Here’s What You Can Expect at the Races!

Hey Newbie Janet!

 Great Questions and thanks for writing!  Here’s what you should know and can expect from the races as a newbie. 

 First, the “Reno Races” are in fact “air races” with lots of thrilling and entertaining “air show” events occurring between the races within the tightly choreographed four day event.  You will be attending with about 210,000 of your new race friends!

 About the Races

The aircraft race in a basic circle course around Pylons (flying low and flying left) and each category of aircraft listed below have their own course, varying in length depending on the speed and size of the aircraft.  The “home pylon” is front and center of the Grandstands and Box seating, so you can see the winners zipping by and pulling up at the finish of their race!  You might want to bring binoculars to see the planes as they are flying their laps on the far side of the course and to people watch!

 These are the six classes of aircraft that will be racing, their average speed and course length:

  • The Unlimited and Jet classes fly the same and largest course of approximately 8.43 miles.  The Unlimited class fly between 465 mph to 487.9 mph* (a course record in 2007, although I was there when a 501 mph was recorded on a qualifying lap).  The Jets fly about the same speed and I’m betting they’ll fly about 10 mph faster this year.
  • The Sport Class has a slightly smaller and tighter course of approximately 7 miles (6.9992).   These small planes fly fast, about 400 mph.
  • Formula 1 aircraft are built according to strict specifications and reach speeds of about 250 mph on a 3.1875 mile course.
  • Biplanes, the small aerobatic aircraft fly about 250 mph on a 3.1761 mile course.
  • My personal favorite, the AT-6’s fly a 5.0693 mile course at speeds that range from 210- to 235 mph.

 Be prepared to enjoy the roar of the radial engines up-close and personal!  Most of the aircraft will be starting their planes in view of the grandstands and will set the tone with the chest rattling sounds of heavy metal – just for you!

 About the Air Show

Secondly, the Reno Races feature a first class air show with incredible talent and incredible machinery.  This year the Blue Angels will perform (first time since 2000) in their F-18 Hornets – always a show favorite with their tight precision maneuvers and screaming fast fly-bys.  Be sure to keep your eyes on the solo flyers.  If you’re not watching, you won’t see them; you’ll just be startled by their AWESOME SCREAMING sound!

 There’s always an impressive US Navy Legacy Flight which features the beautiful and rare P-38, Glacier Girl, P-51, an A-10 and an F-16.  The Navy chooses two pilots from a special list of civilian pilots to fly the P-51 and P-38.  What an honor for those lucky pilots!  They’ll fly by low and slow in tribute to our armed services and flying heroes.

 Patty Wagstaff in her Extra 300S will dazzle with her aerobatic performance as will David Martin in his aerobatic show with the same type of aircraft. The precision team Red Eagles, Dan McClung and Buck Roetman in their low flying pretty bi-planes will show you what a snap roll, flat spin, torque roll, tail slide and inverted flat spins are all about – but warning: don’t try these at home… !  (There will be more performers, so check the official website provided on my side bar for the latest show additions.)

 Static Displays

Thirdly, you’ll have the opportunity to view the static displays of Vintage aircraft and Heritage Trophy aircraft.  There’s an award ceremony with trophies presented by aviation VIP’s and the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum.  You’ll also have access to the Military Static Display with impressive hardware like the Harrier, the Predator, C-130, C-12, C-21, F-5, F-15, F-16, F-18, KC-135, T-1, T-6 and many more.

 The Pits

Fourth, if you’d like to see and admire the racing aircraft, their pilots and crew, I’d strongly urge you to purchase at least one day of “pit access” tickets.  You can walk all aisles of parked aircraft, the T-6 and Unlimited, and visit the crew and friends of the Sport, Bi-plane and Formula planes under two hangars.    The air show performer aircraft are parked next to the Exhibitor aircraft and you may see “Hoot” Gibson, Space Shuttle Columbia’s Commander and 1984 Challenger’s Pilot flying a demonstration of the latest Gulf Stream Jet – for those who’d like to take home a little something special.  

 You can still view the races in the Pit Area and see the air show events in progress.  You may even catch a glimpse of the legendary Bob Hoover and other racing VIP’s and performers!

 And last, but not least, expect the sun to shine brightly, the weather to change on a dime and the wind to blow hard sometimes.  Expect to be overwhelmed with beautiful aircraft, lots of people, and your feet to say “sit down.” Be thrilled by the talented pilots flying all kinds of aircraft for your enjoyment – it only happens once a year and in one place on earth – that’s Stead Air Force Base, the home of the Reno National Championship Air Races.  Take your time, soak it all in, talk to the other fans and take lots of pictures.  And remember, you’ll be viewing history in motion!

 Enjoy your races Janet!  We’ll be looking for you!

 Good luck and Godspeed~

Kimberley West, WarBirdBabe


  1. Kimberley,

    You realy know a lot -if not every thing- about the races. How many years you’re attending the races yet. Maybe during all those years we met each other already several times without knowing it.
    Do you do also a lot of photography during the races ?

    1. Hey Twan,
      Check out today’s blog – I’m glad you sent your comments and wrote a response to you. Keep on viewing!

  2. Its like you learn my mind! You seem to know so much about this,
    like you wrote the e-book in it or something. I feel that you can do with some percent to
    drive the message home a little bit, however instead of that, that is magnificent blog.
    An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

  3. Hello there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a
    quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your articles.

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