Reno Air Racing Association Welcomes New Flight Operations Team

Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine April/May 2022 online issue.

RENO, NEV. – The Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) has announced an all-new Flight Operations Team. The organization welcomes Owen Ashurst as air boss, Bill Beaton as mini boss, and Tim Fitzgerald as tower chief. The Flight Operations team oversees all aspects of flight at the STIHL National Championship Air Races.

In October of 2021, former Director of Flight Operations, Tony “Bear” Grady, submitted his resignation to pursue 2022 political interests and the RARA Board quickly went to work mobilizing a Selection Committee which consisted of Board members Sue Gardner, Terry Matter and Todd Donahue.

“It was no small task taking over as Director of Flight Operations, particularly following the cancellation of our 2020 event and other challenges due to COVID, but he did so with determination and a steady hand to help us conduct a very successful event in 2021. We thank Bear for his service and wish him great success in this new chapter of his life,” said Tony Logoteta, RARA COO. “The selection committee conducted an extensive interview and evaluation process with potential candidates, and we feel they’ve assembled a fantastic team.”

In conjunction with the search, committee members also assessed and updated the Flight Operations Team structure. The new organizational structure has a clearer naming convention, chain of command and a strategic back-up/succession plan.

“The selection committee interviewed several terrific candidates, and we believe we’ve found a team that is highly qualified with an extensive background and familiarity with the Reno Air Racing Association,” said Sue Gardner, RARA Board Member.
Former performer boss, Owen Ashurst, is a longtime RARA volunteer. As air boss he will be responsible for all aviation-related operations including racing and the airshow.

With a love for aviation that was instilled in him from a very young age, Ashurst spent three years in the U.S. Army, stationed in South Korea and returned to pursue a degree in air traffic control. While he spent 30 years in the corporate legal world, aviation was never far from his mind. He joined the Reno Air Races in 2003 as the pylon judge. He quickly rose to captain of home pylon and then deputy chief pylon judge. At the same time Ashurst also formed his own air boss company conducting airshows around the western U.S. It was with that experience that he was promoted to performer boss at Reno. Ashurst brings more than 20 years of experience to the STIHL National Championship Air Races and more than 10 years as an FAA-recognized air boss.

Bill Beaton, a self-described “serial volunteer” will serve as mini boss. Beaton is a passionate aviator who has been working with the Reno Air Racing Association since 2013, in addition to volunteering with the Calgary Flying Club, Experimental Aircraft Association, and Canadian Owners and Pilots Association.

Forty-year air traffic control veteran, Tim Fitzgerald, joins the Flight Operations Team as tower chief. Fitzgerald began his path in aviation at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University but was led to air traffic control by a friend. He has since held numerous positions within the FAA working VFR towers, a combined tower and radar facility, as well as with military aircraft (A-10s) that were locally based, student pilots, and air carriers. In addition, he has worked radar approach and departure control. He spent much of his career at Chicago O’Hare tower, the busiest tower in the FAA system. Fitzgerald worked his way through several positions including controller, supervisor, plans and procedures specialist, training manager and operations manager.

Since his retirement in 2019 he has remained active in the aviation field serving as Air Boss at countless air shows. He continues to work temporary towers throughout the country including the Masters Golf Tournament, Tampa Super Bowl, AOPA conventions and the STIHL National Championship Air Races.

“The new Flight Operations Team brings more than 50 years of experience to Reno and almost a century of aviation-related experience in air traffic management, air boss expertise and aviation operations to the STIHL National Championship Air Races,” said Fred Telling, CEO and Chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association.
The 58th STIHL National Championship Air Races will return to Reno, Nevada, Sept. 14-18, 2022. More information about volunteering, donating, attending, scholarship information and more can be found at

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