Following their victories in first and second places in a championship race at the National Championship Air Races north of Reno, two seasoned California pilots lost their lives over the weekend when their World War II-era aircraft collided in midair as they prepared to land.
Officials named Chris Rushing of Thousand Oaks and Nick Macy, 67, of Tulelake as the crash’s victims.
The National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration, and local law enforcement are working together, according to race officials, to find out what caused the disaster.
The 59th and last year of the National Championship Air Races at Reno-Stead Airport were overshadowed by the tragedy. Along with the 10 fans who perished in an accident on the edge of the grandstand in 2011, the deaths bring the total number of pilots or performers who have perished at the Reno races to 24 since the event first began in 1964.
The CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association, Fred Telling, told the Reno Gazette-Journal on Sunday night, “It’s a particularly poignant end to our final flag in Reno.”
But the racing clan will remain intact and compete somewhere else. The event’s move to a new location was announced by the organizers last year due to worries over rising construction near the airport and other factors.
In 2011, a heavily modified North American P-51D Mustang racing aircraft competing at the Reno Air Races crashed into spectators, killing former Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 spectators on the ground. This accident raised concerns about rising insurance prices since then.
One of the deadliest air show mishaps in American history occurred during it. Seventy more people suffered significant injuries. The September competition was last year, when Henderson, Nevada, pilot Aaron Hogue, 61, lost his life in a collision.
All six occupants of two historic aircraft were killed two months later at a Dallas air show when a P-63 Kingcobra fighter jet and a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber collided.
Rushing had just won the T-6 Gold race on Sunday in his aircraft, Baron’s Revenge, averaging 234 mph (376 kph), and Macy had placed second in his Six-Cat, about 15 seconds behind Rushing. The two single-engine planes “collided in midair,” according to the FAA, as they were both getting ready to land.
The NTSB would lead the probe, according to the FAA. On Monday, demands for comment from the NTSB were not immediately fulfilled. Telling characterized Rushing and Macy as accomplished pilots. The defending winner of the race was Rushing.
Over the years, Macy has won it six times. They both crashed in the high desert beyond the racetrack, some 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of the California border, and both of their planes, which had been used to teach pilots during World War II, were destroyed.
As the director of a nonprofit organization in Van Nuys, California, Rushing was committed to promoting the heritage of the AT-6 Texan trainer plane from World War II, according to The Orange County Register.
At least six communities have submitted bids to host the 2025 national championship, according to Telling. He kept the sites a secret. In a message on Facebook published on Monday afternoon, the racing association stated that it hoped to reveal a new site in early 2024.
While there are inherent hazards in all motorsports, the association stated that safety was its top priority. “We work diligently year-round to mitigate these risks,” it added.
We want to show our gratitude to the innumerable spectators and volunteers who have supported the event throughout the years. during both the good and challenging times… despite the tragic way we have concluded our legendary career in northern Nevada.