Fire Bomber on the ramp at Reno-Stead AirportIt’s that time of year again around the Reno-Stead Airport. Preparations for this year’s National Championship Air Races began almost two weeks ago when workers started putting up the sections of temporary grandstands. Those grandstands don’t effect airport operations very much, nor do all the vendor tents that have been assembled in the area behind the grandstands – it just turns into and autocross trying to drive through the area. Now, however, they have started blocking off taxiways with more tents going up for VIP areas. Workers are occupying the area west of the permanent grandstands and detour signs are warning aircraft to use alternate routes to their hangars.

The fire tanker show here is parked on the ramp at the west end of the permanent grandstands. In the larger version of the photo you can see one of the fire base workers taking it easy under the airplane’s right wing. It’s a perfect place for a nap between race planes in the pattern. There was quite a bit of local traffic today – probably because it is the last day without a control tower in operation. They fire up the radios in the control tower and Race Control tower tomorrow at noon.

In addition to the local traffic today we saw Rare Bear out and about and sounding strong. It’s good to see it in the air before qualifications week – the crew is historic in their all-nighters to get the plane flying well enough to qualify. We also saw Marilyn Dash’s racing biplane out flying today – testing the new drag reduction modifications the crew has been working on lately. Nemesis NXT racer preparing for the 2011 Reno Air RacesWe also saw a French Nemesis NXT, shown here.  Apparently they got the plane flying in France, then dismantled it and flew it over here in a 747. The crew has been working on it for a couple of weeks. It seems to be running really well. The name under the canopy is “Big Frog.” Power is said to be a turbocharged diesel. Always something new going on around here.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday will find race teams all over the ramp setting up their pits in preparation for the Sunday practice sessions. Qualification runs will start Monday morning.