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NTSB Suggests Changes For Reno Races

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The NTSB is still working to complete its investigation of last year's fatal crash at the Reno Air Races, but on Tuesday, board chairman Deborah Hersman announced a half dozen safety recommendations that she hopes the race organizers will implement before the races resume in September. "We believe these recommendations can go a long way toward preventing future accidents," she said at a news conference at the Reno airport. The suggestions to race organizers include changes to the course design and layout, improvements to the methods used to track and resolve discrepancies found during pre-race aircraft inspections, required pilot training in G-force tolerance, and better ramp safety, such as keeping fuel trucks farther from the race area and improving the placement of barriers. Hersman also emphasized that pilots should document that highly modified aircraft have been exposed to realistic race conditions -- high speeds and high g-loads -- before the race.

Hersman also asked the FAA to review its publications that provide guidance for air racing, because the FAA order for the Reno race required just 500 feet between the race course and the spectators; however, an FAA advisory circular recommends a separation of 1,000 feet when aircraft are flying faster than 250 mph. The board recommends that the FAA should "reconcile all of the differences between these two documents," Hersman said. She also suggested that race organizers should evaluate the use of g-suits for race pilots, and consider making them a requirement. Hersman said additional recommendations may be issued as the board continues its investigation. The accident in September 2011 killed pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 spectators, and another 60 spectators were injured.

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