Last year’s crash of a modified North American P-51 Mustang, into a crowd of spectators at the Reno National Championship Air Races, claimed the lives of 11 people including the pilot. The aircraft struck the box-seat stands at the south end of the course where 66 more people suffered serious injuries.
The Big Frog racer is getting attention for more than just its tongue-in-cheek patriotic name. The French aircraft is the first carbon-fiber race plane to run on a diesel engine powered purely by jet-A fuel. And it is turning heads here at the Le Bourget show.
The Reno Air Races were back on form this year as some 180,000 people trekked to Stead Field in mid-September to watch 128 aircraft compete in six race classes for a record $800,000 in prize money. Last year’s event was canceled early in race week due to September 11.
National pride and a thirst for aerial trailblazing dubbed the “Lindbergh effect” spurred the advances that mark what is known in retrospect as the Golden Age of Aviation, the 1930s. It was one of the most exciting and productive periods in aviation history. In Europe, competition for the Schneider Trophy drove speeds to rarefied heights, and in the U.S.