Pilot Killed At Reno-Stead Airport During A Qualifying Air Race Event
 
  
 
 
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Pilot Killed At Reno-Stead Airport During A Qualifying Air Race Event
 
 

September 9, 2014 - On Monday at approximately 3:30 PM, Sport Class pilot Lee Behel, 64, from San Jose, Calif. was involved in a fatal accident during a qualifying heat of the National Championship Air Races at the Reno-Stead Airport.

Behel was flying a GP-5, “Sweet Dreams.” This was single-plane incident and no other pilots or spectators were injured (for more information on the GP-5).

In addition to being one of the founders of the Sport Class and its current president, Behel was a retired Air Force fighter pilot and a loving father. Behel was a former Sport Class champion and longtime Air Race pilot.

 

“Lee was a very talented pilot but, more importantly, an enthusiastic and compassionate friend and the entire Air Race family will miss him deeply,” said Mike Major, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association. “This is a difficult day for all of us and our thoughts and prayers are with Lee’s family and friends.”

At this time, the Reno Air Racing Association will not speculate on the cause of the accident, which is currently under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NSTB). As is standard procedure, we will evaluate all race planes prior to returning to the race course. 

Retired auto dealer, Behel lived in San Jose, Calif., He was in the Nevada Air National Guard piloting such aircraft F-4 Phantom, F-101 Voodoo, etc. Behel retired as a lieutenant colonel after spending 24 years in the military. Behel began flying in the Air Races in 1998, completing in the Sport Class as well in the Jet Class. In 2008, Behel was the Sport Class champion at Reno Air Races. 

"Lee was a very talented pilot but, more importantly, an enthusiastic and compassionate friend and the entire Air Race family will miss him deeply," said Mike Major, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association said in a statement. "This is a difficult day for all of us and our thoughts and prayers are with Lee's family and friends."

 

 

Qualifying for the 51st annual National Championship Air Races will resume, as scheduled, today at 8 AM and the event officially opens to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 10. A tribute for Behel is currently being planned and will take place later this week. This is the 19th pilot to die in a racing crash in the Reno Air Races' in its 51 year history.

Update - September 128, 2014 - The NTSB has reported that witnesses reported that Behel's aircraft departed runway 26, turned south and maneuvered to enter the race course. As the airplane was observed passing outer pylon 5, portions of the right wing separated from the wing structure. Subsequently, the airplane began to roll to the right and impacted terrain.

Examination of the accident site by representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that wreckage debris was scatted between race pylons 5 and 6 of the outer race course. All major structural components of the airplane were located within the approximate 4,000 foot long debris path. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

 
 
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