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Fly Along With Pipsqueak

Pipsqueak 2016

Once again the politics at Reno prevent Pipsqueak, the world’s fastest L39, from competing. We continue to hope declining participation in the Unlimited Class and declining fan interest in the slow Jets will force a change soon.

The Spirit

Our latest representation of the Pipsqueak franchise is Emma Moyer, the daughter of Davey and Kristy Moyer. Davey is Pipsqueak’s Race Crew Chief. He is a pilot and rated aircraft mechanic.
Emma is 3 years old and already an enthustastic and experienced flyer. She has taken flights to Mexico, Trinidad and Venezuela. She has also logged several hours of right seat time in the family Cessna.

She is the personification of our Pipsqueak winning spirit and we are looking forward to her representing our racer in the years ahead. 

The Plane

We needed a plane that could match Pipsqueak’s winning spirit. In late 2004 Joe instructed Dave Cannavo of Aero Enterprises to acquire an L-39 to not only race, but win.

Dave is the “creative genius” of the warbird industry. Dave brings an incredibly unique set of skills to the warbird community. Dave is the only person in the world that qualifies for, and can do ALL of the following: 

Thoroughly vetted by BATF and the State Department, he is a registered arms dealer,  authorized to import “weapons of war” which is the label the State Department has given our warbirds.   Dave has business contacts in several former Soviet Bloc countries, including Russia, who help him identify planes for sale. 

Dave then performs the prepurchase inspection, packs the plane for shipping and arranges transport to the US. 

Back in the US he shepards the aircraft through Customs and BATF inspections. 

Dave then takes delivery, unpacks the crate, and assembles the plane-sometimes without any English instructions. 

Once he decides the aircraft is ready to go, Dave performs the test hops himself. He is type rated in the L-29, L-39, MiG 21 and MiG 23. 

Finally, as an FAA Authorized Instructor, Dave trains future pilots. 

There are one or two companies in the US that have put all these functions together, but they have many people each doing a part. Dave can do it all.

Dave has even more to offer. He is fast and creative. He thinks. In our case he identified our aircraft in a late 2004 trip to Czech, where he found Production Number 0105, the fifth production L-39, sitting forlornly in of a corner of the factory. Built in 1974, it did not appeal to US buyers who were looking for the later models built in the mid 1980’s. Dave recognized that 0105 was far lighter than the later models, and also that it had a practically new engine.

Delivered in Mid-February 2005, Dave set to work from the start to lighten the airframe as much as race rules allow, and to optimize the engine for the course conditions. Also, he set out to streamline all surfaces.

By mid August, only a month before Reno “Pipsqueak” was certified and ready for  race tuning. We slapped some paint on it and headed out with our long shot.

The History

The third essential piece of the race picture is the Pilot. Prior to purchasing “Pipsqueak” Joe secured the commitment of John Penney, a good friend and an icon of Reno Air Racing. For years John has been associated with the Unlimited Class “Rare Bear”, a WWII Bearcat fighter. Thanks in large part to John, “Rare Bear” is one of the most successful and popular racers at Reno.

With John at the stick, “Pipsqueak” shocked the participants and crowds with its speed and performance, going on to win the 2005 Jet Class handily. John followed up with another easy win in 2006.



2007 proved a year of distractions, with John turning most of his focus back to “Rare Bear”, which was in its turn a long shot for 2007.  To relieve John of a schedule conflict, Curt Brown, who has several prior years experience in the Jet Class, including 2 wins, stepped in to take over flying duties.  A former USAF test pilot, and an astronaut with 6 Space Shuttle missions, Curt proved an able replacement for John. With another 20 MPH for 2007 Curt finished second only to the T-2 Buckeye. At almost 490 MPH, “Pipsqueak” retained its title as the world’s fastest L-39.

2007 was Joe’s rookie year, flying race 77, the Viper. The Viper is a Rolls Royce powered L-29, highly modified by AeroEnterprises.



For 2008, Joe Gano, in his second year of racing, elected to fly Pipsqueak himself, turning over the Viper to Curt Brown.

Joe qualified at 502 mph, the fastest L-39 qualifying time, and third behind Curt Brown and Mike Mangold in Aero Enterprise prepared Vipers.  Joe clocked the fastest L-39 race speed during the week at 490 mph and was again the fastest L-39 during Sunday’s Gold Race, finishing third overall behind the Vipers of Brown and Mangold.


2009 Saw Dave Cannavo’s third disruptive innovation for Reno, following the race innovations to the stock Pipsqueak and the Rolls Royce Viper modification to the L-29: Installation of the more powerful DV2 engine, developed for the L-59. Pipsqueak was now ready to challenge the Vipers. In its first year, fuel controller issues left it a little short, with Joe Gano finishing at 508 MPH, an L- 39 record that still stands, but still behind Curt Brown’s record 516 MPH in our WarBirds of Delaware Viper.


Pipsqueak’s fuel controller issues carried through the 2010 season. Joe Gano piloted the world’s fastest L-39 to a blistering 506 MPH, but still behind Curt Brown’s 514 in the Viper.


With its fuel controller issues resolved, 2011 was to be Pipsqueak’s break out year. However, events intervened. A gross error by a new Viper pilot (There were four Vipers entered for 2011) resulted in a mechanical failure. The entrenched powers at Reno took advantage of this to ban the hard charging Vipers. The real reason was the folks controlling RARA did not want any planes faster than the Unlimiteds.  Nor did the Unlimiteds want to give up any purse money to the jets, which were rapidly gaining in popularity. The proof lies in the fact that RARA also threw Pipsqueak into the ban, no reason given!

2012- 2016

To this date Pipsqueak remains banned, for the sin of being just too fast for Reno.

WarBirds of Delaware remains hopeful that the realities of:

  • Declining Unlimited fan base 

  • Declining Unlimited  racer participation 

  • Past rapid rise in popularity of the fast jets 

  • Luke warm fan response to the current slow jets 

will encourage RARA to invite the fast Jets back in the near future.  

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