RENO, Nev. – The Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) announced performers for the 2016 National Championship Air Races, to be held September 14 – 18, 2016 at the Reno-Stead Airport. The United States Navy’s Blue Angels will headline this year’s performers.

The Wings of Blue United States Air Force (USAF) Jump Team will also perform and Jim Peitz will pilot an aerobatic Beechcraft F33C bonanza. Performers will also include the Lucas Oil Pitts, the Smoke ‘n Thunder Jet Car, and for the first time, an F-35A stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona will join the line of static displays.

“The STIHL National Championship Air Races are honored that the Blue Angels will be returning to Reno this year,” RARA President and CEO Mike Crowell said. “We are also excited that on its first ever tour of air show performances, Reno will see an F-35 in the line of static displays. Each and every year, the performers take this event to an even higher level. I hope that race fans, visitors and spectators will be as excited about this year’s lineup as I am.”

Descriptions of each performer are included below.

Blue Angels

The Blue Angels is the United States Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, with aviators from the Navy and Marines. Formed in 1946, the Blue Angels’ six demonstration pilots fly the F/A-18 Hornet. The Blue Angels’ C-130, affectionately known as Fat Albert, begins each demonstration by exhibiting its maximum performance capabilities during a ten-minute performance. Shortly thereafter, you will see the graceful aerobatic maneuvers of the four-jet Diamond Formation, in concert with the fast-paced, high-performance maneuvers of its two Solo pilots. Finally, the team illustrates the pinnacle of precision flying, performing maneuvers locked as a unit in the renowned, six-jet Delta Formation. Since 1946, the Blue Angels have flown for more than 260 million spectators.

Wings of Blue USAF Academy Jump Team

The Wings of Blue have a long standing commitment to personal and organizational excellence as well as a storied history of success. While the airspace that the Wings of Blue operates in is one of the busiest in the world, their drop zone is one of the safest. The primary mission of the Wings of Blue is to run the Air Force’s Basic Freefall Parachuting course, known as Airmanship 490 (AM-490). Members of the team serve primarily as jumpmasters and instructors for this course, devoting most of their time to teaching students about parachuting and training them to make unassisted freefall skydives. AM-490 is the only certified first-jump program in the world where students can make their first freefall jump without assistance. Each year, over 700 cadets are given the opportunity to take AM-490 and earn their jump wings.

Jim Peitz

Jim Peitz performs an aerobatic routine in a Beechcraft F33C Bonanza. One of the very few Aerobatic Bonanza’s ever built, Jim is guaranteed to turn heads in this plane – loops, point rolls, barrel rolls, snap rolls, Cuban eights, hammerheads (yes, this Bonanza goes vertical!) and more. With a smoke system included, this is the act air show fans will talk about long after the show.

Lucas Oil Pitts

Mike Wiskus brings the Lucas Oil Pitts to the Air Races this year. The Pitts S-1-11B was the last design of the famous Pitts Special line. The airplane is one of the few, if not the only, unlimited type aircraft that can be built from scratch. (With a set of plans that is.)

Known as the Super Stinker, the S-1-11B was created for competition aerobatics, a field that was becoming more and more dominated by monoplanes. What’s more, Mike took this particular Super Stinker to a silver medal in the 2004 world championships in Sweden.

Mike has owned a number of Pitts aircraft over the years. He has owned the Lucas Oil Pitts S-1-11B, which he rebuilt after purchasing the plane on EBay as a wreck, since 2000.

Smoke ‘n Thunder Jet Car

Out on the taxiway you can hear the deafening roar of an engine and see billowing clouds of smoke. You can feel the reverberations of mini sonic booms. You look up and realize it’s not an aircraft. In front of you is the Smoke ‘n Thunder Jet Car preparing to accelerate.

Before beginning his show, Bill Braack, driver, slowly drives past the crowd. He engages the afterburner which shoots 20-foot flames, produces billowing smoke and mini sonic booms.

At the end of the runway, the jet car comes to a standstill. An airplane above has challenged Bill to a race. Jaws drop as the aircraft approaches. Bill is signaled by his crew member “Scuba” Steve Uhrich, that the aircraft is directly overhead. He kicks in the afterburner and accelerates the jet car—he races at speed approaching 400 mph and overtakes the plane in seconds. Bill is pulling 4.5 Gs. As he deploys the parachute to bring the car to a stop, he experiences 11 Gs of negative force. Eyes blinking, the crowd is astonished at what it just witnessed.


For the first time ever, an F-35 fighter jet, piloted by Maj. William Andreotta, USAF, and assigned to Luke Air Force Base in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale will visit air shows across the country this year.

The jet will make its first appearance as part of the Air Force Heritage Flight program at Luke’s air show on April 2nd and 3rd and then travel to air shows nationwide, including Reno.

The heritage flight program, of which the F-35 is a part, teams up current Air Force fighters with planes from the World War II, Korean and Vietnam eras in a dynamic display of our nation’s airpower history.

Tickets are on sale for the 53rd Annual National Championship Air Races held September 14-18, 2016 at Reno Stead Airport. For more information, or to volunteer, visit