Updated Statement from the National Championship Air Races

National Championship Air Races

Reno, Nev. – At approximately 3:30 p.m. today, Sport Class pilot Lee Behel, 64, from San Jose, Calif. was involved in a fatal accident during a qualifying heat of the National Championship Air Races at the Reno-Stead Airport. Behel was flying a GP-5, “Sweet Dreams.” This was single-plane incident and no other pilots or spectators were injured.

In addition to being one of the founders of the Sport Class and its current president, Behel was a retired Air Force fighter pilot and a loving father. Behel was a former Sport Class champion and longtime Air Race pilot.

“Lee was a very talented pilot but, more importantly, an enthusiastic and compassionate friend and the entire Air Race family will miss him deeply,” said Mike Major, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association. “This is a difficult day for all of us and our thoughts and prayers are with Lee’s family and friends.”

At this time, the Reno Air Racing Association will not speculate on the cause of the accident, which is currently under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NSTB). As is standard procedure, we will evaluate all race planes prior to returning to the race course.

Qualifying for the 51st annual National Championship Air Races will resume, as scheduled, at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 9 and the event officially opens to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 10. A tribute for Behel is currently being planned and will take place later this week. More details will be provided as they become available. Please visit www.airrace.org for more information.

12 Comments

  1. Lee was a true gentleman and a great pilot. He will be sorely missed.

    Reply
  2. So sad

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  3. This turn of events greatly saddens us. We are so sorry
    for all involved, family , friends and the racing community.
    Lee Behl was a wonderful man and will be dearly missed.
    Adios,
    Mike and Jeri

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    • Lee was always kind to my family. My heart goes out to all who loved him.

      Reply
  4. BOB & LEE EXCHANGED LOTS OF COMMENTS WHILE BUILDING THEIR
    ‘QUESTAIR VENTURES’. LEE WAS A GREAT GENTLEMAN & GREAT COMPETITOR.
    BRO. BOB’S VENTURE WAS THE ‘LITTLE GIANT’. R.I.P. LEE.
    CONDOLANCES TO THE FAMILY. JOHN SCHMIDT

    Reply
  5. I didn’t know Lee, but know his good friend. My prayers are with him and Lee’s boys. This is a very sad event, however Lee was doing what he loved. RIP Lee Behel!

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  6. Lee was a longtime client and friend. I will miss seeing him each year at Reno. He was the Sport Class! RIP. Bob Cannon

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  7. My deepest condolences to Lee’s family and friends!! We should all be so lucky to leave this earth doing something that we love!!! His family can find peace and tranquility in that he died doing what he loved!!! Peace brother!!!

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  8. The sky continues to fill with stars. Godspeed lee. Paul purcell

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  9. I am extremly sadden on the passing of lee. I worked with the family in the seventies. Great memories of all the beheld . God bless him . Jack

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  10. Lee was a great person and leader. I feel blessed to have known such a person.

    Reply

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