Flying Expert: Reno Races Are ‘Dangerous’ But Unique

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Jerry Fleischhacker is the president of the Benson-White Bear Lake Chapter of the Experimental Aviation Association, and he knows all too well the dangers of flying – dangers that became evident in two fatal accidents this weekend.

Fleischhacker planned to attend the air race in Reno, Nev., this weekend, until word of the crash that killed 9 people and injured 70 kept him home.

“It’s sad a day in aviation,” he said.

Fleischhacker has flown planes for 18 years, and he knows how to fly the WWII-era P-51 plane that crashed in Reno. He said those planes take special knowledge and training to fly, especially when racing.

“They go around these pylons at high rates [of speed] … it’s like a race track in the air,” he said.

Fleischhacker said the planes are modified to maneuver better at high velocities. They have bigger engines and the plane that crashed, according to Fleischhacker, had three feet cut off each wing to make it shorter and faster.

Fleischhacker described flying those planes as “dangerous, really dangerous.”

“You’re flying low and at very, very high speeds,” he said.

The race in Reno is the only one of its kind in the United States, and Friday marked the first time a spectator has been killed since the Reno Air Race Association began 47 years ago.

Calls for officials to consider ending the event has Fleischhacker concerned; he said he hopes the races continue, despite being dangerous.

“It’s like auto racing,” he said. “You see car crashes in auto racing. You’re going to have them in aviation as well. It’s dangerous: You’re going fast and you are at low altitude.”

Fleischhacker said he will think of the pilot and the people on the tarmac who lost their lives in Reno every time he preps his plane for flight.

So far, 20 pilots have died during the 47 year history of the races in Reno.

More from Reg Chapman
  • Race On

    .6 people die per year at the race.

  • Lil rex

    I used to live in reno and would go to the air races every year it is sad what happened but ending it will just move it somewhere else thoughts and prayers to the familys of the loved ones lost

  • ted

    No More races. It’s just too dangerous.

    • elkriverscott

      Cars are hundreds of time more dangerous.

    • fred

      way more likely to be killed on the streets of minneapolis……9 deaths?….minneapolis must have 9 deaths a week

  • Sgt

    They cant end the Air Races in Reno. Thats part of the risk when you go to these races (or any race) If your the type of person that worries about risk from going to races or any event like this, dont go.

  • Jason

    I guess they need to outlaw crossing the street, driving to work, cooking indoors, and several other activities. They can all cause death due to accidents as well.

  • bubba136

    It’s dangerous??? No kidding,driving your car is more dangerous. The racers and the spectators know what the risks are. If it’s to dangerous for you,stay home.

  • Evil 1

    Lets put a end to being a elected government official. How many have been shot or shot at ? Its too dangerous!

  • Jo Deavis

    I think the outcome will be very clear. Pilot was rendered unconscious either due to a medical condition or excessive G’s.

  • Jake

    Can’t believe that my comments are getting wiped out. To those who feel the need to do so, please stae a rational reason for doing so. Keep FREEDOM OF SPEECH ALIVE. I do not have an agenda, I’m just expresing a point of view.

  • Jake

    The pilot was **74** years old. Most WWII pilots of p-51s could NOT be over 35-50 years old. This plane was recently modified, so it could be flown faster, yet it was barely tested before the crash, according to media reports. The P-51 was NOT an easy plane to fly, even in it’s stock configuration with a very competent pilot. Censoring my comments WON’T change the FACTS about what the FAA will find out. The FAA won’t take my comments that seriously, as I am not a pilot, especially of a P-51 Mustang. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE this plane. It it truly a great piece of history, like the Shelby Cobra, the early Ferrari’s, a true masterpiece. I have seen it flown, and I have heard it’s harmoniously sounding engine — nothing compares to that unique sound. That said, when demonstrating such a machine, GREAT CARE should be taken. It is bad enough when such a machine is lost on its own, but when people lose their lives to see it being flown at such an extreme point, well then, there has to be some serious compensation. I seriously hope that lawyers aren’t involved in the censoring of this conversation.

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