Reno, Nevada 1988 - A rookie appears on the scene with a semi-trailer full of support crew and a stable of not one, but two p-51 Mustangs. Stating he's here to take home the Unlimited Class Silver trophy. More than a few veteran racers must have thought oxygen deprivation had taken hold of this young pilot. As events unfold, this young man is true to his word and by race week's end is named Unlimited Class Silver Champion.
How does a Real Estate Developer get involved in racing airplanes?
Actually, aviation is what got me involved in Real Estate Development! I have been an aviation fan for as long as I can remember, but it was my dad who actually made flying a reality for me. I was fourteen years old and my father, a schoolteacher, felt I wasn't applying myself to my schoolwork. I wasn't a stupid kid but I didn't really appreciate school and my grades reflected that. Dad made me a deal that if I kept my grades at B's or better he would pay for my flying lessons. Needless to say, grades were never a problem again and slowly I began to acquire flight time. It started at only once a month at first but as my sixteenth birthday approached I concentrated on flying more.
When did you get your private pilot's license?
I soloed on my sixteenth birthday. I went to the DMV for my drivers license and the airfield for my solo endorsement. At 17, I got my private pilot's license and by the time I was 18 I was certified as a flight instructor and instrument rated (CFI).
A CFI by eighteen, that' pretty impressive! Where did you go from there?
I became an instructor for American Flyers and had the occasional opportunity to fly co-pilot on Lear jets. I went on to be hired by Delta Airlines for a short time but before my training class was to start, I was furloughed during one of the industry down turns.
That must have been quite a disappointment. Is this when your interest in Real Estate began?
I was still an active "airport rat", washing planes for flight time and that kind of thing. It was through the aviation community that I was introduced to a man named Jim Baldwin. Jim owns a real estate development company himself, and before long he offered me a position which dealt with both aviation and real-estate. I was hired as part time company pilot and assistant construction superintendent. At the same time I was able to enroll at USC (Southern Cal) and decided to major in Real Estate Finance. After graduation I worked as a Commercial Real Estate Broker for a while but that was during the 1982-1983 recession and things were pretty tough. I got my first big break when I was able to joint venture my first development project in 1983. I built and sold my first house in four months and made sixty thousand dollars. Even after paying my investors 50% I was left with thirty thousand dollars. That seemed like a lot of money to a twenty four year old kid, but I reinvested those profits into another project and was able to continue to expand until we were doing dozens of houses at a time. (Click to see Bill's current projects at his RWR Companies website.)
When did you buy your first airplane?
It was 1986 and my first plane was a Cessna 414 . A super clean little plane which I still own. (1991) In 1987 I bought my first P-51 and within
12 months I had purchased my second Mustang. My first Mustang I named Risky business and is the plane I still race today. Risky Business has been completely gone through and is in great shape. Other notable planes I own besides the Mustangs are a T-28 Trojan and a Sabreliner jet.
How did you get into Air Racing?
The same way as all NARA members I'm sure-- I came to Reno! I don't know what exactly it is about the races but It definitely gets into your blood and fortunately, I found myself in the position to be able to come back as a competitor.
What kind of specialized training did you go through in order to qualify as an Unlimited Class Race Pilot?
Again it was through the aviation community that I met the men who would help me prepare to become an Unlimited class Pilot. Skip Holm, Matt Jackson, Alan Preston and David Price, all experienced Race Pilots in their own right, offered to fly with me and help me learn the skills necessary to compete as a racer.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about air racing?
Besides the sheer rush of flying a P-51 Mustang, I would have to say that people are my favorite thing about racing. Meeting legendary pilots is incredible. Imagine a kid from North Hollywood being able to fly wing man on Bob Hoover; incredible! My least favorite thing would have to be the expense.
With lack of corporate sponsorship or an established race circuit it gets harder and harder to justify the kind of spending that is necessary to keep a race plane flying . People need to join organizations like the NARA if we are ever going to have a unified voice with which to attract the sponsors we need.
One last question-What do you think of the new composite type aircraft?-and where do you think Air Racing is heading?
As far as composite aircraft go, I am trying to keep an open mind and wait and see like everyone else. As far as where racing is going, I think racing has a bright future in the United States. As long as people are willing to get behind racing and support its expansion. I think the sky is the limit-so to speak.
(Interviewed by Chris Riggs of NARA PYLON Magazine Sept/Oct 1991 issue)
Risky Business and Bad Attitude are Owned By Unlimited Air, LLC.
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