The Reno National Championship Air Races Returns

Posted by Brooke Sullivan on Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 at 7:18pm

Airplane racing is the world’s fastest motor sport and returns to the Reno skies this week.


When viewed in person as planes dart across the sky above the crowd, the event is quite spectacular. People from all across the country come out to Reno for the heart-pounding action September 13 – 17.

“For the general public, it’s the type of aviation event they can’t see anywhere else, no other show flies this low and close to the crowd so the excitement is there; and nowhere else can you walk through the pits and get close to all of the different planes and the pilots,” said sport class president, Bob Mills, who will be racing for his seventh year.

This year’s event highlights the races, which are the most popular part of the festivities. They will also be honoring military members and highlight military pilots and heroes with appreciation ceremonies. Event spectators will be able to get up close and personal with military and non-military aircrafts.

Greg “Shifty” Peairs is the air boss of the Reno National Championship Air Races for 12 years and his job centers around coordinating pilots, planes, race heat schedules and basically every facet of the event. Shifty explained all of the extra special add-ons that will be a part of this year’s show.

First off, 129 participating airplanes will be categorized into six classes: Formula One, Biplane, T-6, Sport, Jet and Unlimited. Each of these planes will race in heats to determine their placement in divisions within each of the six classes. The three divisions are based on how fast they are: Bronze, Silver and Gold.

“The sport class is the largest, it’s maxed out at 40 planes. Sport has so many doggone airplanes we had to add another division called the Medallion division,” Shifty laughed.

Planes will race in heats from Wednesday, September 13 through Friday, September 15, with the final race being held on Sunday, September 17. The final race will take place after all of the plane division rankings are solidified in their classes.

“This is working out to be more races that we’ve ever had in the past,” Shifty said.

Terry Matter is the Director of Operations for the event and has been involved as a spectator since 1970, missing only a few races since then. He became a volunteer in 1999, then a pylon judge and board member in 2004. That led to chairman in 2010 and last year he was named the DO. He and so many others are passionate, not only about flying places and the event, but about sharing the experience with others. Especially with kids whose inspiration is instantly sparked when seeing the giant planes.

“First of all, we’d like to satisfy the aviation interests of the spectators who come, but I think just as important is the idea of making it a family event, which not only satisfies those aviation of the adults but maybe it also stimulates interest of the younger folks in aviation as a career choice in the future,” Matter said.

Mills also shared as a pilot what makes him so crazy about the sport.

“You know, it's probably the most fun thing in aviation I've done since landing on aircraft carriers as a Navy fighter pilot. I definitely do it for the passion and the challenge of air racing," he said.

"We're all pretty much addicted [to this sport]. When we're taxing back and we see that crowd, we're smiling and waving, we're excited to see them, too. We're definitely going to bring it this year," Mills added.

To buy tickets head to

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