RENO, Nev. (AP) - One of northern Nevada's longest-running annual events for tourists and locals alike, this week's 38th annual National Championship Air Races, could set attendance records as well as speed records.
Last year, a record 186,000 people attended the four-day event at Reno Stead Airport. The week began on Monday with qualification runs that continue through Wednesday. The races and air show performances run Thursday through Sunday.
There is no admission charge until Thursday.
Mike Houghton, the Reno Air Racing Association president, said advance ticket sales, sponsorships and registrations all point to a record year.
More than 100 pilots, including three women, will compete on four courses for a record purse of $870,000.
The week also will feature the first-ever Apollo crew reunion. Of the original 41 Apollo astronauts, 30 still are alive and 14 are scheduled to be in Reno. About 600 people are signed up for a reunion dinner Saturday night.
Houghton said the racing association already is looking forward to its first $1 million purse within the next five years.
This year's five race classes are Biplane; the little Formula One, which is the only class designed specifically for racing; T-6, which are former military AT-6 and Harvard advanced trainers; Sport, which are made from kits; and Unlimited, which are highly modified World War II and post-war fighters and trainers capable of speeds in excess of 400 mph.
In addition, this year will see the event's first jet races. Selected pilots will fly around the 8-mile Unlimited course in former Soviet L-39C trainers. They are slow for jets, but should approximate those of the fastest Unlimited prop racers.
All the class champions from last year's races are returning. They are Ray Cote of El Cajon, Calif. in Formula One; David Rose of La Jolla, Calif. in Biplane; Nick Macy of Tulelake, Calif. in T-6; Dave Morss of Redwood City, Calif. in Sport, and Skip Holm of Calabasas, Calif. in Unlimited. Morss will be moving into the Unlimiteds in a modified Soviet Yak.
Also, Darryl Greenamyer, who won seven Reno Unlimited championships between 1965 and 1977, is scheduled to return to racing this year in the Sport class.
Reno Air Racing Association: http://www.airrace.org