50 years of air races in Reno

RENO, Nev. (KRNV & -- It's the 50th year for the National Championship Reno Air Races.

In 1964 they took off from the Sky Ranch airfield in what is now Spanish Springs.

From humble beginnings launching from a dirt runway, the Reno air races has grown into a world class event.

"50 years ago you didn't have a sport class," said Reno Air Racing Association CEO Mike Houghton. "We didn't have the jets racing back then."

Houghton has been on board for 15 of those 50 years, and he can't pick a favorite memory.

"It's a kaleidoscope of fabulous experiences," he said.

Countless fans have watched pilots soar by at hundreds of miles per hour over the years.

Defending champion Steve Hinton said the races have been a part of his life since the very beginning.

"The first time I was here, I was two weeks old," Hinton said. "So it's neat coming full circle I guess."

Hinton said his dad and uncles were a part of the races well before that, back in the 60's and 70'S.

"I've had several family members race over the last 50 years, so it's kind of neat to still be a part of it," he said.

Despite having won his class several times, Hinton is still in awe of the event.

"It's an incredible experience," Hinton said. "I think RARA's done a great job of continuing the sport for 50 years."

Houghton said they're just getting started.

"I like to say this is actually the first in the next 50," he said. "We think that we can get bigger and better every year. We hope that we've improved every year, and that's our focus."

Hinton said the fans won't want to miss this year's event.

"It's the 50th anniversary," he said. "The weather is supposed to be perfect and the speeds are going to be up there. Air racing is the fastest motor sport and this is the only place you can see it, here in Reno."

The air races officially launch Wednesday, for the event schedule and ticket information click here.