San Jose pilot dies in Reno air race

A San Jose man was killed in a solo plane crash during a race in Reno, Nevada Monday afternoon.

Lee Behel, 64, was participating in a qualifying heat for the 51st annual National Championship Air Races at the Reno-Stead Airport where the accident was reported around 3:30 p.m. today, according to race organizers.

Behel was piloting a GP-5 named “Sweet Dreams,” race organizers said. No other planes or pilots were involved in the crash, which is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board, according to race organizers.

Mike Major, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association, said in a statement:

“Lee was a very talented pilot but, more importantly, an enthusiastic and compassionate friend and the entire Air Race family will miss him deeply. …¬†This is a difficult day for all of us and our thoughts and prayers are with Lee’s family and friends.”

Behel was co-founder and president of the Sports Class Air Racing Association. His resume includes 24 years with the Nevada Air National Guard where he retired as lieutenant colonel in 1996, according to the association’s website.

Qualifying heats for the race will continue on Tuesday morning and the event opens to the public on Wednesday. A tribute for Behel is being organized and expected to take place later this week.