Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor says the female pilot was killed Saturday morning at Reno Stead Airport when the wings of her homebuilt, single-engine plane broke off as she was performing a roll.
Gregor says race organizers were observing her as part of the certification process to allow her to perform in next week's races at the airport just north of Reno.
The pilot's name was not immediately released, but the plane was registered to a Nebraska resident.
Three pilots were killed in competition during last year's air races. There now have been 19 fatalities in the 45-year history of the event.
The air races begin Monday with qualifying runs.
The 9 a.m. crash is under investigation by federal authorities.