Tragedy at Reno

Upside down at 100 feet off the deck is not a good time or place to be slow applying the solution to the situation. We try to make sure they are ready for September. “Shifty” Peairs, Reno Racing Seminar Air Boss

A modified P-51D Mustang, Galloping Ghost, piloted by Jimmy Leeward crashed into the grandstands during the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nev., Sept. 16 with the number of deaths now increased to 10 with dozens more injured.

Air races and air shows attract an estimated  12 million spectators a year in North America and every year there’s a handful of fatalities, usually involving only the pilot. 2011 will be an especially bad year overall.

While this airshow tragedy is the largest in recent memory, it’s not the worst. During 2002, 77 people were killed and 543 injured after a jet flew into a crowd of spectators at air base in Ukraine. In 1988, 70 people were killed, and hundreds were injured, during a show at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany, when three jets from an Italian stunt-flying team collided. It will take months to determine the probable cause of the Reno accident but a missing trim tab might be the crucial element.

The recent edition of EAA  Sport Aviation magazine characterizes the annual Reno races like aerial NASCAR, with low-flying planes negotiating a course marked by pylons at up to 500 miles per hour.   Pilots accept significant risk associated with planes racing wingtip to wingtip at high speeds. The spectators at airshow events do not. The future of air racing is uncertain and at the very least, expect substantial changes.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those killed or injured from the crash.

2 responses to “Tragedy at Reno

  1. It is a bloody tragedy. I hear some people calling for all air shows to be banned, which I think is an overreaction.

    I’m not that familiar with Reno, so I’m asking, if they are flying an oval-ish racetrack course around two separated pylons, would it be a solution to keep the spectators solely in the middle, rather than the outside? Any failure is more likely to push a competitor wide.

    • There’s six courses and essentially four routes with up to 10 pylons increasing in size for the first two (oval) until you get to the unlimited course which is more round. All come by the grandstands though and placement of those will most definetly change IF there is an air race in the future.

      The MSM will call for airshow bans but hopefully cooler heads will prevail. Safety first, but it doesn’t mean an end to typical airshows which have been in place for dozens of years.

      Good idea on the outboard pass with the spectators inside the turn.

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