Reno Races: Attendance Down, Safety Prevails

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The Reno Air Races have concluded a week of safe racing. Organizers hosted a ceremony on Sunday afternoon to remember the 11 who died in last year's crash of Jimmy Leeward's P-51 Galloping Ghost. "We wanted to have an event that appropriately remembered last year," Mike Draper, spokesman for the Reno Air Races, told the local KOLO news. Balloons were released as each victim's name was read. Attendance was down about 8 percent compared to last year. "It wasn't until mid-August that we were able to say this event is happening with absolute certainty," Draper said. "And I think people held off on making reservations." Ticket prices for attendees also were raised to help cover higher insurance costs, Draper said. The show policy rose from $300,000 last year to $2 million this year. Draper added that robust attendance is expected next year for the event's 50th anniversary.

The event had undergone an "overhaul" following the NTSB safety recommendations, NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said in a blog post last week. "Gone are the fuel trucks that were previously stationed near the spectators, safety barriers have been placed in front of the pit areas and grandstand, which has been moved farther away from the speeding aircraft," Hersman wrote. "The planes in the Unlimited Division have to undergo more extensive inspection and are reporting any modifications." NTSB investigators were on the ground at the event, explaining the Safety Board's investigation of the Galloping Ghost crash to pilots, participants and organizers, she said. "Air racing is inherently risky," Hersman wrote. "The pilots understand and assume that risk. Spectators, though, expect and deserve a higher level of safety."