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 STIHL 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.