Buhl Man Wins at Reno Air Race
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – A young Lowell Slatter was driving a tractor on his parents’ farm in Filer when he heard a noise overhead. He looked up and saw an airplane fly against the blue backdrop. He thought: ‘That looks like more fun than driving a tractor.’
That was in the 1960s.
This past weekend, Slatter won the International Formula One race at the 53rd National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nev. The last time he raced was in 2013, when he came in fourth place.
The Buhl resident said participating in the race was pure fun. Competing with 23 other flyers, he won the race flying his small airplane – a white Formula One craft with a 200-cubic inch, 100-horsepower engine that he purchased in 2011 – at more than 256 mph.
That’s quite fast for that type of plane, he said.
It’s a high-tension, high-adrenaline event. Scared, I suppose, is not the right word.
He doesn’t take the plane out for any leisurely rides, saying it’s an aircraft made strictly for racing and takes a whole crew to prep. Even so, he still books a lot of flight time with his current job.
Slatter made flying his profession in the early 1970s when he landed his first job as a crop duster in eastern Idaho. He later flew airlines for 20 years. He started flying aircraft to fight wildfires in 2008, and currently flies a 1,600 horsepower amphibious air tractor called a “Fire Boss” for Air Spray USA, contracted by the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
Slatter would like to fly in more competitions, he said, but it’s tough getting the time off work when his flying skills are needed elsewhere. Still, he hopes to revisit the Reno races in the future. This year’s event, held Sept. 14-18, included six different race classes, including Formula One.
“They're really the only sanctioned air races in the U.S.,” he said, noting that some of the recent winners will be traveling to Thailand and Spain for additional competitions. “I was invited, but just couldn’t go.”
Does Slatter ever get scared racing such a small plane at high speeds?
“It’s a high-tension, high-adrenaline event. Scared, I suppose, is not the right word,” he said. “We try to pay very close attention and do our best to prepare for the races. … There’s no money in it. We do this for the fun of it.”