Wild Photos From A Major Aeroplane Race In The Middle Of The Nevada Desert

Http://www.airrace.org/index.phpNational Championship Air RacesBiplanes compete at the 2013 Reno Air Races.

Every September, more than 200,000 people flock to the Nevada desert to see an unusual sort of motor sport.

Aeroplane racing.

Once popular around Europe and the United States, air races are now mostly a thing of the past.

But Reno’s National Championship Air Races keep the tradition alive.

The event at Reno Stead Airport is accompanied by the kinds of performances you find at standard air shows, like stunt flying and jet fighters in formation.

But what really sets Reno apart are the races, when planes top 500 mph, darting ahead of one another and around pylons to cross the finish line first.

Deadly crashes still occur despite strict safety rules, but the races go on. We’ve collected some of the best photos from the 2013 races, which offer a look at how fast and dangerous this sport can be.

The National Championship Air Races were first organised by Bill Stead in 1964, in the Nevada desert.

The races don't have a perfect safety record. In 2007, three pilots died within four days. In 2011, a plane suddenly crashed into a crowd of spectators. 11 people were killed, including the pilot, and 69 were injured.

(Sources: RGJ.com, MSNBC)

But they have held every year since their founding, except 2001, when US aircraft were grounded in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Reno is now one of the last events in the world where multiple planes race at the same time (instead of doing timed, individual laps).

Everything is tightly controlled, and participants must abide by a 45-page rulebook.

For safety reasons, there are strict rules for qualifying aircraft and pilots.

Before racing, a pilot must fly a practice session of at least four laps, and provide various health and training certificates.

The race courses are marked by pylons, which are 50-foot tall telephone poles with drums stuck on top.

The courses are all ovoid (egg-shaped) and have between 7 and 10 pylons.

For races, volunteer judges are stationed at each pylon to make sure the planes don't cut corners and stay above the minimum altitude.

Cutting inside a pylon means a 2-second penalty.

Racing classes include biplanes, Formula One, sport, T-6, jet, and unlimited.

The shortest course covers 3.18 miles, and it's used for biplanes.

The fastest planes top 500 mph, and run a 8.4-mile course.

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