Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Happens Next?

Contributed by Marilyn Dash

It’s just over a month since the horrible incident which ended the 2011 National Championship Air Races at Reno. My email has been filled with requests for information about the future of Air Racing.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know – yet. But, I will tell you what I do know.

The Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) has been putting together a top notch event for 48 years. This is over twice as long as the Cleveland Air Races. They have seen other competitive races come and go over the years. Through good times and bad times, they made it work.

RARA has leaned heavily on the use of Volunteers. Very few people are actually paid employees of the Races. Many Volunteers are highly trained, including the Timers, Pylon Judges and Scorers. The Contest Committee is led by a retired USAF General, Ron Fogleman. The Board is filled with Retired Military and local business leaders. At one point I heard they use over 1500 Volunteers each year to make it work.

And then we have the Racers and our Crews. While we don’t work for the Races, the event wouldn’t work without us. And of course, we have the fans. They are possibly the most passionate fans of any sporting event in the world.

Recently a letter came out from Mike Houghton, President and CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association. In this letter, Mike offered a refund for tickets from Saturday and Sunday – since the races were cancelled after the events of Friday afternoon. He also said that many fans had asked for their refunds to be used to help fund the races for next year.

To me, this is good news - because RARA is looking forward to 2012. Since they are a non-profit organization that lives year to year on the ticket sales, the future of this event likely relies on the fans to forgo their refunds and help fund the future. I think this a great idea and hopefully the majority of the fans will agree.

Other Information
While we have heard relatively little from the NTSB as to the cause of the accident, they are busy doing their investigation and will release the findings when they are complete. If you hear someone say they talked to someone in the NTSB and they said this or that – they are probably not telling the truth (or lying – your choice). The NTSB is a closed lipped organization and they will only release facts – when the facts are known.

The FAA has nothing to do with the accident investigation. They take the NTSB findings and make decisions based on those reports. The FAA is critical to the future of the Races because they provide us with the Waiver. Without that Waiver, we are a really cool Fly-In.

The Racers and Crews are all dealing with the events in the best way they know how. Many of us have reached out knowing that we can heal better together. I’ll include my photographer buddies in this group, because they are part of the overall “Crew” at Reno. I know I’m doing much better because of our conversations and I hope you all are also.

The Future
So far, I have heard only one Race Team Owner who has decided to not return. He has decided to sell his racer – and I’m hoping he changes his mind, so I rather not state who this is. I’ve talked with 100s of crew members and racers and maybe two or three have said they will not return. Of the fans, even those injured – actually especially those injured – nearly all of them are ready to be there again in September.

The consensus is, if we get the green light from the FAA, 2012 may be the Biggest Reno EVER!

I know that Team Ruby is working in the off season to tweak the changes we made last year. We have ordered some parts and put together a plan and we are focused on coming back. I have been telling people that it’s easier for us to put the brakes on than to speed up the train – so we’re assuming all systems are a go. Plus, the changes we are making to the racer will only make her a better aircraft.

Thank you to everyone for your kind words and comments. These events hit me harder than I expected. We continue to send our healing thoughts and prayers to the fans and the families affected by the events of last month.

Aviation Calendar
As many of you may know, Team Ruby did an Aviation Calendar last year which was very well received. Well, we just completed our 2012 version – just in time for Holiday Shopping! Please see our website here to place your order. There is also a link on the Pylon Place Blog Site.

Thank you!

Until next time, fly low, fly fast and turn left.

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

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