MORE people have been to space than have competed in the Reno Championship Air Races.
Covering the distance of two football fields a second, at 800 kilometres an hour, it’s not for the faint of heart.
But Fleet Helicopters Armidale owner Lachie Onslow was up for the challenge.
“It’s 500 miles per hour at 50 feet – there’s nowhere you can fly that fast under 10,000 feet legally anywhere,” Mr Onslow said.
“It’s a really big thing in the states – it’s the last place they do it.”
The race is the fastest motor sport in the world, and probably one of the most dangerous.
It’s the only place in the world you can fly that low and that fast – it’s sensational.- Lachie Onslow.
So, how does Mr Onslow prepare?
“I just go there and do it,” he said.
“It’s the only place in the world you can fly that low and that fast – it’s sensational.”
Mr Onslow came third in the Silver Race, and seventh overall in the series.
Racing with Drop Bear, he flew a Aero Vodochody L-39C jet.
Growing up in Walcha, Mr Onslow used to beg his father, a pilot, to take him flying.
Now he owns a business teaching other aviation enthusiasts to fly and takes visitors on joy flights around the falls and gorges.
“I just love it,” Mr Onslow said.
With a spotter perched in the back of his jet, Mr Onslow is able to keep track of the other planes around him.
At high speeds, one concern is a G-force induced loss of consciousness.
“It’s about being aware of who’s around you and what sort of pilot they are,” Mr Onslow said.
More than 300,000 spectators come from around the world to watch the race around the nine mile track.
Like a regular motor race, each jet is given a spot on the grid.
Running since 1964, the event has only been cancelled once – after the United States grounded all aircraft following the terrorist attacks in September 2001.
Lachie Onslow had decided to retire from racing, until temptation drew him back on to the course.
“I had retired,” Mr Onslow said.
“But when someone says to you – do you want to come to America and fly my jet really fast?
“How do you say no to that?” The next Reno Championship Air Races are on September 12 to 16.