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Reno's National Air Championship Air Races expecting 1st profit since crash killed 11 in 2011


RENO, Nevada — Organizers of Reno's National Championship Air Races say they expect to show a profit this year for the first time since 2011, when a crash killed a pilot and 10 people near the spectator grandstand at Reno-Stead Airport.

The original budget for the 2015 event prepared by the Reno Air Racing Association's board of directors anticipated a loss of about $630,000.

But CEO Mike Crowell said the board now projects a profit of $100,000 or more, thanks to some tough budgetary decisions and an increase in attendance. He says the September event drew 150,000 people, an increase of about 5,000 people over last year.

The budget surplus gives the nonprofit event breathing room as it plans for next year, when the U.S. Navy's elite flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels, plans to perform for the first time since 2009, Crowell said.

"To say we're very pleased with the preliminary results ... is an understatement," said John Agather, chairman of the association's board of directors.

The future of the 52-year-old races was in jeopardy after the fatal crash sent insurance costs skyrocketing at the tail end of the recession, which took a heavy toll on Nevada's tourism-based economy.

"Our goal for this year was to look at this event like a business and operate in such a way that would ensure it is around for many years to come," Crowell said.

The former Coca-Cola executive took over as Air Races chief executive in February. He said he expects to end up with a "little more" than $100,000 by the end of 2015 after reducing spending.

"We wanted to be conservative about it," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal (http://tinyurl.com/pz4uy47 ). "We still have two more months to go, and we're still selling some merchandise. But it's been a good year."

The 53rd National Championship Air Races are scheduled for Sept. 14-18 next year.

Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

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