Crash Proves Air Racing Is Equal Parts Danger and Excitement


As with any motorsport the risk of bodily harm is an accepted factor when competing in a high stakes race. This pilot walked away with only minor injuries after an intense crash during a failed start on the final round of the Formula 1 class at the renowned Reno Air Races.

You may recognize the pilot as Thom Richard, the owner and pilot of one of the most ludicrous racing planes of all time, Precious Metal. Precious Metal caught fire on the way to Reno last year and is currently being repaired. In 2014 Thom landed deadstick after an engine failure and was later disqualified for rules violation.

In addition to competing in the Unlimited Class racing with the highly modified P-51, Thom also races in the Formula 1 class. All Formula 1 aircraft share the same 100 horsepower motors, but there are very few limitations on the airframe. Many are custom built by their owners and almost 250 mph on the 3 mile race course in Reno.

Thom has already qualified for the Formula 1 final race in his custom Hot Stuff racer. In line for a standing start, engine problems with Hot Stuff required Thom to halt the start. The red flag was flown, but unfortunately the other competitors failed to notice the imminent danger. Steve Senegal racing his Arnold AR-6 Endeavor collided with Hot Stuff at over 60 mph nearly chopping Thom to shreds.

Thom recalls his experience in a message on his Facebook page:

The impact was violent and loud. His left leading edge shaved off the top several inches from my vertical and skimmed the turtle-deck without touching until it impacted my right hand holding up the canopy, at well over sixty miles an hour. The left landing gear hit the top of the gull-wing center-section, blowing a hole in the top skin and impacted the rear face of the front spar so hard that it broke the landing gear clean off his airplane. The propeller sliced three evenly spaced gashes about mid span of my right wing, about a foot apart. The right landing gear sheared the wing off just short of the right wingtip. The impact spun me around nearly 180º, like a teacup ride at warp eight. The other aircraft came to rest several hundred feet in front of me with a folded gear, damaged wing and sheared propeller facing the other way as well. That pilot received no injuries.

Thankfully all are safe and we look forward to seeing Thom and Steve race another day.


Chris Clarke
Chris is an active pilot who love cars, airplanes and motorcycles.