Thursday, September 21, 2023


The last Reno Air Races: Goodbye to a major national competition beloved by RVers

Many RVers are headed to the National Championship Air Races in Reno for one last time this week, September 13-17, 2023. The competitors will take off there for the final time after 59 years. The schedule includes race heats in several classes, such as Formula One, STOL Drag, Biplane, and Unlimited.

The end of air racing at Reno is a poignant time of reflection for those of us who were lucky enough to attend the event since 1964. The Stead Airport parking areas were always filled with the RVs of racers, support personnel, and air race fans alike.

I covered the Reno Air Races during the 1970s and ‘80s for Air Progress, Plane & Pilot, Aviation International News, and other magazines. Writers and news journalists would typically arrive several days before the official start of the event, to take thousands of photos and interview race participants. The crew parking areas near the airplanes would already be full of RVs, and the public parking lots would start filling up with RVs in the days prior to the first official flag.

Reno Air Racers
Formula One Racers

The weather in the Sierras was always perfect in September: the skies a bright azure, the winds usually light, the air was crisp. Press credentials would enable a writer to freely roam the ramps where pre-race mechanical tinkering was done to the race planes. My usual spot for the race heats was beneath a pylon near the south end of the course, nearest the viewing stands. The legendary Bob Hoover was for many years, the official starter, flying his bright yellow North American P-51 Mustang.

This year, fans in perhaps greater numbers than ever will travel to Stead for the final races. The RVs and the dazzling planes will be there one last time.

The Reno Air Races were a major event for the city of Reno and the surrounding area. They drew over 200,000 spectators each year and generated millions of dollars in economic impact. The races were also a popular destination for RVers, who could camp at the airport and enjoy the excitement of the races.

The history of the Reno Air Races

The Reno Air Races began in 1964 and were held annually at the Reno-Stead Airport.

A very popular event, the races featured planes in a variety of classes, from the tiny single-seat Formula One, to the fastest, Unlimited, usually powerful warbirds, and Jet. The races were also known for their high speeds, close racing, and, sometimes, crashes.

The air races were a major economic boon for the city of Reno, generating millions of dollars in economic impact each year. They also helped to promote Reno as a tourist destination.

The end of an era

2023 will be the sunset of Reno Air Races at the Stead Airport. The RTAA (Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority) decided not to renew the contract with the RARA (Reno Air Racing Association) due to concerns about rapid area development, public safety, and the impact on the airport and its surrounding areas.

The National Air Racing future

The RARA is still looking for a new home for the races and has enigmatically suggested that a new National Air Race venue will be announced soon.

While the future of the races is currently unknown, the six-decade legacy of the Reno Air Races will live on.


Randall Brink
Randall Brink
Randall Brink is an author hailing from Idaho. He has written many fiction and non-fiction books, including the critically acclaimed Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart. He is the screenwriter for the new Grizzly Adams television series and the feature film Goldfield. Randall Brink has a diverse background not only as a book author, Hollywood screenwriter and script doctor, but also as an airline captain, chief executive, and Alaska bush pilot.


  1. I thought just the other day there was an article in the Las Vegas news, that Reno would be re-named “Las Vegas Air Races” to be held at the Spaceport in Pahrump. Several years ago, they had them at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but it didn’t work well. Several years ago, I was at Reno for several days and Sunday I had all the clothes on I had. If they do go to Pahrump, there is camping everywhere.

  2. Sad, but the air races just aren’t what they used to be.
    I crewed T-6s from 1981-97 (Texas Red, Big Red, Blue Bayou, & 2 of Hearts). Had a lot of fun. Went back in 2021 and they could hardly fill the field, and sorry, but the jets just don’t have the visceral feeling of the props.

    I’ve heard that Wendover might be a possibility.

  3. Wow! That would have been something to see. I hope they find a new location. I would like to see this event at least once. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, Randall!

  4. I never got to attend the races, but as Curator of Collections for the EAA museum in Oshkosh, WI I got to meet and know many of the competitors. We had and have a number of retired racing aircraft in the collection.

    The museum is open year-round, but if you want to really see aircraft of all types, visit during the annual week-long AirVenture celebration. Think 10% of all the general aviation aircraft in the country in one place plus homebuilt, warbird, military, vintage, rotary wing, ultralight and seaplanes. Oh and there’s a campground holding around 40,000 people with every kind of RV you can imagine! (Sorry but this campground is only available during AirVenture though there are others nearby)

  5. Possibly another nail in the coffin for General Aviation Airports. Check out a great video called “One Six Right”- a moving and informative overview of GA airports- their history and future.

  6. Thanks Randall!

    This is one of those spectacular events that defies description. You have to experience it.

    The most thrilling to me was when the “Unlimited’s” came around the first turn. The mix of Rolls Royce and Pratt Whitney WW2 engines would make the ground shake and produce a cacophony that was soul stirring!

    Bob Hover in his Shrike Aero Commander and P51 was absolutely amazing and a Decent Fellow to boot. A Truly Legendary Airman!

    All gone now but it’s still a great show.

    We have five Heavy Aircraft, Retired and Active Pilots , Military and Commercial in our Family.

    All of us that are physically able are going for one last time.

    End of an Era.

  7. This is sad. My dad went every year until he wasn’t physically able to anymore. He even sponsored one of the planes, “Big Red.” The pilot was one of his oldest friends. I hope they do find another venue.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.