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NTSB Preliminary On Reno Crash

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Friday, the NTSB released its preliminary report on the Sept. 16 crash of Jimmy Leeward and his Unlimited Reno Racer, Galloping Ghost. The crash has so far been responsible for the death of Leeward and 10 of the spectators in attendance at the Reno Air Races where Leeward was flying in an Unlimited heat, that Friday. Aside from the deaths, the incident left 74 injured. According to the NTSB, "some" of the eight people still hospitalized remained in critical condition at the time of their report. The report is factual in nature and does not attempt to identify causal factors. The NTSB does note that witness and photographic evidence "indicates that a piece of the airframe separated" from the aircraft after it turned away from the race course and before its final descent.

The agency is working with numerous spectator still and video captures of the event, and has acquired telemetry data recorded by Leeward's crew. It is also working with "multiple detached memory cards from the airplane's onboard camera" that were found in the debris field. Telemetry data retained by the ground crew includes engine parameters and GPS data. The preliminary report says the modified P-51 Mustang had flown a steep left turn toward the home pylon when it suddenly banked left and then turned right, away from the course. It then pitched into "a steep nose-high attitude." The NTSB says evidence indicates that the airframe's separated piece was lost during those maneuvers. The airplane then descended "in an extremely nose-low attitude" and impacted the ground "in the box seat area."

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