Pilot Doug Killebrew with his model airplane, an example of the air racers that will take part in the Race of Champions at California City Municipal Airport on Oct. 11 to 14.

CALIFORNIA CITY —  Air racing returns to California City this month, with high-speed excitement on a smaller scale.

The California City Municipal Airport will play host to the Race of Champions radio-controlled model airplane races on Oct. 11 to 14.

The races are conducted under the banner of the Unlimited Scale Racing Association, a national organization dedicated to what is known as giant scale racing, in which large model airplanes fly a course at speeds that may exceed 200 mph. The races are sanctioned by the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

“The pilots that have to fly these are the very best,” said Doug Killebrew, a racing pilot representing the organizers before the City Council seeking permission to hold the races. The council unanimously approved permitting the races at its Sept. 25 meeting.

The event is modeled after the National Championship Air Races conducted annually in Reno, Nevada. Like their larger brethren, the model airplanes fly an oval course around pylon markers spaced 1,600 feet apart.

The planes themselves are scale models of the types of racers seen in the skies at Reno. They are large, with eight- to nine-foot wingspans and weighing about 15 to 25 pounds.

“They’re big airplanes, so you can see them in the air,” Killebrew said, even though the race course is across the runway from the spectators.

While some may travel more than 200 mph, other types fly at about 120 mph, he said.

Racers in five classes of airplane types will be competing in Cal City for more than $3,000 in cash prize purses, according to the organizers.  

The organization held an inaugural event last year, which proved popular enough to bring it back.

“This is the second time it’s here and it’s already grown,” Killebrew said. Organizers expect it to continue to grow as seen with similar races elsewhere.

“It’s a great event for the community if they come out and watch it, because they are fun to watch,” Public Works Director Craig Platt said.

The city staff who will oversee the event support it and the safety measures in place, he said.

While pilots will be on-site for testing and tune-ups of the racing planes on Oct. 11, the individual race heats take place on Oct. 12 and 13, running from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

These heats last about five minutes each from start to finish, Killebrew said, as the time to complete the six laps of the course for each race takes just over a minute.

The final trophy races take place on Oct. 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Admission to the event is $5 per person per day, or $7 for a three-day pass. Children under 12 years old are free.

Free parking is available at the airport, 22636 Airport Way.

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