Flying

LOW & SLOW IN RENO

IF YOU’VE EVER ATTENDED THE STIHL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AIR RACES AT THE RENO-STEAD AIRPORT WEST OF RENO, NEVADA, YOU KNOW THE EVENT BRANDS ITSELF AS “THE FASTEST MOTORSPORT ON EARTH,” WITH THE SLOGAN “FLY LOW, FLY FAST, TURN LEFT.”

Low and slow has never factored into the equation since the races began decades ago. But times are changing at the Reno air races with a whole new class: STOL Drag (for “Short Takeoff and Landing”). While these airplanes might not be flying anywhere near 500 mph like the classic Reno racers, they have a knack for getting the crowds going.

What on earth is STOL Drag? Two light airplanes line up side by side in between two vertical flags, scurry off the ground, and fly as fast as they can just a few feet off the dirt along a 2,000-foot straight track. Toward the end of the course, the airplanes quickly slow down by pulling up into a severe slip, then land beyond a line (also marked by vertical flags) that designates the halfway

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