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Air racing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Air Racing)
A pair of Sport Class racers passing the finish pylon at the Reno Air Races.
A pair of Sport Class racers passing the finish pylon at the Reno Air Races.

Air racing is a sport that involves small airplanes and is practiced around the world. It is somewhat similar to auto racing; however, corporate sponsorship and broadcast media coverage occur at a much lower level than in auto racing.


The first event in air racing history was held in 1909; the Reims Air Race from Reims, France to England lasted a week, drawing the most important plane makers and pilots of the era, as well as many celebrities and royalty. The event was won by Glenn Curtiss, who outsped the second place finisher by five seconds. Curtiss was held as "Champion Air Racer of the World". This event was held yearly for many years.

Later on, the England to Australia air race was instituted, with commercial airlines such as Air France, Imperial Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Pan Am, Qantas and others participating. The major event was suspended during World War II and never brought back.

In 1921, the United States instituted the National Air Meets, which became the National Air Races in 1924. In 1929, the Women's Air Derby became a part of the National Air Races circuit. The National Air Races lasted until 1939. The Cleveland Air Races were one of the most important events of the National Air Races and outlived the circuit by ten years, being held until 1949. That year, pilot Bill Odom suffered a fatal crash during a race, killing himself and two people in a nearby house. In 1947, an All-Woman Transcontinental Air Race (AWTAR) dubbed the "Powder Puff Derby" was established. It ran successfully until 1977.

In 1964, Bill Stead, a Nevada rancher, pilot, and hydroplane racing enthusiast, organized the first Reno Air Races at a small dirt strip called Sky Ranch, located between Sparks, NV, and Pyramid Lake. The so-called National Championship Air Races soon moved to Reno Stead Airport and have been held there every September since 1966. The five-day event attracts attendance totalling about 200,000, and includes racing around courses marked out by tall pylons by six different classes of aircraft. It also features civil airshow acts, military flight demonstrations, and a large static aircraft display.

Other promoters have run various pylon racing events across the nation, including races in Mojave, CA in 1978; at Hamilton, CA, in 1988; in Phoenix, AZ in 1994 and 1995; and in Tunica, Mississippi in 2005.

Air racing in England: the Red Bull Air Race heat held at Kemble airfield, Gloucestershire. The aircraft fly singly, and have to pass between pairs of pylons
Air racing in England: the Red Bull Air Race heat held at Kemble airfield, Gloucestershire. The aircraft fly singly, and have to pass between pairs of pylons

Recently, Red Bull has sponsored a series called the Red Bull Air Race in which competitors fly singly through a series of gates, between which they must perform a prescribed series of aerobatics maneuvers. Usually held over water near large cities, the series has has attracted large crowds and brough substantial media interest in air racing for the first time in decades.

Notable air racers

  • Péter Besenyei
  • Kirby Chambliss
  • Bessie Coleman
  • Jacqueline Cochran
  • Glenn Curtiss
  • Jimmy Doolittle
  • Amelia Earhart
  • Daryl Greenamyer
  • Skip Holm
  • Bob Hoover
  • Laura Ingalls
  • Jimmy Leeward
  • Tony LeVier
  • Charles Lindbergh
  • Mike Mangold
  • Blanche Noyes
  • Bill Odom
  • Susan Oliver
  • Jon Sharp
  • Bill Stead
  • Patty Wagstaff
  • Charles Kingsford Smith


  • Set in the 1930s, the movie Porco Rosso briefly touches on the early days of air racing.

External links

  • Reno National Championship Air Races
  • Red Bull Air Race World Series
  • Aero GP
  • Tunica Air Races
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