 1 and Biplane classes, most of which are homebuilts as well. But regardless of the class the enthusiasm and energy of pilots and crew members are evident as you walk the pits and hangars. The Sport class racers have literally run out of hangar space, spilling out into the ramp area previously occupied by the T-6 Class on the west end of the pits.

Weather was cool, but not cold, on Tuesday as qualifying continued for all classes. Monday saw many qualifying runs filling up the heat race rosters, and final qualification runs will be allowed on Wednesday morning. Heat races begin after noon on Wednesday, and racing will continue until Sunday’s finals. With the fastest Sport qualifiers running in the neighborhood of 400 mph, this year promises speed, speed, and more speed!

As we walked the pits and talked to participants today, we learned that both of the two fastest qualifiers in Sport class on Monday are working on engine issues. Blue Thunder, last year’s champion, is working on a damaged piston, but expects to be up and running for the week’s racing. Unfortunately, Race 33 – second fastest on Monday – mayday’ed out on its second Qual lap with serious engine damage (most likely a thrown rod), and is not expected to fly again this week. The Sport class features a wide variety of aircraft this year, including Thunder Mustangs, Lancairs, Glassairs, and a large number of RV’s and Rockets – plus a few unique other homebuilts, such as the purpose built racing NXT and at least one Extra

The qualifying speeds in Sport range from 403.411 (Race 39, a Glassair III) to 202.967 (Race 64, an RV-7).

Check back frequently here at Kitplanes for updates as the week’s racing continues to heat up!

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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