A dusty series of races for 2022 ended abruptly on Sunday afternoon. Reno Air Racing Association’s (RARA) Stihl National Championship Air Races saw tragedy in the Jet Gold race, with pilot Aaron Hogue flying into the dirt in his L-29, Ballista.
Pilots on scene posted onto social media immediately following the accident, which took place near Pylon 5 on the course. All other jets in the heat returned to base safely.
— Ben Margiott (@BenMargiott) September 18, 2022
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have opened an investigation into the accident. RARA halted all races at the time, and it proceded to shutter the event, scrapping the Unlimited Gold Class race in deference to the unfortunate turn of events. In lieu of an awards ceremony, racers, teams, and supporters gathered for dinner Sunday night before heading home on Monday.
At this time we are gathering information and confirming details of the incident that happened today during the Jet Gold Race. We can confirm that only one plane was involved. The National Championship Air Races has suspended all operations for the 2022 event.
— Reno Air Racing Association (@RenoAirRaces) September 18, 2022
The 2022 air races had been operating under strained conditions, the result of wildfires that had severely reduced visibility at Reno-Stead Airport (KRTS) all week, with many heats canceled.
At 3 p.m. local time on Monday, RARA’s Fred Telling provided an update. ‘’Yesterday we lost a member of our race family during the Jet Gold Race on the third lap, Jet race #29, Ballista, piloted by Aaron Hogue.
‘’Aaron’s death affects everyone in our September family deeply. While we cannot change this tragedy, I would ask everyone to think, pray, and to honor Aaron and the passion he had for life, and certainly for air racing.
‘’I hope that all who are affected by this sad event can support each other through the stages of grief so we may all begin to find healing. I ask you all for prayers and well wishes for Aaron’s family who were present and witnessed this tragedy.
‘’After the incident, we suspended remaining air operations and all activities and events which would normally be part of our Sunday night closing Awards Ceremony. Instead, we invited all who wished to join us to be together to help each of us deal with the grief we feel, and hopefully find strength in our being a true September family.
‘’The outpouring of sympathy and support for Aaron was evident and profound, as over 1,000 people from our race classes, staff, volunteers, board of directors, and supporters attended. Their love and fierce solidarity were very moving.
There are of course many questions surrounding this event, but as it is an active investigation, we must defer to the [NTSB] and [FAA]. We will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available, and we ask for your patience and understanding as we navigate these difficult circumstances.’’