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Countdown To Reno 2003
John Parker Removed From Competition
Reno Air Racing Update
Aug. 22, 2003
By: Wayne Sagar
Editor, AAFO.COM

I don’t like to write about bad news, I’ve never liked it, I never will. This year, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to write about a subject I wish I did not. In the process of covering the grand sport of Air Racing, those of us who call ourselves "journalists" or "media" become directly involved with many of the parties about whom we report news, or create feature stories. In the news I’m finding myself reporting this morning, I must clarify my involvement with both parties in this issue.

For the past seven years, I have reported on the activities involved with Air Racing, and I’ve done this as an invited guest of the Reno Air Racing Association. I’ve used their electricity, eaten their food, and connected to the Internet via their phone lines. I’ve done this as one of the "credentialed media" whom they feel represent them in a supportive way, and I’ve always tried to do just that. Report on the sport in a positive way, bringing greater knowledge of it to the world via the electronic media known as the Internet, and whenever available, in print as well.

I’ve also been involved with John Parker and American Air Racing. For the past three years, my associates and myself, involved with AAFO.COM, have been invited guests of Mr. Parker and his organization. We have used their electricity, eaten their food, and connected to the Internet via their phone lines, in order that we might bring the results of the racing to the world in a very immediate fashion directly from one of the participant's pit or, in this case, from their hangar at the Reno Stead Airport.

The above being stated, I now find myself in the uncomfortable position of seeing two parties with whom I’m involved and have admiration for, locked in a disagreement that has had the unfortunate result of causing the removal of one of the top competitors in one of the racing divisions. I am in the uncomfortable position of having the responsibility of reporting, objectively, to the best of my ability, what has happened and what will come of it.

I feel the only way I can do this is to state the above involvement, and then publish the story from both involved parties, in their own words, exactly as stated or supplied to me, inject no opinion, inflect no approval or blame or otherwise appear to do anything other than, in the words of the great Jack Web… report "Just the facts Ma’am"..

So we shall…

What follows is the text of a brief interview with Mike Houghton, CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association regarding the removal of John Parker and all American Air Racing owned aircraft from competition this year, and then the text of a press release, as supplied to AAFO.COM by John Parker of American Air Racing…

Mike Hougton: "It was the unanimous decision of the executive committee to not invite John Parker to race this year. Their reasons are that they feel that people need to be supportive of the efforts of Air Racing to enjoy the benefits of it. Our communication to John is strictly that, based on how this plays out, between you and the organization, then that will determine where it goes in the future."

AAFO.COM: Could you comment on what it is that the board feels that John did?

Mike Houghton: "No, I’m not going to get involved, it is what it is, they made a decision based on what they feel is in the best interest of Air Racing and that’s what their job is."

John Parker’s American Air Racing Press Release:

John Parker: "John Parker and American Air Racing (AAR), The Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) and many others here at the Reno Stead Airport (4SD) are all tenants of this airport. There are and have always been issues between the tenants here at the airport involving the ten day period during which the National Championship Air Races are held each year.

Without going into complete detail, I will say that, as a tenant of this airport, we raised some of those issues with the airport authority. As a result of these inquiries, the Reno Air Race Association (RARA) has decided to remove our entry after initially accepting our check and completed forms. They also "uninvited" a customer, who is leasing an airplane from American Air Racing, preventing his competition this year.

We are very disappointed with the manner in which this has been handled by RARA. As a business, we stand to lose much because our business is significantly hampered for a good ten-day period. As an air racer, an entire year of preparation on our racing aircraft, the Thunder Mustang, as well as the Glasair that has been leased, money and labor spent, will all be for nothing. This is financially a high risk business with which to be involved, so being notified at the last minute that we were being "uninvited" from competition, after expending much of our resources to prepare for the 2003 air races at Reno will be a great blow to our business plan. It also jeopardizes our future involvement with the Reno Air Racing Association.

We are also very disappointed by the decision of the RARA Board of Directors and the Executive Committee regarding the tenant problems of the airport, that not only involves American Air Racing, because they will still be issues whether we race or not. Instead of focusing on attracting more air racers and fans, this decision is eliminating one champion competitor out of the event, likely for good.

We have asked what we might be able to do to resolve this with RARA Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and it was answered with, "pretty much nothing." We sincerely hope that the decision will be reversed, and that we will be able to continue racing with a professional performance for as many years as the sport continues."

In conclusion, I will say, as an objective observer, someone who does not know any details beyond what has been reported in this story, I wish that a different decision could have been reached by The Reno Air Racing Association. As it stands, it is an unfortunate one for everyone involved. Unfortunate in that it creates a situation that I don't think any racer would like. Unfortunate that it has created a situation whereby the results of a race have been decided in a meeting, not on the race course. In the heart of all racers lives the desire to win against all comers, not against a field that is missing one of the toughest competitors.

I sincerely hope that this can all be brought to an agreeable end where all parties involved can come to an understanding and we can get on with what we all love about this sport. The World's Fastest Motorsport... AIR RACING and the toughest competition anywhere in any branch of motorsport!



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