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Wednesday
Jun252014

Video: Fascinating Historical Account Of The 1965 Reno Air Races (Progress In The Air)


 This recently uploaded gem of a video is an old-school professionally produced film that chronicled the wide variety of aviation related activities taking place during the 1965 Reno Air Races. It's 21 minutes long but very well worth your time if you have any interest in the era that defined so much of what modern aviation is all about today.


A young Bob Hoover talks about how the 23 year old P-51 design still flies beautifully


 National air racing had just returned the year before in 1964 when the first Reno Air Races took place at the Sky Ranch airport just north of Sparks Nevada. Bill Stead was the driving force behind the rebirth of national air racing and it's great to see him in this video.

 Lots of dirt and a short runway were pretty much all they had, but the event included aerobatics, parachuting, hot air ballooning, the US Air Force Thunderbirds in the F-100D Super Sabre, and of course various classes of air racing. Those first two years of the Reno Air Races were an amazing celebration of a love for flight no matter the machine used to accomplish it.


Before the Red Devils, before the Eagles Aerobatic Team... a young Charlie Hillard


 I was fortunate as a young kid to experience Reno from 1967 thru 1970, and much of what is seen at the Sky Ranch in this video reminds me of the early years at Stead Airfield. It's interesting to note several things about the Stead name as it relates to these early Reno years. Bill Stead, a late 1950's world speed boat champion, pulled the first two events together after retiring from boats and moving on to racing airplanes. The location for these first two years was the Sky Ranch, but the airport was barely up to the task of handling the larger aircraft. Tragically, Bill Stead was killed a short time later in 1966 in a Florida crash of his midget racer in preparation for the St Petersburg races. The airplane was the newly acquired Deer Fly racer that had been the winner in the 1965 races at Sky ranch, as seen in the video.


A fascinating look at the early days of the modern hot air balloon movement


 For 1966, the National Air Races moved from Sky Ranch to what had been Stead Air Force base, named in honor of Bill Stead's brother Croston Stead who had been killed in a P-51 training accident at the base in 1951. When the base was deactivated in 1966 and turned over to the city of Reno, it was renamed Stead Airfield. Today it's known as Reno Stead Airport. The excellent facilities of Reno Stead have served the races well for nearly all of the 50 year history of the modern National Championship Air Races, known simply as the Reno Air Races... and the memory of two Reno brothers lives on.


Mira Slovak trying to win again, but Darryl Greenamyer started his win streak instead


This is definitely a must see video if you're interested in sport aviation history!


The Thunderbirds after replacing the short run F-105's with the F-100D Super Sabre


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Reader Comments (3)

Great post Martt!
I love the old air racing footage. That is one I have never seen before. Reminded me of watching the Reno Air Races on Wild World of Sports on ABC back in the 70's.

June 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrad A.

Brad A.- It really is am amazing documentation of a fascinating time in American aviation history... it would be interesting to see how the races would be received by audiences today if they were covered by a major media outlet.

June 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMartt (admin)

Martt
I'm not sure how most modern TV viewers would receive it. I believe many younger people today do not have the appreciation for things of a mechanical nature. Our generation grew up with many people we knew who worked in an industrial environment and at a time in history when the U.S. was the leader in quality manufacturing. Our culture today is one of instant gratification and what's the "latest and greatest" products we have to have. By the way,who would want to watch a "23 year old aircraft" race around a bunch of pylons? ( tongue firmly implanted in cheek)
I do believe, however, that with the advanced technology we have available to us today in film making and television (micro HD video cameras, real time telemetry, in cockpit communication, etc.) many people would be attracted to the sport. I remember when Red Bull Air Racing first appeared on the tube, I was hooked!
Brad

June 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrad A.

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