Statement from Reno Air Racing Association and RARA Event Committee Regarding Precious Metal Disqualification

National Championship Air Races

Sept. 29, 2014 – The passion of our air race fans is truly unmatched and is reflected in the conversations that have gone on since the end of the 2014 National Championship Air Races. It’s unfortunate that the quality of racing during this year’s event has been overshadowed, for some, by the controversy surrounding the disqualification of Precious Metal in the Breitling Unlimited Gold Race. We have reviewed this issue thoroughly and fully support the decision of our contest committee, who followed the Reno Air Racing Association and FAA rules in every way. We will, however, work with our pilots and race classes to identify ways to further enforce the integrity of our event. This could include measures like adding more judges at critical points on the race course and/or looking at something like a transponder plot as a potential solution to minimizing controversy.

We at RARA are charged with strictly enforcing the race course boundaries that have been established by the FAA in order to ensure the safety of our spectators and surrounding residents. Any violation of any of those boundaries is an immediate disqualification, without grounds for appeal. This is different than a pylon cut, which is appealable. Each show line boundary is monitored by experienced members of our contest Committee positioned at carefully determined, strategic points along the line allowing them to monitor any violations. The pylons are set and monitored as the minimum standard for a competitive and fair race and they are monitored by experienced pylon judges positioned at the base of the pylon. As the pylons are primarily established for competitive balance, pylon violations can be protested. Again, since the show line is designed solely for safety, any violation of it cannot be protested.

We have seen Precious Metal’s cockpit video and it does give the appearance of a clean race. However, you cannot see the east show line in the video because it is somewhere under the center of the aircraft. The east show line is a specific line defined on the ground by a fence on the east boundary of the race course, which is also the east end of the Stead Airport boundary. RARA rules, which are in compliance with FAA guidance for air racing, state that any show line violation will result in a disqualification, which is not protestable (different than a pylon cut, which does not cause immediate danger to spectators). Undoubtedly, Precious Metal flew a good line and a good race on Sunday but, as it shows in the cockpit video, the beginning of lap two was wider than the rest of its passes. This is where the non-protestable violation was observed and the disqualification penalty was assessed.

We understand that controversy is an inherent part of sports and the National Championship Air Races is no different. The best pilots in the world travel here every year to celebrate their love for aviation and compete against each other to determine the national championship. We will continue to work with our pilots and race classes to do everything in our power to ensure fair, safe, competitive racing.

20 Comments

  1. Very well thought out and well worded.

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  2. This is your statement…”We at RARA are charged with strictly enforcing the race course boundaries that have been established by the FAA in order to ensure the safety of our spectators and surrounding residents.”

    I ask you once again to please explain why Precious Metal was not removed from the race course immediately if Thom was flying in an unsafe manner? I ask you once again why it took you 2 days to announce the DQ?

    Your decision remains suspect, unprofessional and casts a dark and uncertain future over the Reno Air Races and any likelihood that I will attend, watch or have any involvement. Pay attention, Breitling!!

    Reply
    • Phil,

      Remarks like those at the end of your posts are at the heart of why these great sports are dying. Be part of the solution not the problem. If the air races cease to exist we all lose, but hey at least we won’t have to worry about showline cuts.

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      • If the races are being decided behind closed doors after the event is over, that might be for the best.

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        • And remarks like that are why people are thoroughly disgusted with the PM Fans.

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          • Oh, I’m not a PM fan specifically. I go to the races for the racing more than the judging is all.

    • Phil,
      I suppose you’d rather have a knee jerk response rather than a careful examination of all of the evidence.
      I for one feel like you will not be missed at any or all of the future events.
      Thanks for opening up more room at the event for aviation lovers with a level head.
      Love my 2005 Breitling Chrono Avenger in Titanium

      Mike

      Reply
  3. Unfortunate for PM for sure. I believe the true culprit is the FAA. We can move beyond this. But please FIX IT. There are ways out there to ensure this never happens again. Find a solution and incorporate it. To the fans: boycotting the races is not the answer. If everyone stops coming, the races will just die and the FAA gets what they want.

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  4. That is really great……but what about the other issues with the Two biplane pilots and Formula one pilots who were DQ’d due being to close to some berm on the back straight that was never an issue before the Sunday gold races? Why not fix all the things that went wrong?

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  5. You say the showline must be “somewhere” under the plane in the cockpit video. That’s a very precise call for one person to make when flying 440mph+
    No one wants the races to go away, especially those talking about boycotts. But the point is if the races cannot be trusted to be fair which the officiating this year very greatly called into question then froma team or fan’s perspective, what’s the point of racing? It would be safer to coreograph it like WWE. Youve made it clear you won’t question a very questionable call (disappointing for sure) but you have to pull out all the stops to make next year a fair and trustworthy success

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  6. This is a well-thought statement intended to address the controversy involving Precious Metal and the Unlimited Gold Disqualification. However, it would be better to have included any intentions to revisit the rules that had any impact on this event.

    It is understandable that many of the RARA rules reflect FAA requirements, especially any that were promulgated following the tragic crash in 2011 or for other reasons, but given that races have been run since the new rules were issued, perhaps some rules need reassessment and revision. It would be for the betterment of the sport and the races to do such. Any major, modern racing event must evolve.

    Please seriously consider revisiting rules as an integral part of running the National Championship Air Races. The NCAR event staff, the racers, but especially the fans would be best served that way.

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  7. I have heard that the boundary judges use discretion to determine an “out”. This seems archaic at best. In IAC competition we give the boundary judges sighting devices to help them. With modern technology, there surely has to be a way to be “sure” someone is out of bounds.

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  8. Here is my problem. If you called a DQ, then PM should have been called out at once. What you did was allow PM to race as hard as he could in the attempts to win or place high, which he did. What if Thom had blown an engine or suffered even worse and went in after the “so called” DQ…… everything after the “so called DQ” would be on the Authorities head in my book as it should have never happened. Please learn from this and DO NOT allow something called Eye Ball Judgment to pull an Aircraft from the race without telling them at the time. That showed poor judgment on the RARA’s part.

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  9. I think positive changes using technology to track aircraft, be it GPS or video cameras where the judges are, is what is needed so that “DQ without proof” will never happen again. I am no technologist, but if a cell phone can be tracked accurately, so can an aircraft. A smoking gun camera shot would have silenced this, just as it would a photo finish in a horse or air race.

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    • I agree. believe we have the technology to detect and track an aircraft in such a manner so as to remove virtually every possible “contamination” due to human eyeball judgements.

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  10. Having a rule that is judged by a human with no grounds for appeal is absurd at best, therefor two things need to change. Take the human out of it and install some type of electronic device to monitor the showlines, secondly, for god’s sake widen the course! All PM did was make a clean pass, if this pushes a plane out of bounds the course needs to be changed.

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  11. I am glad that RARA has written this since the contestable call. I believe that the Association will make changes. I believe in RARA and the FAA. Lets all keep the competition in check with proper oversight. Lets all get involved if we want to see air racing continue at the best it can be.

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  12. I am glad RARA addressed this issue. A few points: if it takes a couple judges to make a competive call on a pylon and it is appealable, then why is fan safety relegated to an individual no matter how well trained or experienced. Anyone can be distracted in the time it takes for these aircraft to pass the length of the showline. Next if safety is the utmost of importance then why let Precious Metal continue to race. Lastly why did another race team have knowledge of the DQ before RARA informed Race 38.

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  13. With two pilots in our P-82 we will have two brains, four eyes, four arms, and four legs making sure we stay on course, flying Stevo’s line, but just a little faster.

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  14. why not install some sort of transponder system? does not seem like such a hard thing to do. Look at the America’s Cup Races in San Francisco Bay the last go round. They had electronic course boundaries that gave them situational awareness every step of the way. granted they are moving at 30-40 mph and not 500…but it seems like something some smart folks could easily do. I have a moving map display in my 210 on an iPad for crying out loud. Can’t be that hard.

    Reply

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