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National Championship Air Races nearing the end?

Discussion in 'Living History' started by JJWilson, Oct 27, 2017.

  1. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Hello Everyone! Yesterday at work (I work at Chic-Fil-A :cool:) I saw a 60 year old man wearing a P-51 Air racer t-shirt Strega. I only had about a minute to talk to him, but it was nice to see another fan of the world's fastest motorsport so close to home (They raced out in Phoenix in the late 90's for a few years). In our conversation, he mentioned that this years races would be the last he would ever go to, somewhat shocked, I asked why that was the case. His response, "I'm afraid that like me, the races are running out of time, they can't afford to fly those old birds no more...." He then went on to say, he's glad someone in my generation cares about that stuff anymore. Though short, his reply struck me rather hard, I thought about it for the rest of the night, and I've kept on thinking about it today too. I had never really stopped to notice that the attendance and overall popularity of the races has been waning for quite a while now, and the nationally televised crash in 2011 didn't help one bit. In case you don't know about that, a modified P-51 suffered a catastrophic failure in the tail section during a race crashing into the crowd and killing 10.........I was there. I was to the left of the grandstands in the pits about a half a mile away, I remember it quite well, and I think about it frequently, it has been my only real experience with death in my life. After the crash, crowd numbers dropped off, and unlimited air racer (Warbirds mostly) numbers dropped off as well. I have been going to the races since I was 9, I've only missed one year in that time (2010). My Dad, like me, was born in Carson City Nevada, and he went to every race from 1971 to 1984 (The races take place at Reno-Stead airport Reno, NV). He was there in the hay day of the races, a time I wish I could go back too! There were crashes back then too (My dad has seen about 5), but none of them hit crowds. Back in the good ol days of air racing, there sometimes were 14 or 15 warbirds a heat! That's more than there were last year combined.............yikes. I have long held the dream that someday maybe I can bring my son, or daughter to the races, but I'm not so sure that will happen :(. The insurance to race 70+ year old planes is not cheap, and pushing them to the limit is a risk few owners would like to take for various reasons. I think a fan of any regular racing sport would appreciate the air races, not just because of the speed, but because of the experience itself. Seeing a P-51, Sea Fury, Corsair, or Bearcat get near 500 mph is incredible, but the noise in my opinion is the best part! It's something I will never get used to seeing, and try not to take for granted. I hope me and that older gentleman are wrong, and that the races will go on for decades more.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
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  2. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Sad to hear but metal does fatigue and stresses on highly modified WW 2 airframes and engines must be enormous. I have never seen such a race expect on TV....not the same , clearly, the sounds must be fantastic. . It is hard to understand how the lives of certain sports change. NASCAR is losing viewers. F1 has been for years and is looking at gimmicks, starting 3 wide for one example or using Michael Buffer.to do introductions.. I notice that Red Bull's aerial timed racing is done in light weight acrobatic planes. Far cry from a Bearcat. I have only seen one spitfire flying but worried that if it crashed there would be one less.

    Good post ,Gaines
     
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  3. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Thank you Gaines, Red bull air racing is impressive, but as you said, seeing a warbird in my opinion is so much more satisfying. I mentioned in another thread I created a few weeks back that 3D printing might allow for a few more racers and war birds to take the skies, had some really great answers and opinions in that thread.
    http://ww2f.com/threads/how-the-future-can-revive-the-past.70131/page-2#post-816563
     

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