2015 Event Review

Reno Air Show, September 17-20, 2015
Location: Stead Field, Reno, Nevada
Admission: General admission, $14 to $35 depending on day
Parking: $10 on-site
Value: Excellent
 
air race
Reno Air Show, Nevada

Reno’s Stead Field is best known for the National Championship Air Races. But what many people don’t know is that the Reno Air Show runs concurrently with the races. What began as filler to entertain race fans between heats has evolved into a full-fledged show attracting top jet teams, military tactical demos, warbirds and world-class aerobatic performers.

Although racing action started at 8AM, welcoming ceremonies to kick off the air show didn't start until 11AM with the Wings of Blue Parachute Team flying in the US flag. During the course of the afternoon the airshow acts and races would alternate. The airshow flying began with a very spirited demonstration of the flight capabilities of the Dassault Falcon 7X. Part sales-pitch, part airshow aerobatic act, it nevertheless showed how nimble this large-cabin, long-range, high-end business trijet is. The action heated up with Air Combat Command's F-16 Viper Demo. Maj Craig "Rocket" Baker took off in full afterburner and didn't let up except during the low-speed high-alpha pass. After seeing the minimum-radius turn I'm sure many in the audience wondered what time Maj Baker could have set in the Jet class gold race! After his demo, "Rocket" paired up with Kevin Eldridge, flying the P-51D Mustang "Wee Willy II," for the Heritage Flight. Kevin later went on to place fifth in the Sport Gold race.

Breitling is a major sponsor of both the races and the airshow, so it was no surprise that two of the performances were also sponsored by them. David Martin flew an impeccable aerobatic routine in the Breitling CAP 232, showing why he consistently ranks at the top of his field. And joining all of the L-39 jets at Stead for the races were the Albatros' of the Breitling Jet Team. The team spent its whole 2015 season in North America and Reno was one of only nineteen stops. They put on a very refined demonstration of precision formation flying. Their concluding maneuver saw the team approaching the crowd and fanning out as many teams do, but surprising the fans by setting off flares as they went vertical. If you missed them this year, you may have another chance next year. Rumor has it that they'll be back for an encore engagement.

The Commemorative Air Force's Tora!Tora!Tora! display also employed pyrotechnics in their display, but cranked it up to the maximum. The act recreates the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor using aircraft modified for use during the filming of the eponymous movie. For the past 35 years the act has toured the US, providing a dynamic history lesson about the event that forced the US into World War II. Although only a portion of the full complement of CAF aircraft was on hand, planes were soon flying in all directions with carefully choreographed explosions filling the sky with smoke and fire. The final airshow performance of the afternoon was a flyby of a B-25 Mitchell to commemorate the Doolittle raid. Launched only months after Pearl Harbor, the raid brought the war to the Japanese mainland and began the inexorable road to victory of American forces in the Pacific.

In addition to the aircraft in the air, Reno also featured a rather large exhibition of aircraft on static display. The US military was well represented by a C-17 Globemaster III from Hawaii, two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from Idaho, an F-15D Eagle from Oregon and a CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Blackhawk from the local Nevada Army National Guard. An MQ-1 Predator from nearby Creech AFB was also on display.

Stead Field also hosts the National Aviation Heritage Invitational. “The vision and mission of the National Aviation Heritage Invitational is to encourage the preservation of aviation history through the restoration of vintage aircraft to original flying condition. The National Aviation Heritage Invitational promotes aircraft restoration via friendly competition, bringing valuable aviation treasures together in one venue. This endeavor is a joint effort under the auspices of Perform Air International, the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the Reno Air Racing Foundation and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.” The P-51B Mustang “Berlin Express” owned by Max Chapman of Idaho Falls, Idaho and restored by Pacific Fighters won both the Henry “Hap” Arnold award for best military plane and the Neil A. Armstrong aviation heritage trophy for grand champion.

The Aviation Magazine would like to thank all of the staff, volunteers and sponsors who make this event possible and thank Kelly Glenn for arranging media access.
 
Performers included and staic on display:

Breitling Jet Team
F-16 Viper East Tactical Demonstration
Heritage Flight: P-51D Mustang “Wee Willy II”, F-16C Fighting Falcon
Matt Chapman, Breitling CAP 232 Aerobatics
North American B-25J Mitchell “Russian ta get ya!”
Dassault Falcon 7X
U.S. Air Force Academy “Wings Of Blue” Parachute Demonstration Team

Military Aircraft on static display:

United States Air Force C-17 Globemaster III
Idaho Air national Guard A-10C Thunderbolt II
Nevada Army National Guard HH-60 Blackhawk
Nevada Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook
Oregon Air National Guard F-15D Eagle
United States Air Force MQ-1 Predator

 

Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for The Aviation Magazine

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National Championship Air Races
 
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