BLAINE, Minn. (WCCO) — With each turn of a bolt and every packed box, the anticipation is growing inside an Anoka County Airport hangar. A team of 12 volunteers is preparing the aircraft “Sawbones” for competition in the world’s fastest motorsport.

Tom Lymburn is among those volunteers and recalls his initiation into the spectacle of air racing.

“My first time there was in 2009 where I saw a souped up Mustang doing 500 miles per hour,” he said. “And that’s in a piston-engine airplane.”

Speed is everything at Reno, where planes have been competing at the National Championship Air Races since 1964. This year, everything from bi-planes to jets will compete in six different categories. Each of them striving to be the fastest to complete multiple laps around a circular racetrack in the sky.

It’s expected this year’s races will draw more than a quarter of a million spectators when racing begins on Sept. 14.

“So it’s well attended but not well known, because it’s kind of like NASCAR for airplanes,” Dr. Robin Crandall said.

Dr. Crandall, a Twin Cities orthopedic surgeon, makes his living in the operating room but his passion sits in a hangar. He owns the 1949 Hawker Sea Fury he’s named, “Sawbones.”

The plane is a 3000 horsepower, post World War II piston aircraft that’s built for speed. It’s previous racing at Reno clocked its top speed at 411 miles per hour.

“It’s dangerous,” he said. “You’re flying with 10 other airplanes and pretty much 50 feet off the ground, often wingtip to wingtip.”

And, much like surgery, air racing is done with teamwork. Winning at Reno is the ultimate goal of Crandall and his team, but being safe and having fun is the real payoff.

“It’s kind of like being a gear head. It’s interesting to work on the mechanical aspects and watch the crew really work together,” he said. “There’s no one person who can do this — it’s a team effort.”

Crandall plans to fly “Sawbones” to Reno on Friday to begin time trials on Sunday. If you are interested in keeping track on the race results and watching videos of the plane’s performance the team will post information on its website,

Bill Hudson

Comments (8)
  1. Jake says:

    Sorry, but given the depth of this recession, it’s awfully hard for me to embrace such an effort. Yes, I know that putting together such a machine takes great skills, focus, and the the pursuing of a goal. But, to break it all down, it’s a fancy, pricey TOY, owned no doubt, by a multi-millionalire, who has taken advantage of EVERY tax break known to a US citizen.. I truly wonder if this millionaire’s ‘assets’ couldn’t have been put to better use to help make this country as a whole, a whole lot better. Flashing your opulence these days is not a good idea, WW II references or not.

    1. oh geez says:

      Your petty class resentment is pathetic. Because the man may be wealthy you first make a host of negative assumptions and then assert that he is obligated to use his assets…….. for what? To make the country “as a whole, a whole lot better”? What does that vague and meaningless phrase mean? How do you know he doesn’t do things for others and the good of the country? We have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If he is wealthy and successful he is not obligated to hide the fact to spare the feelings of those who are not.

  2. wow! says:

    A Hawker Sea Fury. What a rare and beautiful aircraft. I would love to see that baby up close. To bad Jake can’t get past his hypocritical pseudo-Marxist/Leveler perspective and appreciate it. It took an incredible amount of effort, time, and money to become a surgeon but heaven forbid he should actually do well financially in his practice. According to Jake all wealth is ill gotten gain. Dr. Crandall should live in a tent out of shame and give all his money to make the country “as a whole, a whole lot better”, whatever the heck that means. I’m sure if Jake were wealthy he would live like a Spartan for the good of us all.

  3. Jake says:

    Hey geez, why don’t you KMA??? OK\??? Petty class?? Yeah, I’ll show you some petty class when you are licking your own blood off of your FAT LIP. So go ahead and flaunt your oppulence, like they did back in the 1920’s and 30’s and see how it all works out. i’m no socialist, but I do believe in DISCRETION.

    1. John says:

      Only one with sad envy would see what he is doing as showing off.
      This apears to be his passion. More power to him if he has the means.
      We can all be who we want to be with a little effort. If you are who you want to be then what does it mater what others do unless you want to change or control what others do. To me that is un american. Lead by example, chose and suport your own heros. But most of all dont belittle someone else’s passion if it doesnt affect you.

      1. Joni says:

        Dr. Crandall saved my son’s arm, repaired my husband’s knee, fixed my 90 year old mother’s shoulder, and just recently repaired my shoulder and knee! He also is VERY involved with and volunteers his time/talents to helping returning veterans who need prosthetics. He is a hero in many ways and by no means a flashy person. So, Jake, please research first. Thanks.

  4. Mike says:

    It should also be known that Dr. Crandall spends a lot of time at the Twin Cities Shrine Hospital doing surgery (for free) for kids with birth defects or other disfigurement. He is also dedicated to the advancement of the reconstructive surgery they need. He has spoken at several conferences to inform his colleagues on the progress of certain surgeries and advancements. If that isn’t doing what he can “to make this country as a whole a whole lot better” I don’t knwo what is.
    How do I know all this? I work for him.

  5. ML says:

    I was in Reno cheering on “Sawbones”… Dr. Crandall was immediately on scene helping those injured by the crash on Friday.