Tragedy struck the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, on Sunday as two pilots were killed in a mid-air collision during the T-6 Gold Race. The Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) confirmed that the crash occurred around 2:15 p.m. local time during a "landing accident" as the pilots were coming in to land. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated that the planes collided in mid-air, and the wreckage of the aircraft ended up about half a mile apart, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The pilots have been identified as Nick Macy and Chris Rushing, both described by the association as "expertly skilled pilots and Gold winners in the T-6 Class." The T-6 class consists of stock, propeller-driven North American Aviation T-6 Texan aircraft, which were originally used as training planes before being adapted for racing purposes. The T-6 is still utilized for training by both the U.S. Air Force and Navy.
The FAA confirmed that the pilots were the only individuals on board the planes, and there have been no reports of additional deaths or injuries. As a result of the tragic accident, the remainder of the races at the event were canceled. Fred Telling, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association and president of the T-6 class, expressed his devastation and heartbreak, stating, "These two pilots weren't just an integral part of the National Championship Air Race family, they were a part of my family."
First responders and investigators promptly arrived at the scene at Reno Stead Airport to handle the aftermath of the collision. The NTSB announced that it would undertake an investigation into the incident. The annual race, which had been taking place since Wednesday, was scheduled to conclude on Sunday. This is not the first time the National Championship Air Races have experienced fatal accidents. In 2011, a 1940s-model plane crashed into a crowded tarmac, resulting in the deaths of several spectators and the pilot.
The National Championship Air Races have been a beloved tradition for nearly six decades, attracting aviation enthusiasts from around the world. The Reno Stead Airport has been the host location for the event since 1964. However, this tragic incident has cast a shadow over the final edition of the races. The RARA has suspended all racing operations as it cooperates with investigating agencies to determine the cause of the crash. Further updates are expected as the investigation progresses.
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