The 59th and final Reno National Championship Air Races

The 59th and final Reno National Championship Air Races, September 13-17th at Stead Field in Reno, Nevada are just around the corner and The IARF has your inside scoop on the world’s fastest Motorsport. John Flanagan has only been an air race pilot for 6 years, but is no stranger or newcomer to the world of aviation and speed. Last year at the 2022 Reno Air Races, he posted the fastest time ever for his Race 34 Glassair III with a 290 MPH (467 KM/H) race average, take 3rd place in the Sport Silver Class. His story is one that is fueled by faith and dreams, from humble beginnings to becoming a Top Gun fighter pilot, he is aiming to enjoy every moment with his “September Family” one final time just a few weeks from now. Let’s go back to the beginning of how John “caught” the aviation bug, as a young boy going to his local park watching aircraft on approach for land at San Francisco International Airport. Fascinated with aircraft but having no idea of how to get into aviation, he went on with his life but one flight in a Cessna after graduating college changed everything for him. He got his pilot’s license but a down turn in the airline industry at the beginning of the 1980’s seemed to end his dream of a career in aviation. However, providentially at a friend’s urging he looked into becoming a military pilot, with the Navy being his preferred choice. Graduating at the top of his class, he was given a choice of what to fly and naturally he chose to become a fighter pilot. Eventually he graduated the Navy’s most prestigious school for fighter pilots, better known as “Top Gun”. He then went on to be an aggressor pilot at Top Gun, flying the F-16N and after 10 years and becoming a father, decided to move from the military into the civilian sector. Again, as fate would have it, another down turn in the airline industry prevented this extremely qualified and capable pilot from continue to use his skills as an airline pilot. He took a job in the corporate world but kept himself current as a pilot by flying general aviation aircraft on the weekends. Then, as John describes it, he “miraculously” found air racing through some friends and has never looked back. I asked John what are the most important qualities needed to be a successful race pilot, without hesitation he answered: “a natural feel for the airplane, stay focused, minimize your risks, be consistent and predictable.” I asked him to share some of his favorite air racing memories, surprisingly it wasn’t his best finish last year but actually the first time that he ever got on the course at the Pylon Racing School, a mandatory certification for all potential race pilots that occurs each June before the races. John, being the very humble man that he is, let’s his flying on the race course do the talking, will be the first person to tell you that he is the last person that should have gotten involved in air racing. When I probed further at this statement, he simply explained that as a man of faith, his only explanation is that: “ it’s a miraculous story of God’s desire to bless me, I can see no other reason.” John’s faith, passion and perseverance is great example to us all to go after your dreams, no matter what gets in your way and keep the faith that God has a plan. At the IARF, we unequivocally support dreamers and doers like John, who have made aviation and our world a better place, proving that the victories of air racing are not only experienced on the race course, but even more so in the race of life. Everyone at the IARF sincerely wishes John a very safe, successful and fast week at Reno in his spectacular Race 34 Glassair III, Godspeed!!!!