Organizers clear hurdle in bid to hold Reno air races this fall

RENO – Organizers of the Reno National Championship Air Races cleared a significant hurdle Thursday in their bid to continue the annual event this year, winning approval of a special one-year permit and moving closer to securing the necessary $100 million in insurance in the aftermath of last year’s tragic mass-casualty crash.

The future of the 48-year-old competition has been in question since a modified World War II-era plane crashed at the event in September, killing the pilot and 10 spectators and injuring more than 70 others on the ground.

The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority’s board of trustees voted unanimously to renew the permit for at least another year as long as organizers follow all federal safety rules. That will include any new recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board when it completes its investigation of the crash, something that might not happen until after the Sept. 12-16 races.

Besides providing proof of $100 million in insurance, the Reno Air Racing Association must cover any increase in the airport authority’s own insurance premiums under the terms of the permit the board approved Thursday.

“All risk must be borne by the Reno Air Racing Association,” said Ann Morgan, the board’s legal counsel.

Mike Houghton, the racing group’s chief executive, said after the board’s vote that he was confident he would finalize the insurance next week.

“We’re 99 percent there,” he said. “We’ve been lining up underwriters to take portions of the $100 million.

“I would anticipate that by Tuesday we’ll have them all in place and we’ll be real close to being able to hand an insurance certificate off to the airport.”

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