FLY LOW, FLY FAST by Robert Gandt


Inside the Reno Air Races
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A history of Unlimited AirRacing over 35 years at Reno, Nev., an annual high-risk competition among veteran top pilots of propeller-driven planes that are mostly hyped-up WWII surplus fighters innovatively improved to drive their original wartime speed to close to 500 miles per hour. Gandt (Bogeys and Bandits, 1997, etc.), a former navy pilot and a current Delta Air Lines captain, writes of the successors to old-time daredevil speedsters and test pilots like Jimmy Doolittle and Roscoe Turner. The modern racers, who may be friends and comrades, try to outdo one another while competing to win the big race near the desert at Reno. The best fighters of WWII, such as the P-51 Mustang and the P-38 Lightning, were worked on by expert, creative pit crews and investors to win the coveted race and the fat purse. Professional air racing has been called the most dangerous sport in the world, one that sometimes claims the lives of the most adroit and experienced pilots. The Reno event attracts as many as 100,000 grandstand spectators. Some form fan clubs around favorite celebrity pilots. The majority of the contestants are former military and airline flyers, “hotshot” test pilots, and a few former astronauts. Gandt describes some scary situations, when even the best equipment, stressed and strained by the tremendous speed, can result in crashes and loss of life despite the superior skills of flyers and ground crews. Gandt points out that WWII relics gradually wear down and become too valuable as antiques and collector’s items to be risked in demanding competition. Included are colorful descriptions of characters driven by their love of planes and flying. May well appeal to aficionados of flying and those who enjoy adventure stories, but not necessarily the general-reader population.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-670-88451-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999


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