One of the world’s top female pilots will be gracing the northern Nevada skies for the first time as this year’s National Championship Air Races ‘race on’ Sept. 10-14. Melissa Pemberton, a world-renowned aerobat and the youngest-ever female member of the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Team, will bring her Edge540 Aircraft and her exhilarating stunt routine to the Reno-Stead Airfield this September. Pemberton joins the F-22 Raptor Demonstration team as performers that have been announced for the event’s 51st year.

“The STIHL National Championship Air Races has a 50-year legacy of attracting the very top racers and entertainers from all over the world,” said Mike Major, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) board of directors. “Melissa is simply awe-inspiring and we couldn’t be more excited to have her perform at this year’s event. We’re also confident that she’ll appeal to a younger and more diverse audience.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Penn., the 30-year-old aerobat comes from a family of pilots and performers, having learned to fly from her grandmother and grandfather. Pemberton became a private pilot in 2002 and flew in her first airshow in 2004. She quickly established herself as one of the country’s best young pilots, winning several regional aerobatic competitions and earning the title of Collegiate Aerobatic Champion in 2004 and 2006 and Third Place Overall in Intermediate at the 2004 U.S. National Championships. She was a member of the “Stars of Tomorrow 2005,” sponsored by legendary aerobatic pilots Sean Tucker and Michael Goulian, doing solo and formation aerobatic demonstrations at major airshows throughout the country. Pemberton also studied aeronautical science and mathematics at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and is a champion rock climber.

RARA also announced, last week, an exciting new competition for its loyal fanbase that will culminate in the first-ever, Official National Championship Air Race Calendar. Each week, through mid-July, fans will be invited to post photos to the RARA Facebook page as part of its popular Photo Friday postings. One photo will be selected each week and announced the following Wednesday for inclusion in the 2015 calendar. The calendar will be sold online and at the event with all proceeds directly benefitting the not-for-profit event.

“We are committed to evolving this world-class event to create a more robust and enhanced experience for our fans and participants,” said Major. “We are also working to further engage our fans in feeling like this is their event and will introduce more ways, like the calendar, for them to express their passion for air racing.”

The 51st annual National Championship Air Races is the world’s premier air racing event. The races kick off Wednesday, Sept. 10, and will continue through Sunday, Sept. 14, at the Reno-Stead Airport. Tickets for the show are available by phone at 775-972-6663 or online at For more information on the STIHL National Championship Air Races, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.