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Veteran California pilots racing in Reno killed in mid-air crash shortly after first second

Two veteran California pilots were killed this weekend when their World War II-era planes collided in midair as they prepared to land just after finishing first and second in a title race at the championship national air racing event north of Reno.

Authorities identified the victims of Sunday’s crash as Chris Rushing of Thousand Oaks and Nick Macy, 67, of Tulelake.

Race officials said they were cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and local authorities to determine the cause of the crash.

The accident spoiled the 59th and final year of the National Air Racing Championship at Reno-Stead Airport. The deaths bring to 24 the number of drivers or performers who have died at the Reno races since the event began in 1964, as well as 10 spectators who died in a grandstand accident in 2011.

“This is a particularly poignant end to our last flag in Reno,” Fred Telling, CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association, told the Reno Gazette-Journal Sunday evening. “But the running family will stay together and run somewhere again.”

Organizers announced last year that the event would have to find a new location due to increased development around the airport and other concerns.

Those concerns included rising insurance costs since 2011, when a highly modified North American P-51D Mustang racing plane crashed into spectators while competing in the Reno Air Races in September, killing former Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 people on the ground.

It was one of the deadliest air disasters in United States history. Another 70 people were seriously injured.

Last year, driver Aaron Hogue, 61, of Henderson, Nev., died in a crash during a September competition just north of Reno. Two months later, at a Dallas air show, all six people aboard two vintage planes were killed when a P-63 Kingcobra fighter jet collided with a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber .

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On Sunday, Rushing had just won the T-6 Gold race at an average speed of 234 mph (376 km/h) in his plane named Baron’s Revenge and Macy finished second about 15 seconds behind him in his Six-Cat. Both were preparing to land when the two single-engine planes “collided in mid-flight,” the FAA said.

Telling told the Reno newspaper, “It wasn’t a racing accident.”

“It was definitely an accident when landing after the race,” he said. “We are all curious how this happened.”

The FAA said the NTSB would lead the investigation. The NTSB did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Telling described Rushing and Macy as skilled and expert pilots. Rushing was the reigning champion of the race. Macy’s had won it six times over the years. Their two planes, which had been used to train pilots during World War II, were destroyed when they crashed in the high desert outside the race course, about 5 miles east of the Californian line.

Rushing was dedicated to promoting the history of the World War II Texas AT-6 training aircraft as the head of a nonprofit organization in Van Nuys, Calif., The Orange County reported Register.

Telling said at least six communities had applied to host the 2025 national championship. He did not disclose the locations. The racing association hopes to announce a new location in early 2024, it said in a Facebook post Monday afternoon.

“While there are inherent risks in any motorsport, we work diligently throughout the year to mitigate these risks and safety is our top priority,” the association said. “Despite the sad way we ended our tenure in Northern Nevada, we want to express our gratitude to the countless fans and volunteers who have supported the event over the years…through the good times and the tough times.


Associated Press journalists Walter Berry in Phoenix and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.


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