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Overall the 2013 Reno Air races can be considered, at best a modest success. First they did happen. The FAA gave final approval only on August 27, 10 days before activities began. 

The air show portion highlighted the second US performance of Jet Man. While Jet Man’s concept, essentially a winged, powered man in flight is an incredible achievement and is well depicted on video, it was a let down as a live performance. He is required to stay above 2500, which makes him practically invisible to the crowd. In addition, he makes almost no noise.  Until he can upgrade his power plants to enable him to perform near ground level his show is much better captured on video. We think he will get there soon.

The air show component was hamstrung by the Sequester, which caused the cancellation of two of the air show’s most popular events: the appearance of the Thunderbirds and the other active duty military aircraft that always provide exciting flybys and static displays.

Finally, the Unlimited Class was greatly diminished with only 14 racers instead of the usual 25-30. The Unlimiteds could manage only 5 heats all week

In spite of the continued ban of the Aero Enterprises Fast Jets, the Jet Class provided a rare bright spot.  The Jets fielded 14 racers, matching the Unlimited total for the first time, and flew 8 heats.

The 2013 Reno Air Races marked the third year the Aero Enterprises Fast Jets were banned. Somewhat bafflingly, the ban continues in spite of the fact that the Aero jets clearly conform to new 2013 rules promulgated by the FAA in Washington DC that specifically address the alleged Aero deficiencies.  So Race 2, 11, 12 and 77 remain parked.

That left it up to Joe Gano in Race 6, SLUGGO to do its best.  The sturdy, stock L-29 performed as well as could be expected, with a 4th of 7 in the Silver Heat. Curt Brown flew Robin 1, Race 54, to a Silver first place, a poignant win in memory of owner Bob Miles wife, Robin.

As for the Gold Racers, two racers exceeded 500 MPH for the first time. Pete Zaccagnino and Rick Vandam became the latest members to join Reno’s 500 MPH Club.

Pete dominated the Gold Races in Race 24, winning all heats and Clocking a Gold win at 510 MPH. Pete’s ride is a JT-12 powered L-29. Pete was able to provide documentation that enabled his conversion to race.  Somehow the race officials felt Pete’s analysis was more valid than the documentation and years of flawless course experience offered by the Aero Fast Jets.

Rick Vandam managed a string of second places in Ed Noel’s Race 5, an L-39 that for the first time utilized a water injection system that enabled a Gold Race speed of 504 MPH.

The Jet Class now has five pilots that have clocked official race speeds in excess of 500 MPH. The other classes combined still have none.

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For more information on the 500 MPH Club, click here



Reno celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year.  For the second year in a row, it will be hampered by the lack of a military sponsored aerobatic team. The Patriot’s L-39 team will fill in, as they did so effectively last year.

New rules, in addition to those designed to tighten the course have been implemented to further reduce speed this year.  First, the jets are restricted to the manufacturer’s center of gravity (CG) limits. This protects inept pilots from losing control, but measurably slows the Fast Jets. 

Second, the Jet Class now restricts engine RPM to the manufacturer’s limits.  This alone will reduce speed by about 5%, and also assures no aircraft will exhibit race speeds over 500 MPH this year.

So for the 50th, the Jet Class is focusing on STYLE.  In the photo, Fast Jet racers Curt Brown (right) and Joe Gano (left) are modeling this years racing attire: NOMEX tuxedos.   What the Jets will lack in speed for 2013, they intend to make up in STYLE! 

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