Granger Whitelaw: Reno Air Race Crash
I had hoped never to have seen this type of event happen in my lifetime. I am referring to the crash yesterday at the Reno Air Races and the death of a fantastic Pilot and many fans, not to mention injuries to others.
I know racing – Its in my blood. My mother was a ski racer, my cousin is the current World Champion off-shore boating – NIGEL HOOK – and I have raced or supported racing in all types of things, from Ski Racing from age 5 in Vail, off-road, touring and a motorcycle, plane and boat here and there, for a little fun…and of course Indy Car, which I have enjoyed great success with – and seen many a friend lose their life. I also lost an Uncle at an Air Race in 1990, Harry Tope (pictured here in his plane, the “Death Rattler”), he was also flying a P51 Mustang at an air show in Canada, yes, I understand this tragedy all too well.
SO after all of that a friend and I started a new sport, the Rocket Racing League, I took all of that experience and put it into this new ambitious project. One of the first things we discussed, analyzed and planned for was for the safety of our pilots and fans. To that end, we asked Mike Houghton to join us on our Board of Advisers, he is the President & CEO of the Reno Air Races and a someone I am proud to call a friend & mentor. So you can see, this accident is very personal for me, it breaks my heart in many ways.
I read an article this morning that said “this will be bad for the Rocket Racing League”, I think that was the wrong reaction to take, but I don’t think the writer meant harm, you can read my response –>HERE<– . I don’t like mass media knee jerk reactions to such events, I don’t think it helps anyone and may actually cause more harm. I believe one should wait to understand the TRUTH behind a story (I have personal experience here as well) before rushing to judgment.
I watched last night as my friend Mike took the podium, or at least walked to the press conference with microphone in hand, and began to address the news media on what occurred. I could see the pain in his eyes, I have seen it before, I was with him twice when pilots had died years before at the races and still remember the tears, Mike takes this very personally, he truly loves his sport and the people who participate in it…they are his family. I watched him then and again last night (while I tried to hold back my tears), calm, composed and holding back his frustration and anger caused from the pain he was going through. I always wondered if I could do that as CEO of the Rocket Racing League, as death or major injury is almost inevitable in extreme sports, I still wonder if I could, but I don’t think I could like Mike…I have talked to him about it, tried to learn what to do, but its not the same to talk as to act. My heartfelt hat off to Mike for the way he is handling this and his team as well.
I am praying today for everyone involved. Jimmy, the fans, the workers, first responders and fans. It is a great loss for us all, but most of all for them.
This won’t be the last time a tragedy occurs in racing. So let’s remember what is important and not point fingers and do the ” should have could have” thing. The FAA and Reno are both outstanding and if there was or is a better option in the future, it will be put in place.
May god rest the souls of those whom were lost yesterday and bring peace to their families and friends.