Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reno Air Races to expand with concerts, more racing; insurance down to $900K

The Reno National Championship Air Races, looking ahead to what it called its “next 50 years” said changes are in the works to make the event “a full festival of flight” that will appeal to traditional air race fans and open the door to a generation of new fans.

That includes an increase in the number of races, an expansion of the military aircraft display and concerts during the event, which is scheduled for Sept. 10-14 at Reno Stead Airport.

“We have to provide a better and more robust experience for our current fans as well as potential fans and mainstream audiences,” said air races spokesman Mike Draper.

The Air Races have been facing financial difficulties since the 2011 crash that killed Unlimited Class pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 people on the ground. The event’s insurance premiums skyrocketed in the aftermath of the event and the races held in 2012 and 2013 were scaled back from previous years.

The insurance was $2 million in 2012, and $1.3 million in 2013.

The Reno Air Racing Association, which produces the air races, laid off several employees, including president and CEO Michael Houghton, in an effort to reduce costs.

Its insurance premium for 2014 is $900,000, Draper said.

In an open letter released on Tuesday, the air races board of directors said its financial situation has stabilized.

“Having recently secured the required insurance at a significantly lower cost than the previous two years, we are financially positioned for a prosperous 2014 and beyond,” the board said in its open letter.

Draper said some the musical entertainment will range from big-name performers to local bands with some events taking place on the airfield in front of the main grandstands and some taking place inside hangars at the airport.

The only specific announcement made Tuesday was that defending Unlimited Class champion Steven Hinton will return to defend his title in the P-51D Mustang Voodoo. The 26-year-old Hinton has dominated the class in recent years, having won four titles in the P-51 Mustang Strega before switching seats to Voodoo last year.

This year’s military aircraft display and demonstrations – always a popular with fans and families – should be back to normal or even increased this year after being gutted last year because the federal sequester grounded many aircraft.

Draper said “a big name” military performance aircraft will be announced in the near future.

In past years, the F-22 Raptor and other fighters have been among the demonstration planes at the air races.

Organizers said they will make announcements every one to two weeks via the air races social media outlets – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – as well as traditional media outlets.

Tickets for this year’s races are already on sale and can be purchased through the event’s website at

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