Lawsuit aims to halt Reno Air Races

RENO - A lawsuit filed on the eve of this year's Reno National Championship Air Races seeks to stop the 37-year-old event unless steps are taken to ensure safety of residents who live near the Stead course.

An air race official says courses already have been altered to improve safety next month. Qualifying begins Sept. 9.

Michael Houghton, president of the Reno Air Races Association, questioned the timing of the suit and its potential for stopping the event.

The suit by Calvin Williams and his son, Ivan, seeks unspecified damages.

Pilot Gary Levitz, 61, a 26-year-veteran of the Air Races, was killed last year when he plunged his high-performance P-51 aircraft into the Williams' backyard, the suit alleges.

''Part of the airplane hit my client's house and damaged it,'' Williams' lawyer said. ''Part of the airplane hit my client's motorhome and demolished it.''

Air Races officials have met with home owners several times and have discussed options for altering the race courses, Houghton said.

''We are making changes that we think will make it a safer event for the fans, the pilots and the neighbors,'' he said.

The timing of the lawsuit is a concern, Houghton said.

''Weve got thousands of people who work and compete in the races whose schedules are pretty well set,'' he said.

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