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 STIHL 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.