Reno Air Racing: Thunder mustang Update!



It's Sunday September 12, and the AAFO.COM "inside air racing" team has arrived and settled into our Cruise America, on-location HQ. If you've followed our coverage in past year, you'll note we are doing it a bit different this time. So much goes on after-hours at the race location, we decided to take the plunge, give up the unlimited hot water showers and the nice restaurants downstairs in our hotel and do it from the race site... So... Here we are!

As I'm typing this update, I'm listening to the unlimited class airplanes running up about a quarter mile from where I sit.... While there are some notable difficulties in doing our coverage from here (ahh... where's the phone jack in this puppy?:) .... There simply is no better way to be close to the action and the stories that are... "Stead".

Well... we're tired and hungry after a day on the ramp, so let's cut to the action. Miss Ashley II finally arrived after a prop seal failure grounded her pilot, Gary Levitz, in Eugene, Oregon Saturday. We talked with Bill Rogers on the way down yesterday and he assured us they had the problem in hand...and we'd see the newly modified airplane here by last night or this morning. Right on schedule (ok... so it was afternoon) MA2 back-up pilot, Skip Holm, completing the trip for Gary, brought her in for a smooth landing around 1:00 today.

Strega, sporting the new paint scheme (stay tuned for pics) and a new prop (reportedly the damaged prop, cut-down and reshaped) looks perfect! Early pit observer assessment puts the 1997 winner firmly in the "favorite" slot.... In our humble opinion... It is waaay too early to make this call.

Critical Mass... Now here's a nice looking airplane! There are Sea Fury's and there is Critical Mass. We've described some of the mods done to the airplane in past "inside air racing" updates... Airplane owner, Tom Dwelle, had the racer out on the course earlier today, mixing it up with Matt Jackson in Rare Bear... Both looked very good with the newly re-engined, Critical Mass, sounding particularly good. Neither pilot really put any serious power to their airplanes in this early practice session... How well will they do later... STAY TUNED! Time trials begin tomorrow and we'll bring the results to you as soon as we can process and post them.... (remember how hard it is to find the phone jack in this motor home!:)

Rare Bear.... Looking and sounding good.... more later.....

Riff Raff... Last year's induction system problems solved, this very good looking red and white beauty is back and reportedly much stronger than before..... Mike Keenum tells us they are in very good shape and after his practice session this morning said the airplane is ready... cowlings removed for inspection and nearly ready for the evening crew beer break....

New course layout..... With every pit buzzing with activity, we've only managed to speak to one pilot so far about the new pylon locations. Mike Keenum was very pleased with what he saw this morning when he flew Riff Raff around the pylons. The new location of pylon 4 being the most notable area on the course, Mike tells us that since the brush on the ridge that blocks the view of 4 from 3 has been removed, it is a simple matter to line up on the brush cut when flying from 3 to 4 (pylon 4 can not be seen from 3 until the ridge is cleared)..... As we've mentioned before, Pylon 4 is much lower than in its prior location, just how the pilots fly this one, as well as 5 and 6 is going to be particularly interesting to see. Will the pilots elect to stay high on cresting the ridge gradually intercepting the old part of the course, or will they dive for 4, build speed and go on to the next two? ..... Again.... Stay Tuned!.....

Notable no-show.. so far... Czech Mate..... We're all pulling for Sherman Smoot and the fine crew working with him to bring this rugged airplane to the show... We'll bring you information as soon as it is available.

We hear the dinner bell ringing... or is that our stomach growling? We'll have much more information as the week progresses and things settle down in the pits... Also... Pictures, videos (in plane....*if*.... our sources come through!... stay tuned) Stay tuned to's Inside Air Racing for the latest action reports, brought to you from the Reno Stead Airport!

Stay tuned!


The 1999 Reno National Championship Air Races Will Be Held September 16-19 At Stead Field, Reno Nevada. Qualifying and Practice Events Run September 13-15 And Offers Some Of The Most Exciting Action Of The Entire Week. For Ticket And Lodging Information go to:

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