Six New Venues Vying For Hosting National Championship Air Races


Six communities in six different states have submitted supporting documents seeking approval as the next home of the National Championship Air Races (NCAR). The submissions came in response to a request for proposal (RFP) from the Reno Air Racing Association, which hosted the last race at Reno-Stead Airport in Nevada last month, unfortunately with tragic results. Reno has been home to the annual air races since 1964, just shy of a 60-year run.

Vying to become the new venue for the iconic air races are Buckeye, Arizona; Casper, Wyoming; Pueblo, Colorado; Roswell, New Mexico (no word on any plans for a new, extraterrestrial-aircraft category); Thermal, California; and Wendover, Utah. The six contending cities submitted a total of more than 1,500 pages of supporting documents in their combined submissions.

The economic attraction of becoming the new home for the races that have been known simply as “Reno” for so many decades is clear. According to the NCAR, “In the past 10 years alone, the event has attracted more than 1 million visitors to the [Reno] region, generated more than $750 million for the economy and contributed significant aviation-related education and outreach to schools and non-profits all around the area.”

Terry Matter, NCAR board member and chairman of the selection committee, said, “We only want to go through this process once, and because of that, we’re going to make sure our next location is the best fit for the future of the air races.” Fred Telling, CEO and chairman of the board for the Reno Air Racing Association, summed up: “Seeing the interest to host the National Championship Air Races at each of these unique venues gives me great hope for the future of air racing. We’re looking for our next home, somewhere we can celebrate many more anniversaries, so we’ve assembled an expert committee that is putting an extreme amount of care and diligence into choosing our next location.”

The announcement of the winning site is anticipated early next year. There will be one final non-racing airshow in Reno in 2024 before NCAR completes the transition of the air races to the new location in 2025.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Roswell Air Center, the former Walker AFB, has plenty of room and would be a good choice. But the fans who stay for the entire event will have to adjust their nighttime activities to suit. The nearest casinos are +/- 40 & 50 miles away and in opposite directions.

    • Who needs casinos just watch the lights of the aliens all night…..I believe you have to “smoke” something to see them though.

  2. I hope Casper Wyoming doesn’t get it. I vacation to Wyoming to get away from people. I like it sparse and desolate. Not crowded like Florida or California.

  3. I am surprised by the absence of any Texas locations on the list. But failing that, I do like Buckeye. Close to Phoenix for passenger travel to boost attendance, but far enough away to not interfere with the airspace.

    • Being tasked with finding the “perfect” location for an event like this would be an exercise in tradeoff frustrations large & small.

      Long-term, the Buckeye location is right in the path of ongoing housing expansion. And minor things can be a problem too. If I’m not mistaken, the I-10 freeway passes close enough to the (somewhat short) Buckeye runway to be under the likely racecourse. I can envision a pileup or two resulting from driver distraction.

    • I’m afraid the big Texas landowner mindset has gotten to be out of hand. They all think they they are in their own frigging fiefdoms and can stop anything near them. They’ve even started using environmental laws and political games to block legal access to public waterways (gee, wonder where they got that idea?). And, because this is Texas, they brandish firearms at anyone they think is trespassing on “their” rivers.

      Anything that brings the “rats” out of the cities to their towns is no longer desirable.

  4. looking at them and not knowing anything about the details. Pubelo looks interesting. not a lot of mountains around, not a lot of housing so crashing aircraft not a big danger, flat ground to spread the aircraft out when necessary, decent sized city but close to a major international airport, Denver and Colorado springs for people flying in. also probably a lot of lodging not too far away.

  5. 1M visitors over 10 years isn’t a huge impact to a city. It would be a significant impact for some of the communities listed.

    I lean towards the Phoenix area, although I would aim for the area between Phoenix & Tucson. It’s a building area and has a number of airports with decent runways and is mostly clear of military & commercial traffic.

    • Between Phoenix and Tucson isn’t good. Being from, living and learning to fly here I can tell you that there is way too much traffic, from flight training to skydiving (commercial and military) and military routes it would be hard to shoehorn in a Reno sized race. Even over at Buckeye I think they’ll have a difficult time, close to the airport at least.

  6. I’m curious what importance base elevation has to competitors. Higher = higher true airspeed of course, but is lower easier on those expensive engines?

    Beyond that, hard to see them somewhere super far from major airline access. That leaves Buckeye (elev. 1,076′) and Pueblo (elev. 4,692′).

  7. I can assure you, it’s Thermal/Salton Sea, the affluent Coachella Valley. The region offers sunny days, open areas with multiple landing strips, and airports with hard surface runways, all within Southern California’s excellent hospitality and transportation infrastructure.

  8. Wherever they go, you can be assured that developers will build hotels and housing practically right up to the runway’s edge. In 20 years all assurances of air race easements will be forgotten as greedy developers want to build closer to the cash cow.

    • Not much development risk in Wendover 😉

      All kidding aside, Wendover would be a good option with plenty of space, large, relatively low-traffic airport, close proximity to KSLC, some good aviation history, with casinos…maybe not quite up to Vegas or Reno standards but passable.

  9. Great to see the tradition continue. Hopefully they can find somewhere with a similar field elevation to keep the speeds up.