Due the tragic crash of the P-51 Galloping Ghost and the death of longtime Reno fixture Jimmy Leeward at the Reno Air Races on September 16, the 2011 National Aviation Heritage Invitational, held on the 18th, was a somber affair attended only by participants, judges, volunteers and presenters. Awards based on the quality of the restoration work were presented in five categories, with the Rolls-Royce Aviation Heritage Trophy going to the overall winner.
More than 30 vintage airplanes competed, including a trio of Grumman amphibians—a 1945 G-44 Widgeon, 1951 HU-16B Albatross and 1947 G-73 Mallard—and several from the Vietnam era, including a 1952 Douglas Skyraider AD-5 and a 1965 Bell UH-1H Huey. The Huey, restored in the markings of the 25th Infantry Division, with which it served at Cu Chi, won the National Aviation Hall of Fame People’s Choice Award. A 25th ID veterans’ organization from Bend, Ore., owns and operates the chopper.
The winner of the Henry “Hap” Arnold Trophy in the Warbird Category was Texan Rod Lewis’ 1941 Curtiss P-40C Warhawk. Recovered in northern Russia, the warbird was restored by New Zealand–based Avspecs, right down to the functioning fuselage drop tank—the C’s primary identifier (see “Briefing” in the September 2011 issue). Other winners included Alaskan Bob Juranich’s 1929 Command Aire 5C-3 in the Antique Category; a 1954 Cessna 170B, owned by Bruce Rhymes of California, in the Classic Category; and Nevadan Steve Hamilton’s 1947 Mallard in the Large Aircraft Category.
The cream of the crop, taking home the Rolls-Royce of awards, was a 1911 Blériot XI, owned by the CC Air Corporation and restored by Antique Aero of New Port Richey, Fla. Completely original besides a few wooden frame pieces, the Blériot was the handiwork of two teenage brothers from Denver, who, at the dawn of aviation, purchased plans from the Blériot Company and built the entire airplane from scratch. The Blériot has been stored in climate-controlled museums for decades.
As for the future of the NAHI at Reno, Executive Director Ken Perich remains optimistic. “We hope that the Reno Air Races will continue well into the future and we sincerely hope to be back on the ramp in Reno in 2012,” he said. For more information, visit heritagetrophy.org.