Reno National Championship Air Races

Patriots Jet Team performing at the Reno National Championship Air Races.
Photo © Stan White

The Reno National Championship Air Races, a whole series of activities centered around the actual air racing, are held every year in September. The first air races were in 1964, and except for being suspended on 9-11-2001, have been held every year since. A couple of days into the event in 2011, the Reno Air Races were shut down following a fatal crash on Friday afternoon that left 11 people dead.

If you aren't a pilot or big airplane buff, learn about the classes of race aircraft and how the races are staged at this last pylon racing event in the world. It makes the whole thing more fun and interesting if you have some clue as to what's going on.

The event has grown in scope and popularity, attracting thousands of people from out of the area to mingle with the thousands of locals who attend the air races. It is the last pylon air racing event of its kind in the world. Chief organizer is the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA).

Aerobatic Performances

The air show consists of performances by multiple aeronautical aces. There is always a headliner, which in the past has included the US Navy Blue Angels, the USAF Thunderbirds, and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. For example, in 2014 the Patriots Jet Team were there to wow the crowd with their amazing performance. Also flying was the F-22 Demo Team, showing off the incredible capabilities of the Raptor.

Static and Military Displays

A large area of static aircraft displays fills the tarmac while the aerial action is going on. Spectators are free to examine a beautiful selection of vintage flying machines along with some of the latest and most advanced military aircraft. Many military planes are open to the public, with flight crews available to conduct tours and answer questions. Members of the High Rollers, the Nevada Air National Guard, are always there representing their home state. Many vintage aircraft will be part of the show.

Tickets to the Reno National Championship

There are numerous ways to buy Reno Air Races tickets and various ticket packages you can purchase. There will always be tickets and pit passes available at the gate, so there no problem gaining entry if you just show up. Note, however, that prices increase each day. For advanced purchase, various ticket packages, reserved grandstand seats, box seats, pit passes, High G Ridge, and hospitality tent seats are available online . You must buy an extra pit pass to access the area where crews work on the racing airplanes.

The price of pit passes also increases each day. 

Security and Safety

The Reno National Championship Air Races is a no-pets event. Dogs (except service animals) will not be admitted. Backpacks, camera bags, and any other items you bring are subject to search at the gate before entry.

Getting There and Parking

Reno Stead Field Airport is about 11 miles north of downtown Reno on U.S. 395. There are big signs directing motorists to exit at Stead Boulevard (Exit 76). Turn right and follow signs to parking areas at the airport. Once at the site, there are numerous parking options available. One of those options is NOT on the streets in the nearby neighborhoods.

If you are coming in an RV and want to stay within walking distance of Reno Stead Field, reserved RV parking is available for the entire event - there are no daily RV parking permits. It's dry camping, with mobile sewer pumping and water supply available.

Shuttle Bus Service

For those staying at a hotel in Reno or Sparks, and others who would rather ride a bus than drive, there is a shuttle service available to take you to and from Reno Stead Field Airport. When you see how congested the traffic can get, you'll be glad you chose to forego the parking hassle. Tickets can be purchased at the pickup locations and at Reno Stead Field. Children 5 and under are free.

Shuttle bus service from Reno and Sparks will be available from these locations:

  • Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa, 3800 S. Virginia Street, Reno
  • Eldorado Hotel & Casino, 345 N. Virginia Street, Reno
  • Harrah's Hotel & Casino, 219 N. Center Street, Reno
  • John Ascuaga's Nugget, 1100 Nugget Avenue, Sparks
  • Grand Sierra Resort, 2500 East 2nd Street, Reno
  • Peppermill Hotel Casino, 2707 S. Virginia Street, Reno