Original Reno Air Races Pilot Reflects On 50 Years of Flying
RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- Long before airplanes were built for speed and just about everything in aviation was simplified, there was Fred Rechenmacher.
“It was dirt runways, just regular biplanes,” Rachenmacher said. “I happened to have a biplane at the time as the races were held on the road to the lake.”What began fifty years ago as local pilots coming together for bragging rights has certainly evolved into a one-of-a-kind event known the world over. Thirty years after Rachenmacher’s last event, a collection of championship air race trophies brings back years of memories.“I can look at them and remember when I got them. Only a couple of them are first class winners because everybody else had quit, their engines went down and I was the only one still flying,” Rachenmacher said.Rachenmacher had what he considered the tortoise of biplanes; an EAA Sport that needed some tweaking over the years to keep up with the hares.“It had a 125 horsepower engine. Later on, I built it up to 150 by sawing the propellers off. I was slow, so I went out and sawed the ends of the propellers off, each blade," Rachenmacher said.
It was a decision his father did not approve.
"And I still didn't win, but i tried,” Rachenmacher said.Back in those days, a steady engine and skilled pilot were more important than a fast plane.“One time I was too low and when I came in, I had some sage brush on one of my wings and I remember that and I didn't do that anymore," Rachenmacher said.In fifty years of racing, Rachenmacher, 91, has seen planes get faster and the runways change from dirt to pavement, but he said there's something special about that first race, flying his run-of-the-mill biplane in the middle of nowhere.
“The dirt runways were better in a sense, because the better airplanes couldn't land in the dirt," Rachenmacher said with a chuckle.