(7 pix from Reno 2011 - click to enlarge)
On Wednesday January 4, 2012, President & CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) Mike Houghton brought forth a statement about the future of the National Championship Air Races... the message was delivered with great compassion for the families and individuals directly affected by the Friday September 16, 2011 Galloping Ghost race tragedy, it was full of thankfulness and appreciation for the tremendous response from those who stepped forward to help during and after the tragic event, and it expressed great hope for the future with the intentions of moving forward toward the 49th annual Reno Air Races on September 12-16, 2012 at the Reno‐Stead Airfield.
Many hurdles yet remain as there are various permits that must still be secured for the races to occur, including permits that would allow the Pylon Racing Seminar (PRS) to take place in June. The PRS is an essential component that ensures that rookie pilots are qualified and safe to be on the race course. RARA has a great record of making the safety of both the pilots and the fans the highest priority, and the press conference included the announcement of a new Blue Ribbon Review Panel. Mike Houghton said "We have created a Blue Ribbon Review Panel, comprised of some of the foremost aviation and safety experts in the country, to examine any possible changes or adjustments that could be made to enhance the already high level of safety established by the FAA and existing RARA procedures."
RARA also faces a large financial challenge going forward. The loss of revenue from the cancellation of the Saturday and Sunday events at the 2011 race was significant, but there is a lot of passion among race fans and sponsors for what the Reno Air Races represent - a great celebration of the human spirit. It is believed that the not-for-profit RARA can overcome these financial challenges. Mike Hougton said "Our fan support has been overwhelming. During our refund period of mid‐October to early December, refunds were requested on less than 20 percent of the tickets sold for Saturday and Sunday. For a not‐for‐profit event that relies on ticket sales and sponsorships to succeed on an annual basis, this is a substantial number, to be sure, but definitely not one that cannot be overcome."
Concerning the permit and logistical hurdles yet to clear and what will happen if everything isn't able to come together, Mike Houghton said "In the event we are not able to successfully navigate all of the challenges discussed previously, we will hold a final one of a kind air show and memorial, only for this year. Many of the victims, their families, air race teams and fans have told us they are coming to Reno this September no matter what!"
For many race fans, myself included, the announcement by RARA to move forward with the races in 2012 is a great sign of the strength of the human spirit to move forward during times of tragedy. And while the new Blue Ribbon Review Panel is a great step to furthering the safety of the races, it is my personal estimation that no amount of planning or protection could have prevented the highly unusual circumstances that led to the Galloping Ghost tragedy. There are risks in being alive, and the greatest thing we can do is to acknowledge those risks and do the best we can at being prepared for what may come... and the rest is up to God.