RENO, Nev. (AP) — Spectators and racers paid tribute yesterday to three pilots who were killed in crashes during competition last week at the Reno National Championship Air Races.
A moment of silence was held at Stead Airport just north of Reno for Formula One racer Gary Hubler of Caldwell, Idaho; jet pilot Brad Morehouse of Afton, Wyo., and biplane racer Steve Dari of Lemon Grove, Calif.
This year was the first time since 1993 that there has been more than one fatal crash at the races in the same year. There have been 18 fatalities in the 44-year history of the event.
“We are fortunate to have the very best, most skilled pilots in the world compete and perform in northern Nevada each year,” said Mike Houghton, president of the air races. “The entire sport mourns the loss of three fierce competitors, and we all mourn the loss of three dear friends.”
The races are like a car race in the sky, after an oval path over the airport runway, around pylon markers at various distances and within a few hundred feet of the ground.
Jason Somes, 36, of Simi Valley, Calif., was taken to the hospital after Mr. Hubler clipped the tail of his plane during a heat race Friday. He received a standing ovation from the crowd of about 45,000 Sunday.
Mr. Somes, who was able to land his damaged aircraft, waved to the crowd but did not speak. He underwent surgery so he could retain vision in both eyes, race spokesman Mike Draper said. Mr. Hubler, a five-time defending champion, was killed when his plane crashed.
On Tuesday, Mr. Dari was killed when his aircraft engine stalled during a test lap. Then on Thursday, Mr. Morehouse was killed when his jet crashed during the first lap of a preliminary heat race.
The tribute on the final day of the weeklong event also included a group of five planes that flew side by side in what’s known as a “Missing Man” formation. One plane peeled off at a time from the formation and flew to the West — the direction of the setting sun — in honor of the fallen pilots.