Should The Reno Races Continue?

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So the weekend turned out to be uniformly grim for aviation, first with the horrific crash in Reno and 24 hours later, an airshow crash in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Depending on what fills the news cycle for the next couple of days, the hand wringing over public safety and the need to reel in these airplane crazies will start in earnest. To be honest, some of this is not entirely misplaced, in my view. Whenever there are crashes like this that involve spectator fatalities, it's reasonable to pause a beat or two and examine the safety procedures in place and the judgments involved. To ignore that would be irresponsible.

All that will happen in due time. Meanwhile, in Reno, the overarching question is: Should the Reno races continue? Or have they evolved into an anachronism whose time has simply passed? It's too soon to decide that, but I know they're thinking about it in Reno. I found this eloquently written editorial in the Reno Gazette Journal that sums it up nicely. The races bring a lot of money and tourists into town and are worth $80 million to the local economy. In hard times—in any times—walking away from that financial impulse won't be easy. But regardless of how the rest of us feel about the continuation of the races, it's not up to us. It's up to Reno. Tragedies like this mark a community with a persistence that's hard to shake. That saps enthusiasm and may, in fact, depress future attendance at the event. Still, "Reno" like "Oshkosh," has a connotation all its own. And the people of Reno know that, I suspect.

If there's anything immediately useful to come from this trauma, it might be the framing of public assumption of risk at things like airshows, sporting events and even NASCAR races. The Charlotte Observer discovered that during a 12-year-period in the 1990s, 29 spectators were killed at autoracing events, despite more than reasonable precautions taken to protect spectators at tracks. By comparison and considering the inherent risks, U.S. airshows and air racing have had few incidents of spectator-involved deaths and injuries, suggesting a minimal accident rate. Elsewhere in the world, there have been gruesome exceptions: 70 dead at Ramstein in 1988 and 85 dead in the Ukraine in 2002.

If you're even remotely aware of the safety protocols in place for a show like AirVenture, you know the organizers and performers take crowd protection seriously because the stakes are so high, both for them and the industry. But reducing the risk is not the same as no risk. Anyone who attends an airshow or race is at risk, albeit a tiny one. Machines hurtling by at several hundred miles per hour can fail in ways that leave the pilots powerless to control them. And like it or not, pilots make mistakes.

So although as aviation enthusiasts we have no standing in the decision the community of Reno makes, the takeaway for us is to encourage our non-pilot friends and acquaintances to attend airshows. But we need to be honest with them when they ask for our informed expert opinion about risks for spectators. For most of us, it doesn't rise to the level of go/no-go because the risk is so vanishingly small. It's just not non-existent. And anyone who thinks that should probably stay home.

Comments (224)

We pilots take our chances and, for the most part, do a good job at controlling risks. But air races are different. Nobody in the grandstands signed up for that sort of thing. And so there's an added layer of precaution applied to keep the bystanders safe (until they get back to their cars, anyway). That "added layer" failed at Reno. And so I would not be surprised to see some new rules emerge that deal specifically with aircraft modifications made in the interest of speed and winning; mods that introduce single-point failures that put the pilot, and the folks on the ground, at risk. Modifying the airplane by replacing a two tab trim system with a one tab system, is an example of that.

Posted by: ROBIN WHITE | September 18, 2011 1:15 PM    Report this comment

Reno is to aviation what the world cup is to boating. We have many aviation air shows and events and the Red Bull races but Reno stands alone. Let's hope that they overcome the huge obstacles they face and are able to continue the tradition. Surprisingly I think that most of the press thus far has been fair and measured. Paul if you hear of a fund for the families of the victims please post.

Posted by: BILL ELLISON | September 18, 2011 5:59 PM    Report this comment

Continue the Reno air races, just don't use irreplaceable historic airframes.

Posted by: Alan Bradley | September 18, 2011 9:46 PM    Report this comment

That's a a dumb question; like asking if all of GA should stop if there is one accident. Get a grip, Paul. It IS Aviation.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 18, 2011 9:52 PM    Report this comment

As pilots we all balance risks against return and get very upset when a horrible accident like the one at Reno takes place. Many of us are worried this wonderful and exciting event will be taken away from us because of this accident.

I think we should try to look at this from others point of view before deciding what the outcome of this event should be.

There are a number of people who just love seeing violent accidents take place. This is what sells newspapers and TV news. So long as the millions of remote spectators are not put in danger by this kind of tragedy it is a news event rather than a personal loss.

With all the money that migrates to Reno and the "Wonderful" news the media is already milking for all its worth (including Avweb - The first three articles in today's newsletter are an in-depth study of the accident with pictures and video) I don't think anybody but serious pilots will consider putting an end to the Reno races.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | September 19, 2011 5:48 AM    Report this comment

Aren't we all a bit in denial when it comes to risk ? We know that car accidents happen, yet we step in a car oblivious of the fact that we may not exit it alive. We are either ignoring the risk or giving it due consideration in proportion to its size(ie very little, but not zero). Same for those attending Reno : the risk is negliable, but it is not zero. There is no complaining afterwards. In fact, it would be boring if it were 100% safe, and the pilots would not be worshipped if it were easy. Those of us who from to time experience an adrenaline rush, understand risk is an inherent part of its addictive power. Why can we not accept this as part of life/death ? That said, and while I never attended Reno, I would applaud the discontinuation of the unlimited class for something more in tune with the times and easier on the historical fighters. Perhaps something with less mass and thus less destructive power ?

Posted by: Peter De Ceulaer | September 19, 2011 5:49 AM    Report this comment

Godspeed to the families and friends affected, injured and those who perished in this unforgettable accident. RIP Jimmy you will be missed. With that said however unfortunate this event was, in life, we have risk. Risk crossing the street, risk driving our cars, risk going swimming, risk is all around us. I believe the Reno Air Race Organization as done a spectacular job minimizing the risk of the sport of air racing, my hat is off to them. Each person must decide what risk they are willing to subject themselves to. If watching live air racing exceeds you personal limit of risk then watch them on TV from the comfort of you couch.

Yes the Reno Air Races should continue, it is part of what makes America the free country we live in. "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither"- Ben Franklin.

You can count on me, my wife and my children to stand tall and proud on the flight-line of next years Reno Air Race, god willing if there is one.

Posted by: Russell Peitz | September 19, 2011 6:14 AM    Report this comment

These shows MUST go on. Accidents will always happen, even with all kind of safety measures taken! It honours also the dead pilots.

Posted by: Oscar Reinhard | September 19, 2011 6:49 AM    Report this comment

"the media is already milking for all its worth"

I guess we should pretend it didn't happen and delete all the stories on AVweb, then. I'll inform the staff...

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 19, 2011 6:54 AM    Report this comment

Paul,

I apologize for singling out Avweb for the ghoulish focus on disasters. It is all of the media that does this, and I just used you because this is your back yard. You just helped me make my point that Reno is appreciated by more people and for more reasons than just pilots and joy of racing.

In this case, I have no problem with the media attention. You are doing your job as you see fit and recognizing "Human nature" of your readers. I just don't read this kind of stuff. When it comes to terrorism I do have a problem with the same sort of coverage. Terrorists do their bad acts for the sole purpose of getting lots of media attention and the media goes along with this without even thinking that they are (unwitting) partners with the terrorists.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | September 19, 2011 7:02 AM    Report this comment

The aviation community ( especially the Warbird community) needs to become more proactive with the public with regards to the operation-& exhibition of these great airplanes. Most of the public doesn't ( & never will) understand the personal gratification that warbird owners get from building & operating these machines. Hence--many in the outside of aviation world see these planes/owners as being perhaps spoiled rich kids. If the public was better educated ( in other words pilots--take time to talk to the folks at fly-in's and airshows who are looking at your planes) and educate them--share your experiences & feelings.

This is a tragedy--and the media is a bunch of wolves looking for a story--and airplane crashes make headlines. Ignore the fact that more people died in mountain biking accidents this last weekend than have died in plane accidents in the last year--but that stastic doesn't sell newspapers.

Posted by: Timothy Brutsche | September 19, 2011 7:54 AM    Report this comment

Everything you do on a daily basis involves risk. From getting out of bed, into the shower, the drive to work, etc etc etc...all those activities involve risk.

The pilots that perform in airshows probably accept more risk then the average pilot. Operating old, very high performance airplanes while doing aerobatics is probably the most risk you can have.

I definately think the Reno Air Races should continue...the pilots accept the risk and the organizers can put safeguards in place to minimize the risk to the spectators...

Posted by: R. Doe | September 19, 2011 7:57 AM    Report this comment

Friday was a sad day for Reno racing in particular and aviation in general. That being said, the day will go from being sad to being a day of infamy if those who would seize this tragedy to advance their anti-aviation agenda.

There are already enough rules in place to minimize the probability of this kind of incident. The only way for a 100% guarantee is a ban and that is not acceptable to me. I believe in freedom. I do not want the government to protect me from every possible thing. It is MY choice to watch the races! It is MY choice to fly as a race pilot! Neither of these choices requires another person to watch or be in the vicinity of the races.

I reject those who would control my life because they know what is best for me. Let the races go on and let those who wish to attend them continue to do so!

Though I was not at the races this year, for the previous six years I flew in the Reno Air Races.

Lynn Farnsworth Lancair Super Legacy TSIO-550 Powered Race #44

Posted by: Lynn Farnsworth | September 19, 2011 8:08 AM    Report this comment

Let the race continue and remind people of the possible dangers involved. Perhaps move the viewing areas back so they aren't directly under the flight path? As the investigation progresses< i'll be interested in hearing about why it happened. Was it a trim tab? Some other structural failure? Or did the pilot have a problem and lose control (in one picture the pilot is not visible)? Let's find out what and why, then consider possible corrections.

Posted by: Richard Norris | September 19, 2011 8:33 AM    Report this comment

Old airplanes and old men (like me) do NOT belong racing on a course where crash areas can not be planned. I would much rather see them flying calm bananna passes at straight line airshows. Remember when the airline types killed themselves in their AT-6's. FAA - Keep the airshows - SHUT DOWN the course raceing and the Red Bull demonstrations with audiences. But, no matter. I know from auto racing, people come to watch the NEAR death excitement. When you kill people in the audience they don't come back. You blew it! Arnie Allison, waiting to fly West myself.

Posted by: Arnold Allison | September 19, 2011 8:36 AM    Report this comment

Richard,

You wrote: "Perhaps move the viewing areas back so they aren't directly under the flight path?"

The viewing area is NOT "directly under the flight path". The north side of runway 26/08 in the south limit of the race flight path.

Lynn Farnsworth

Reno Race Pilot.

Posted by: Lynn Farnsworth | September 19, 2011 8:50 AM    Report this comment

Look at the facts, the pilot of the 65-year-old "Galloping Ghost" made years of massive overhauls that took a full 10 feet off its wingspan and cut the ailerons down from about 60 inches to 32 all for one reason, to increase speed. He himself even admitted "The systems aren't proven yet. We think they're going to be OK." Were any of those who died and were injured informed that these radical changes weren’t proven to be safe ? I doubt it.

According to this veteran Reno racer it was these very modifications that the pilot made that caused this to happen. “Pilot Ray Sherwood of Placerville, Calif., who raced at Reno from 1986 to 2005, said he's convinced that the crash was caused by modifications leading the trim tab to snap off. He said the same problem caused a modified P-51 Mustang to plunge into a neighborhood during the races in 1999, killing veteran pilot Gary Levitz.”

The pilot deliberately operated an unproven and dangerous design in close proximity to spectators without their knowledge or consent which resulted in eight of them being killed and injuring dozens more. That’s not an accident, it’s negligence and no one in their right mind would willingly take that risk just to see something as inconsequential as an air race.

I’m usually anti lawyer and anti lawsuit but if Mr. Sherwood’s allegations prove to be correct I hope the families of those who died and were injured get as much compensation as they can.

Posted by: Dan James | September 19, 2011 9:06 AM    Report this comment

In the big picture this is not the time for such a bad year in aviation with these abnormal amount of accidents at air shows continue. Being in a part of GA that is under scutiny for accidents and fatalities, it is uncomfortable. The loss of any more pilots is bad enough with the mention of every school within 20 miles in peril and now with spectators killed, all bad. Anybody that doesn't think this will not be a turning point may be in for a surprise. The current media and governmental banter about the rich kids and our toys... Studies show a darkside to those who think someone has more than them and the lengths to condem. Over 40,000 peop;e killed on the highways, 400+ on all terrain vehicles and very few on the front page. Man and machine will have accidents from a few in high powered aircraft to hundreds killed every year on bicycles...after 15 mph, the danger grows, let em race.

Posted by: Chuck West | September 19, 2011 9:11 AM    Report this comment

Risk is inherent in EVERYTHING we do. Risk managment is all we can do. It's impossible to eliminate all risk. Just sitting in your house has risk to it. Don't believe me? Take a moment to remember the Ceritos & Brooklyn air trajedies. Drivers & spectators alike have been killed numerous times in various types of car racing yet races continue with no threat of shutting them down. The Reno accident is trajic, yet shouldn't be any different. If we lose air racing, we have lost much more in technological & aircraft design advancement; that's leaving the thrill & local revenue factors out of it. I knew Jimmy personally & I have no doubt, if he could speak to us now, he would agree 100%. If they shut down air racing, Jimmy, the unfortunate spectators, and all the race pilots who died in the past, have all died for nothing. As for spectators "not signing up" for the risk; I toss up the B.S. card on that too. Airshow accidents happen almost every year. EVERYONE is aware that there is some sort of risk. When it's your time, you can do nothing about it. There is far more risk getting in your car & going to the store. In the overall picture, car & air racing, space travel, daily driving, military ops, HOME/KIT sircraft building are all inherently dangerous for more than just those directly involved. We ALL benfit from new technologies & design ideas gained from the experimental aspects of these activities. Be honest; how many of you would tolerate the loss of any of these activites?

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 9:17 AM    Report this comment

The promoters have a legal obligation to completly disclose the risks involved to anyone purchasing tickets. It is then the decision of the ticket purchasers to make the decision. The government should stay out of it, I do not want anyone else making that decision for me. You can apply this to many things in life.

Posted by: David Jaeb | September 19, 2011 9:43 AM    Report this comment

Paul wrote: "The Charlotte Observer discovered that during a 12-year-period in the 1990s, 29 spectators were killed at autoracing events.."

A 12-year period in the 1990s?

May God bless the survivors and all the families involved.

Posted by: A Richie | September 19, 2011 9:52 AM    Report this comment

Dan James wrote, "The systems aren't proven yet. We think they're going to be OK."

Your rant is lacking in understanding of the facts.

Lynn Farnsworth

Reno Race Pilot!

Dan, an elevator trim tab is not a system! One of the systems Jimmy was talking about was the cooling system. You may have not noticed that there was no fire associated with the crash. Why? Perhaps is was the water in the unproven cooling system that snuffed the fire before it started. So maybe it was this unproven system that you complained about that saved a bunch of folks.

Posted by: Lynn Farnsworth | September 19, 2011 9:52 AM    Report this comment

First, Alan Bradley said it all when he wrote:

> Continue the Reno air races, just don't > use irreplaceable historic airframes.

There is however something I would like to add. Aerobatics demonstrations, races, shows by the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds (or other flight demonstration teams like the Canadian Snowbirds) MUST be required to arrange flights so that the kinetic energy of an aircraft is NEVER directed towards crowds of people. Its tragic enough when a pilot is killed. I saw that happen at an air show at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mt. Clemens, Michigan in 1994. In that accident, the aircraft (a T-33, if you want to know) was destroyed and the pilot killed. But since its kinetic energy was not directed towards spectators, at least nobody else was killed or hurt. So if the Reno races are to continue, the no-kinetic-energy-towards-spectators rule will have to be enforced.

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | September 19, 2011 9:53 AM    Report this comment

Dan J, You said, "The pilot deliberately operated an unproven and dangerous design in close proximity to spectators without their knowledge or consent which resulted in eight of them being killed and injuring dozens more. That’s not an accident, it’s negligence and no one in their right mind would willingly take that risk just to see something as inconsequential as an air race." Sorry, but I gotta raise the B.S. flag on your statement. With little exception almost EVERY aircraft participating at Reno is EXPERIMENTAL. Everybody in aviation knows this. Most non-aviators also know this. Air racing, like auto racing, is in fact a testing ground for new designs and ideas that often end up in the advancement of certified aircraft for all to benefit from. It is absolutely an accident. Jimmy has a large group of family and friends & he did not expect to die that day. Your next comment might be no one should work in high-rises because terrorists might fly planes into them! Get real!

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Lynn I believe veteran Reno racer Ray Sherwood's explanation and he has a previous crash to back up it up. The FACTS remain, Jimmy's radically altered Mustang failed killing eight innocent spectators who trusted him to keep them safe.

Your comment that we all should somehow be grateful that the "water in his unproven cooling system somehow prevented a fire" is empty consolation at best as well as pure speculation. This simply should of never been allowed to happen in the first place.

I'm sorry you lost your friend, but I'm also very sorry for all the innocent lives destroyed by this very preventable crash.

Posted by: Dan James | September 19, 2011 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Sorry Scott but your comment "Air racing, like auto racing, is in fact a testing ground for new designs and ideas" makes every spectator then an unwitting "guinea pig" participating in a test they know nothing about nor agreed to. They came to merely be entertained - NOT sacrificed like lab rats for the betterment of aviation.

Obviously this is a pro aviation crowd and I understand many of you are passionate about your sport. In the end it won't be up to any of us to decide how to compensate the victims and their families but their lives should be respected and not looked at as mere "cannon fodder".

Posted by: Dan James | September 19, 2011 10:25 AM    Report this comment

Dan James,

What is your profession? What are your hobbies? I doubt you have the knowledge to argue with a veteran racer like Lynn; especially when you are using someone else's opinion as your basis for argument. Yes, the aircraft was radically altered. Wasn't the first and won't be the last either. This is what racing is all about. Trying new designs and ideas to find out what works and what doesn't. The vast majority of educated people understand this. Most Reno spectators are well educated people. People know accidents happen sometimes and we all accept the risk. Stop trying to shed individual accountability on others. NOBODY expected Jimmy to personally keep them safe. If you tell pilots they cannot experiment with their airplanes, we will lose out on extraordinary aerospace advancements that woud benefit everyone. You need to open your eyes and accept reality.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 10:29 AM    Report this comment

Yes this is a tragic event. Two weeks ago there was a tragic car accident in socal that killed 7 people. In CA last year, 18,000 teens were killed in driving accidents. Life carries risks. As a culture our obsession in safety is flawed. The death rate on the living is 100% over a long enough timeline. So, increasing safety won't prolong life beyond a certain length. Not to say that we should be cavalier, but we've become so obsessed with safety that we've sacrificed the freedoms that make living so valuable. Does one really want to be alive and enslaved to a fear of everything?

Now to those who make arguments about disclosing risks, (David Jaeb and Dan James), I'd observe that the individual bears the responsibility to investigate and decide for him or herself what is safe and what is not. To place your faith on the claims of a person who is making a profit by your attendance is to abandon your self responsibility. By sacrificing this responsibility you accept the possibility of undisclosed risk. Taking your argument to it's fullest, I'd need to place a warning label on a toilet because of it's possibility to drown me, after all, to not place the warning on the toilet would be to "not disclose a risk". This is why we have so many idiots falling off of waterfalls in Yosemite. They've been raised in a world where your philosophy allows them to behave without considering safety for themselves, as you've placed the responsibility for safety on everyone else. It's failed logic.

Posted by: a b | September 19, 2011 10:32 AM    Report this comment

We are not just talking about pilots here folks...We need to make the course safer for spectators.

Look at the past history of auto racing were fans were often allowed to watch from very close to the race course...The result was often tragic for the fans....Today most tracks and courses around the world have barriers or a safe distance between the action and the fans.

Unfortunately, at air races (or any other air show event where flying is part of the show) distance is the only option available. This distance, may not allow the fans to see the real action...Unfortunately, there is no real answer.

Posted by: Charles Buckman | September 19, 2011 10:35 AM    Report this comment

As a former participant at the Reno races (not as a pilot), I can't stress enough the dangers involved. We all know it when we sign on. I also promise that most people there understand the risk when a 500mph airplane is flying 50' over the ground a quarter mile away. Physics being what they are, it doesn't take much imagination to think of one of them simply flying wide and cutting the crowd line (which happens from time to time, and is an automatic DQ).

Most of the time when things go wrong, it's controllable. Most of the time, the pilots keep it away from the crowd. No matter where you put them though, the spectators will always be at risk. Car racing is no different. People have been injured and killed at Baja races, Formula races, and even NASCAR. Most everyone understands the risks to having racing machines pushing the edges of machine and driver envelope to win.

This could have been a lot worse. If the airplane had gone into the stands (It didn't, in spite of reports) there would have undoubtedly been dozens dead and hundreds injured. Let this be a reminder to people of what can happen. Maybe have pilots go through a full physical workup before racing. But I'll be back next year if they race. It's the only event like it in the world, they should keep it going for the history involved if nothing else.

Posted by: Stephen Samuelian | September 19, 2011 10:39 AM    Report this comment

Unfortunately, accidents happen.

No less a person than Wilbur Wright once said, "If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds…"

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | September 19, 2011 10:40 AM    Report this comment

The other tragedy here is the fact that people take these historic aircraft and chop them up to make them go faster. Chopping the wings off a beautiful piece of aviation history like a P-51 with so few of them left in the world? Shame on you. You have no respect for these historic machines.

Posted by: Steven Spicer | September 19, 2011 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Dan,

In response to your comments about the modifications involved. I hate to break it to you, but all the competitive airplanes in the races are highly modified. That is the nature of racing. If you look at the Forumla 1 racer that I worked on, I volunteered every extra minute of my time throughout the year to make modifications to get 3-5 more mph out of it for the races. Jimmy's "unproven" mods weren't that unproven. Even the most mild of modifications on a Mustang involve clipping the winds (at least to the outboard edge of the stock ailerons) and tweaking the cooling system with a spraybar and water.

You can say all you want that it was untested, but in the end, parts still break when you are pushing the limits. You can't assume that even if it had been 'tested' (and it was actually tested, that wasn't the first race Jimmy had flown that airplane in). The boiler system Jimmy was using has been used before, many of the airplanes that have been racing safely for years at reno have had as aggressive a clip wing as did Race #177, and Jimmy was arguably as good a pilot as any that has rounded the pylons.

Posted by: Stephen Samuelian | September 19, 2011 11:01 AM    Report this comment

Cont..

Something was overlooked that could have prevented the accident, perhaps. Is our memory too short with what happened to Voodoo? Maybe. The crew is just as responsible for the aircraft as the pilot. I know that is one of the reasons that when I ran a team, either the pilot OR myself (as crew chief) could make the call to keep the airplane on the ground.

But I still maintain that everyone that was sitting in those box seats knew the risk. Nobody that has been to the races before could even begin to think it's a low-risk activity. The entertainment factor you cite is not the reason people spend thousands of dollars to come to your town and watch the races. I have dozens of friends travel THOUSANDS of miles to see the Unlimiteds run. We wouldn't be showing up to see a few stock Cessnas round pylons.

Maybe a few thousand of the locals just show up for the entertainment factor, but I doubt in your heart you even believe that (if you have ever been yourself anyway).

Posted by: Stephen Samuelian | September 19, 2011 11:01 AM    Report this comment

Steve Spicer,

You are wrong. Racing these historic aircraft has just as much history as their original intent. There are actually quite a few P-51's left with more being found often. In fact, there are several companies that are quite capable (and have) built brand new P-51's from scratch. I'm not talking about replicas either, I'm talking about the real thing using the read blueprints. In this case, Galloping Ghost had quite an extensive race history (much more race history than service history) before becoming Galloping Ghost.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 11:05 AM    Report this comment

As Peter De Ceuler aptly put it, "...it would be boring if it were 100% safe, and the pilots would not be worshipped if it were easy. " Human beings are drawn toward associating themselves with danger and daring, that isn't going to change.

For those who think the goal of society should be to provide total assurance that nothing bad will ever happen to anyone anywhere, I recommend staying in bed with blanket over head. Won't be 100% but at least it will let others enjoy the remainder of their finite time on earth as they personally see fit.

Posted by: John Wilson | September 19, 2011 11:09 AM    Report this comment

Steven,

As for your comments that people are "chopping wings" off historic airplanes to make the go faster. Your assumption is just that, an assumption. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you've noticed the same 4 or 6 highly modified airplanes are running around the pylons each year. Most of the other ones are much closer to stock. Jimmy's airplane was a racing airplane from the '80's. He didn't chop it up, he bought it as a racer that had been sitting, and rebuilt it. Both Strega and Voodoo were built up from wrecks as part planes in Shafter, and Rare Bear was the same. Czech Mate is a highly modified Yak that isn't really that rare or historic, September fury was a purpose built Sea fury. Most of the other mustangs are stock except for a reversible wing clip (screwed on extensions are removed). Most of the other Sea Fury's are stock except for the Wright 3350 installed (which most of them put in for reliability over the Bristol Centaurus that was originally installed).

If you want to make comments like that, it'd probably be better for you to check your facts first. The "Legacy" unlimited race has been formed in later years with all stock airplanes. Truthfully, because just as you think, nobody in their right mind would cut up a $2 million Mustang for racing anymore. It just wouldn't happen.

The sport class also exists for this very reason. Lynn I hope to see you at the races next year!

Posted by: Stephen Samuelian | September 19, 2011 11:10 AM    Report this comment

Dan James – the Unlimited Class at Reno is populated almost exclusively by former World War II fighter aircraft, including (but not limited to) the Hawker Sea Fury, F8F Bearcat, F2G Corsair, P51 Mustang and the Grumman Wildcat. There is not a single example of these aircraft flying Unlimited at Reno that has not been “radically altered” from their original designs to improve performance. This is the history and very nature of the Unlimited Class. Your statement regarding the modification of Jimmy Leeward’s Galloping Ghost asserts that a “negligent” variation from the norm occurred. This is simply inaccurate and, frankly, misleading.

Posted by: William McClain | September 19, 2011 11:10 AM    Report this comment

Scott Sepper your comment, "People know accidents happen sometimes and we all accept the risk. Stop trying to shed individual accountability on others. NOBODY expected Jimmy to personally keep them safe."

The spectators at that race ABSOLUTELY expected Jimmy and all the other racers to keep them safe. You really want to come on here and tell us they didn't ??? And your comment the spectators somehow "shed individual accountability on others" is absolultely ludicrous. How damn dare those spectators for getting in front of that crashing airplane then right ? According to your thinking Jimmys pursuit of that $ 1 Million prize money comes first, and the spectators right to safety be damned.

As far as what I do for a living and what my hobbies are, I owe you nothing and you'll get even less. You are one cold hearted individual. I pray something like this never happens to you or your family.

Posted by: Dan James | September 19, 2011 11:12 AM    Report this comment

The accident was surely a tragedy, but the cause has not yet been oficially determined, so speculation is just that, speculation. There are many factors that enter into an aircraft accident, seldom only one is at fault. The races are an opportunity to demonstrate the ultimate performance of an aircraft (and pilot). To cancel the races or move the aircraft farther from the crowd would be an injustice, we might as well watch on TV. We are more likely to be killed driving to the race than at the event, so let's wait until the facts have been known before offering solutions that may or may not be appropriate.

Posted by: David Winter | September 19, 2011 11:19 AM    Report this comment

Dan James,

YOU said, "Sorry Scott but your comment "Air racing, like auto racing, is in fact a testing ground for new designs and ideas" makes every spectator then an unwitting "guinea pig" participating in a test they know nothing about nor agreed to. They came to merely be entertained - NOT sacrificed like lab rats for the betterment of aviation."

Again Dan, most of the Reno spectators are, in fact, involved in aviation in some way and they do know the risks. I cannot think of anyone who would think 500 mph at 50 feet of the deck is not dangerous. Even little kids understand this. If you use your logic on car racing, then next time a NASCAR driver flips his car into the crowd at Daytona, we should shut down NASCAR!!! Not gonna happen pal. Maybe next time a Ralley racer rolls off the mountain, taking a few spectators with it, we'll shut down all ralley racing!! Yeah Right!!! Come back to Earth Dan.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 11:25 AM    Report this comment

What happened is a tragedy and as every pilot knows, mistakes in the flying world are less forgiving. That said, I highly regard Avweb but when they start asking questions like "AVWEB INSIDER BLOG: SHOULD THE RENO RACES CONTINUE?" , you have now stooped to tabloid levels and this is not at all interesting. Let's here how we can make flying safer and avoid (try) these kinds of tragedy's again. Maybe such displays should be at a safe distance from crowds (although I am not clear how far the display was from the crowds this time and if the malfunction is what took the plane drastically off course).

Please, enough of these kind of questions and focus on real practical issues.

Posted by: Balkar Sidhu | September 19, 2011 11:34 AM    Report this comment

I feel that the races should continue. Unfortunately it is getting alot of negative connotations in the media. It seems all the reports you read focus on the age of Mustangs saying "the 60 year old airplane", or "the 1940's model fighter" and that they are "radically" modified. If there is enough push from the media to sway the masses opinion it will kill the races at Reno. So lets try to focus on the innovation and positive side of air racing and not let the media clowns destroy this.

Posted by: Luke Gambrill | September 19, 2011 11:34 AM    Report this comment

Dan James,

No one expected Jimmy and the other racers to keep them safe. They came for the racers to WOW them with their skills, planes, and DARING that most of the spectators do not have. You also totally misunderstood individual accountability. A a spectator, you know what you are there to see is dangerous. You know any number of things could go wrong, yet you go to see it anyway. You have accepted the risk that something could happen and that something COULD involve you. Don't blame Jimmy for not keeping you safe, blame yourself for choosing to take the risk to be there.

I am not cold hearted. I am a very loving and passionate guy. Jimmy was a personal friend of mine. I also lost two on the ground, husband & wife aviators themselves.

As for the $1 million prize. NONE of the racers are there for the money. Few ever win in a race that only happens once a year. The luck winner usually doesn't even cover his/her expenses with that money. Not a cheap sport.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 11:38 AM    Report this comment

In the long run... I was going to use the most over used phrase ever ("at the end of the day")but that's a different topic. Sorry ADD kicked in. The advances made from pushing things to the extreme in flying, car racing or any other extreme sport save lives, as new technologies are developed and find there way to the general public. Its unfortunate that people were killed but again advances made from these type of sports save lives not cost lives...

Posted by: Steve M | September 19, 2011 11:49 AM    Report this comment

Dan James,

Your comment to Stephen again shows your ignorance on this subject. What you don't seem to grasp is ALL of these aircraft are modified AND experimental. They have high restrictions on their use in the interest of public safety because of this. Reno IS their testing venue. Reno IS where they prove or disprove their ideas. As I said before, Reno is a testing ground. It just happens to be one that the public is allowed to come and view first-hand. Get that $1 MILLION out of your head; most racers never actually expect to win it. You might do yourself a favor and rent a copy of "Air Racer: Chasing the Dream". It's about Jon Sharpe and the development of Nemesis. This movie will give you a good idea of what air racing is really all about.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 11:53 AM    Report this comment

Yeah!!!! Steve M gets it!!!!

Just had to compliment Steve after dealing with Dan all morning.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 11:57 AM    Report this comment

I have no problem with owners modifying airplanes to go faster. That's a very good thing. And experimental airplanes can break. At Reno, that means staying on the ground, or pulling up out of the race and landing someplace away from the crowds. That's also fine. But when a specific modification creates the very real possibility of a catastrophic, single-point failure, and the implications of failure are a disabled airplane or worse- a disabled pilot who can't fly the airplane away from the crowds because he's GLOC'd- then that's not fine. Jimmy Leeward chose a single trim tab for his elevator, even though a Reno racer was once almost lost when one of his two tabs departed. Why did he do this? I don't know. Folks who knew him argued with him to change it. He didn't. I also don't know if cutting the stick forces he experienced in half would have done any good, given that he was probably unconscious. But it seems reasonable that spreading the structural load across two tabs would have made it harder to break one off. That's just engineering. We shouldn't cancel Reno. But we should do what we can to keep the lion's share of risk where it belongs: on the pilot flying the race. Not the folks in the crowd.

Posted by: ROBIN WHITE | September 19, 2011 1:01 PM    Report this comment

Dan James,

I don't even have to respond to that. The more you talk, the more you prove what an idiot you are. It's not about money at all. It's about advancement in technology, design, and safety, which benefits all and ultimately saves far more lives than it takes.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 1:06 PM    Report this comment

I dont have facts to back this up but I am sure that over the 47 years of Reno Air Races people have died or been injured in traffic accidents just getting to and from the races. I accept the fact that air racing is a high risk sport and that at any sporting event an accident could happen. I am willing to take that risk. I don't want a nanny government telling me that the risk is too great an put an end to the event, nor do I want to see more rules and regulations. Even if it saves just one life wouldn't it be worth it? NO! Our lives have improved because of the experimenting that pilots have done over the years beginning with the Wright brothers. Government regulation only inhibits innovation. The races must continue.

Airliners crash, cars crash, bridges fail, trains derail, plants explode, stadiums fail and in all of these examples people die despite government regulation.

I want the freedom to decide for myself to use all of the above and to accept the risk thank you very much!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Art Jensen | September 19, 2011 1:07 PM    Report this comment

Well said Robin - "keep the risk where it belongs: on the pilot flying the plane and not on the folks in the crowd". He signed up for it, they didn't.

Sadly I just read the death toll has gone up to 10 people now as another spectator died last night in the hospital from their injuries. Prayers and sympathies to their family.

Posted by: Dan James | September 19, 2011 1:14 PM    Report this comment

If you look at the historical reason for air races, it was mostly to promote invention and innovation through competition. It was a way to advance the technology in the early days. I don't believe that taking a 70 year old plane and modifying it to fly a few knots faster fits into the spirit of this purpose.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | September 19, 2011 1:14 PM    Report this comment

Robin,

I am not in total disagreement with you. Problem is it's hard to predict what failures may happen. That's why they are EXPERIMENTAL. All mods, no matter the size, have failure potential. Don't know why 1 tab over 2. We also don't know if that tab was redesigned to handle extra load. I know this plane was flown with no indications of issues prior. As I explained to Dan, Reno is the testing ground for these aircraft. Everyone knows air racing is dangerous; that's part of the thrill. Common sense says that exposure to dangerous activity has it's risks. Dan's crass response, "it's the spectators fault for even being there in the first place.", is not exactly what I said; but, it's really true. No one gives thought that mountain hiking is dangerous, but we all know it is. If I slip on a loose rock & go over a cliff, is it really the rocks fault? No; it's my fault for not being prepared. So, is it really Jimmy's fault his trim tab came off? Don't know, but he certainly didn't expect it, just like I didn't expect to slip on that rock. He certainly wouldn't have flown if he thought it might fail. The spectators knew racing was dangerous, they just weren't prepared for something going that wrong. Is it their fault? Yes & no. No they had no idea that was going to happen, but YES, they knew there was risk. Most people take the risk reasoning that the LIKELYHOOD of something happening is small. Though they might not have thought it would happen, they certainly knew it could.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 2:03 PM    Report this comment

I can't imagine a better safety record for spectators than 0.213 deaths per year. Almost infinitesimally low. Put it up against any other motor sport; NASCAR, NHRA, Indy, boat racing, motorcycle racing, etc., etc. It's sad that it happened. It was an accident. Accidents happen. Their is risk going to an air race. But we take risks every day. Long live Reno. Please, fellow aviators, defend this sport when you hear uninformed and uneducated people discussing it and write letters, emails, etc. to the idiotic pundits and talking heads who want to ban air racing and air shows.

Posted by: Lee Burk | September 19, 2011 2:17 PM    Report this comment

I think we need to realize, no matter the sport, it carries risk for both participant and spectator. The higher the speeds and weights...the higher the risks.

The worst reported motorsports disaster occured on June 11, 1955 at Le Mans where 83 spectators were killed and another 120 were injured when a Mercedes Benz race car went off the track, and into the crowd.

This accident, and it was an accident, was not that...fans were not placed next to track, etc. I think the aviation community, including the FAA, does a great job keeping air events as safe as possible.

As a matter of course, life will deliver surprises daily, and we can not eliminate this. But I think our industry has done a stellar job, regarding safety. Public relations...on the other hand, I think we're terrible...and this is where we will be tested.

I think if you took a spectator poll at Indy, Le Mans, Nascar & now Reno, places which have all lost spectators, a vast majority will go back tomorrow. That is our way...which is good!

As a betting man...I'll sit where the crater is now, as the odds are on my side, that is the safest place by sheer numbers...if I were participating, I'd take Jimmy Leewards crew as well!

Stand together folks!

Posted by: Greg Andrews | September 19, 2011 2:33 PM    Report this comment

This isn't about removing all risk from life. It's about dealing with known issues that compromise the safety of the folks on the ground. Scott, you know what I mean when I say Jimmy Leeward was warned about this.

Posted by: ROBIN WHITE | September 19, 2011 2:34 PM    Report this comment

"As far as what I do for a living and what my hobbies are, I owe you nothing and you'll get even less."

I beg to differ, Dan James. To make the brash and bold comments you've offered in this discussion, you should at the very least provide some evidence that you have more than rudimentary knowledge of aviation, not to mention air racing.

Show some backbone.

Posted by: Phillip Potter | September 19, 2011 2:36 PM    Report this comment

Robin White said, "Jimmy Leeward chose a single trim tab for his elevator". The pictures I have seen appear to show him having two elevator trim tabs.

Robin,

Posted by: Lynn Farnsworth | September 19, 2011 2:36 PM    Report this comment

Hey Phil - is quoting an expert Reno racer with nearly 20 years experience ( Ray Sherwood )enough "backbone" for someone as biased as you are ? When you've got as good or better qualifications as he does you be sure to come back here and say something that makes sense.

Posted by: Dan James | September 19, 2011 2:45 PM    Report this comment

"Hey Phil - is quoting an expert Reno racer with nearly 20 years experience ( Ray Sherwood )enough "backbone" for someone as biased as you are ? When you've got as good or better qualifications as he does you be sure to come back here and say something that makes sense."

It's easy to quote someone. It's not nearly as easy to get all the ratings yourself.

Posted by: Phillip Potter | September 19, 2011 2:56 PM    Report this comment

Dan has a valid point...But what current case law is on the books for motorsport spectator lawsuits? That's what get instructed to the jurors, along with photos and testimony...period. It's a dry process of facts, case law, etc., which are difficult at best to speculate.

Posted by: Greg Andrews | September 19, 2011 3:05 PM    Report this comment

Calling this a Mustang is like calling a NASCAR racer by whatever its street car name is. They are two totally different animals. They may look somewhat similar to each other, but are not. This was not a warbird, it was a race plane. Calling it a warbird does it a disservice.

Automobile racing has suffered driver and spectator casualties over the years and yet we still have auto racing. After a tragedy they stepped back and figured out what changes they could make the sport safer and moved forward. I suggest that aviation racing do the same - and keep making that comparison publicly!

I've never been to Reno so I am speculating here, but perhaps all that is required is to move the specator area further down the straightaway from the corner so the inertia will carry future accidents forward rather than towards the crowd. Whatever it is, there are smart people involved and I am confident that will take all reasonable steps to minnimize this kind of accident in the future.

As others have pointed out, driving and watching car races, as well as flying and watching air racing/shows will never be without some risk.

I choose to accept this risk when I go to either. I hope I will continue to have the opportunity to do so.

Posted by: Joel Ludwigson | September 19, 2011 3:16 PM    Report this comment

Robin,

Yes I know you're reference; BUT, I also know that was B.S. too. Jimmy's plane did in fact have the normal TWO trim tabs, he just lost ONE. I will send you proof of this privately.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 3:16 PM    Report this comment

I was there and watched the whole thing. I was in the general admission bleachers right next to the grandstand. I don't believe any changes are necessary as far as the spectators are concerned. The spectators are already far enough away. If it's determined that a failure on the plane caused the crash, more thorough inspections may help, but I doubt it. There's no way to make a sport 100% safe and if it could be done, no one would go. I love how so many have come to the conclusion that the trim tab caused the crash. Wasn't it still there on the way up?

I'm sure Jimmy was a nice guy, but I wish the media would stop reporting that it appeared he tried to avoid the crowd. I don't know what those people were watching, but at no time did the airplane do anything but move towards the crowd. At the top, it was completely behind the crowd and had to reverse course to hit where it did. My first question while watching the incident was, "Why is this guy pulling up over the crowd?". That's still the number one question for me. Had the plane pulled up into the center of the airfield we wouldn't be having this discussion right now.

Posted by: Jim Truscello | September 19, 2011 3:23 PM    Report this comment

Jim T.

I'm glad you understand this conversation much more than another person does.

You said, ("Why is this guy pulling up over the crowd?". That's still the number one question for me.).

Let me help you a bit with this. If you fly, then you are aware that, in most aircraft, the faster you fly, the more nose-down trim is usually required to keep it straight and level. If you suddenly lose nose down trim at speed (like would happen if you lost the trim tab), what do you think would happen? How about a violent pitch-up? Violent pitch-up at nearly 500 knots will cause extreme positive G's, emptying the blood from the pilots head, causing him to black out. There is a term for this, G-LOC. It is likely Jimmy never even knew what happened cause he was probably out from the moment he lost the tab.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 3:49 PM    Report this comment

This was a big one for aviation and air racing in my opinion, and while the event is still very fresh, seeking blame and arguing among ourselves really doesn't represent our best reaction to it in my opinion.

We have added work to do now if we are concerned about public perception of risk in high speed and power flying like at Reno. Add this tragic accident to all of the challenges aviation is now facing and it would behoove us to stand together to educate those newly afraid or shocked if we deem that important for the overall survival of air shows and air racing. I'm a low and slow type who was never bitten by the need for speed in just about anything, but I hope those that do enjoy that type of flying can keep doing it at places like Reno. Condolences to all affected by this unfortunate accident.

Posted by: David Miller | September 19, 2011 4:14 PM    Report this comment

Scott, one of the first things I thought as I was watching it was that no one was flying the plane. However, the pull up didn't look any more violent than any other I've witnessed. Would someone blackout that quickly? In the videos you can see the wings waggle near the top of the flight path, but that may mean nothing. I hope all the questions get answered. I have plenty more (and I am a pilot), but they're probably better for another forum.

Posted by: Jim Truscello | September 19, 2011 4:18 PM    Report this comment

I as a pilot do understand that all sports carry some risk, I am willing to except those risk. Spectators also except risk, race cars jump fencing, motorcycles veer off tracks, cars jump dividers on the major highways, are we to stop all these activities because there is risk. Our government is already too deep in our lives. It is time to govern ourselves and stop being infants to have someone protect us from ourselves. I cry for those that were lost. But as pilots we, have also lost friend doing what they loved and they did except the risk.

Gail Curry-Kane Jensen

Posted by: Art Jensen | September 19, 2011 4:20 PM    Report this comment

Jim T.

Well, I certainly wasn't there to view it in person. I can only go by the same videos and stills everyone else is looking at for now. What I stated is what seems like should happen based on my own knowledge of aerodynamics and 25 years of experience in aviation. I'm not saying I'm right, just that based on what I know, this is what seems to be right to me at the moment. My experience does include F-15 time and I can say that even small pitch changes at 500 knots can cause large G-forces. So I don't believe it would take a particularly violent pitch-up to cause G-LOC. Also remember, these race pilots are flying the same speeds fighter jets normally fly, BUT they are NOT wearing G-suit's like fighter pilots do.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 4:56 PM    Report this comment

Scott has been kind enough to send me a good photograph that does show two trim tabs on the tail of GG. An Unlimited race pilot who was there that day, who knows both the airplane and Jimmy Leeward, told me only one (the left) was operational, and that he urged Leeward to change that single tab setup back to dual tabs. Who's right? I have no idea. It's time for the NTSB to step in and establish the facts. Thanks, Scott. Robin White

Posted by: ROBIN WHITE | September 19, 2011 5:20 PM    Report this comment

Incredibly bad luck for the VIP seats.

If Galloping Ghost was doing 500 mph, he was doing 733 feet per second.

If the initiating event had occurred 2 seconds later, and the aircraft followed the same flight profile, the impact would have occurred more than a quarter mile away.

I'm not sure what was at that point, but the VIP box seats were not that big.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 19, 2011 6:14 PM    Report this comment

Edd,

My 500 mph statement was a rounding. different news stations quotes between 470 and 496. I have no doubt we will find out exactly what it was eventually as Jimmy did have live telemetry transmitted to the ground crew. There was also an onboard camera. It has been found but it is unknown at this time if the video will be recoverable.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 19, 2011 6:35 PM    Report this comment

Jim T wrote - " I wish the media would stop reporting that it appeared he ( the pilot ) tried to avoid the crowd. I don't know what those people were watching, but at no time did the airplane do anything but move towards the crowd.

At the top, it was completely behind the crowd and had to reverse course to hit where it did. My first question while watching the incident was, "Why is this guy pulling up over the crowd?". That's still the number one question for me. Had the plane pulled up into the center of the airfield we wouldn't be having this discussion right now."

Thank you Jim T for sharing your personal observations. I wondered the same thing, why the hell was that plane so close to the crowd in the first place ??? I agree he should of put it down in the center of the airfield. If these races ever restart its a given they'll be pushed farther away, but that doesn't benefit those killed and injured - too little to late for them.

Posted by: Dan James | September 19, 2011 6:39 PM    Report this comment

The big elephant that is sitting right in the middle of our living room and everyone is trying their hardest to ignore is this. Now that we have seen what happens if a racer crashes right in front of the stands, can anything be done to protect the spectators? If not, how much risk is too much? The unthinkable has happened, what can we do to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Rules in aviation are written in blood. We just cannot shake our heads and say shit happens live with it. If it means that in order for Reno to continue it has to be watched from closed circuit TV so be it. If the unlimited class has to be restricted so be it. The people who race at Reno and those who put on the show have a moral obligation to minimize the risks as much as possible for the spectators.

As pilots we all know mistakes are going to be made. Sometimes we live, sometimes we die. The smart pilot learns from his mistakes and trys to never repeat it. If you do nothing and hope the situation never comes up again it's almost a sure bet something nasty is going to happen again.

Enough with the chest beating and finger pointing. WHAT DO WE DO TO MAKE SURE THIS NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN?

Posted by: Robert Kaliski | September 19, 2011 6:45 PM    Report this comment

Scott,

I just used 500 mph as an example. At 470 the difference would not be much. In fact, I just de-did the calculation and it would be .26 miles at 470 vs .28 at 500.

Dan James,

The distance from the flight path to the spectators is approved by the FAA personnel who attend every event.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 19, 2011 6:46 PM    Report this comment

I have attended the Reno Air Races on and off since 1977. I know the dangers associated with being there and willingly accept them.

Accidents happen in every sport. I have even lost a friend who was mountain biking. I used to race motocross when I was much younger. I have fallen in in the first turn and been run over by multiple motorcycles. This is part of the risk you take. It never stopped me from racing.

Look how many people die every single year in auto accidents. How many of us have given up driving because of this?

Continue the Reno Air Races. If you feel it is too dangerous to be there don't go. Pretty simple.

Living in fear is not living.

Posted by: Ric Lee | September 19, 2011 7:32 PM    Report this comment

Absolutely the races should continue! Sounds like the P-51's need a good look at the pitch control system as I'm sure will occur over the next few weeks and we may not like what we find. I would have to admit a nagging doubt in my head as to whether or not it's smart to be pushing WWII airframes to 500mph. I'd rather have a Reno with the warbird class limited to 300 kts than no reno at all. And fwiw, I think an IROC type event flying stock Cessnas or Pipers would be an interesting show as well.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | September 19, 2011 7:57 PM    Report this comment

Scott, Dan is someone who thinks everyone else in this discussion should have qualifications equal to or exceeding some "expert Reno racer" he quoted... yet he obviously is exempt and free to spout as he pleases.

Posted by: Phillip Potter | September 19, 2011 7:59 PM    Report this comment

Dan, I don't think it is a given that the spectators will be pushed farther away and I certainly hope that doesn't happen. There is NO distance that will make events like this 100% safe. I have yet to hear from anyone that was there that they wouldn't go again, but I have heard from more than one, including one of the injured, that they would return in a heartbeat. If you're opposed to this type of event, fine, don't go, but no one has the right or responsibility to protect me from me. This was an anomaly and shouldn't be subjected to knee-jerk reactions.

Posted by: Jim Truscello | September 19, 2011 8:17 PM    Report this comment

Robert Kalinski said: WHAT DO WE DO TO MAKE SURE THIS NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN?

Robert,

The only way to do that would be to stop air racing. That is unacceptable. No less a person than Wilbur Wright once said, "If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds…"

You may sit safely on your fence post, but that's not for most of us.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | September 19, 2011 9:49 PM    Report this comment

I really want the races to continue but if that requires changing the format then so be it. I once "flew" the course in the jump seat of Jimmy Leeward's stock P-51 and had planned to be there this year (for the 8th time).

1. By putting that last Pylon further north an plane that misses it would head in to relatively open desert.

2. The unlimited class could be eliminated and replaced by stock warbirds with recording instrumentation limiting them to stock BHP. Why would this be less exciting? In fact the closeness of the competition might make it more so. Unlimited planes could still fly but only on straight speed runs over unpopulated terrain.

3. Could losing a trim tab really cause this? I did fly a P-51 (TF-51) at Stallion 51, including a loop, and the the stick seemed to require only gentle pressure. It seems hard to believe that the elevators can't overcome a trim but maybe so. As an engineer I am especially curious.

Posted by: ARTHUR THOMPSON | September 19, 2011 10:04 PM    Report this comment

"If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds…"

Wilbur evidently never fell off a fence...

'If you do nothing and hope the situation never comes up again it's almost a sure bet something nasty is going to happen again.'

I don't think anyone here or at the site is that naive or that deep in denial. We all hope good evidence is found and can be applied to future races, whether to aircraft or pilot safety. I've always found pilots and show promoters to have outstanding concern for safety for all. It was an accident. Life and living has randominity as part of its fabric. If one feels the risk is unacceptable after all safety measures have been applied, maybe it's best to stay home.

Posted by: David Miller | September 19, 2011 10:29 PM    Report this comment

"The unthinkable has happened, what can we do to prevent it from happening again in the future."

First, there is no way to "think" of a way to prevent the "unthinkable". Secondly, the only way to prevent all air accidents is to stay on the ground. Lastly, (since this was such a bizarre accident) the chances are good that it won't happen again; doing nothing will actually work out as as well as any other proposal.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 20, 2011 7:05 AM    Report this comment

Geeez ! I opened up a new message and find this vitriol instead of something contributory.

The question has been asked, how could this accident have been avoidable? And, I'll add a proviso - the spectators continue to enjoy the sight of the fastest unlimiteds storming around pylon 9 and down the short straight.

The NTSB will have some recommendations and blame the FAA for lack of adequate oversight, as usual, regardless the existing course has worked for years without harm to spectators.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 20, 2011 12:03 PM    Report this comment

Yo Paul!

I see, in the Commenting Rules, "Please keep it civil..." Looks like it has gotten away from civility, and you need to pul the plug on several of these "comments."

Posted by: John Jacoby | September 20, 2011 12:56 PM    Report this comment

Dan James; A better challenge is to send Scott to the races next year. Heck, send me too since I agree with him. If you're point of view is correct; we won't show up. Send us tickets and test us. Please.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 20, 2011 12:58 PM    Report this comment

I am sorry for the loss of life, but spectators are there for the excitement and the possibility of a crash. That sounds cold, but is no different than Nascar, NHRA or any high speed sport. Nobody would come if you were pulling a load of melons in a wagon.

Posted by: roger gormley | September 20, 2011 2:20 PM    Report this comment

Geeze, I think about 30 times more people died in tornadoes this year than in air racing but with a lot less analysis.

The races are irrelevant but cool, if they can keep going, I'll keep going to them. To paraphrase a common aviation wisdom, I think the biggest danger in air racing is starvation. I'm constantly amazed that the racers are willing to spend so much time and money to recieve so little glory. And that doesn't include the risk. The spectators, in comparison, have an unmeasureably small investment and risk.

Posted by: Stephen Phoenix | September 20, 2011 2:33 PM    Report this comment

Dan James,

It is obvious you have no comprehension skills because every time you speak, you twist what I say into something it is not.

As for challenges, well, I work for a living or I would have been there myself. Who knows, it could have been me in the box! I certainly wouldn't want my legacy to be part of the reason Reno got shut down! If you want me to come so badly, I'm up for it; you just have to cover my costs and responsibilities while I'm out there educating you. So, BIG MAN, you still up for it? Contact me privately. I'm easy to find if you have any common sense. If you are in aviation (not sure cause you're too chicken to tell us), it's really easy. I'll be waiting to hear from you Dan. Also, keep in mind, I think Edd wanted to come too.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 20, 2011 6:41 PM    Report this comment

Dan,

Pardon me, it was Mark that wanted to come; but, if you want I'd be happy to meet Edd too! In fact, why don't you invite everyone who has posted here, we'll make an event of it!

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 20, 2011 6:45 PM    Report this comment

Scott,

Please don't feed the trolls.

Posted by: Ric Lee | September 20, 2011 6:52 PM    Report this comment

Ric,

Sorry, you are right. I should have stopped letting Dan get to me a while ago. I will do my best to ignore him from this point on.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 20, 2011 6:57 PM    Report this comment

I have a question for those of you who have a better grounding in aerodynamics than I: why does the loss of an elevator trim tab cause a pitch-up? I'm speculating that because the elevator, along with the horizontal stabilizer, generates negative lift (low pressure is on the underside), the loss of area of the affected elevator causes it to deflect upward. But it's not clear why the effect of the lost area isn't neutral. Clearly this happens, as the 1998 incident showed (to the point of failing the torque tube!) but I don't understand forces involved. Please explain if you know. Thanks!

Posted by: DEANE STANLEY | September 20, 2011 9:27 PM    Report this comment

First off, to address the question that Paul asked, "Should the Reno Air Races continue?" My answer is "Yes they should." Why? Several reasons. The Air Races are all about racing aircraft. It was not developed as entertainment for spectators in the first place. It evolved into a spectator event. Nobody is forced to attend. Like many others posted, there is more risk driving to the races. If I have my facts correct, there has NEVER been a spectator fatality at the Reno Air Races in 46 years. Thats an incredible record compared to all the other racing venues out there. Lets face it, racing vehicles raced on closed courses, sometimes go off course. It happens in all auto, boat, and motorcycle races.

Posted by: Steve Magnuson | September 20, 2011 10:48 PM    Report this comment

Continued from previous post....

I would also like to point out that these are UNLIMITED Air Racers, which are EXPERIMENTAL catagory, meaning that limits are pushed, and sometimes to the breaking point. One commenter suggested doing away with the Unlimited class and racing stock mustangs. We have that already. Its the bronze class. Not quite as exciting as the Gold class with their "no-holds barred lets wring every last ounce of speed out of this thing philosophy."

Other commenters suggested that it is the racers duty to protect the spectators. (Dan) I disagree. The racers are there to race their planes. Its as simple as that. They know the risks and the Reno Air Racing Assoc, and the FAA have done an incredible job over the years ensuring that the event is as safe as possible for the spectators. The only way to eliminate the risk is to not be anywhere near the place during race week. It just isnt the same on TV.

My heart goes out to all of the familys that lost loved ones this last Friday. I usually attend Reno and have had the privilige to crew for a Formula One Team (Madder Max) and a Jet Demo Team (Stoli Migs) a few years back. Most of the folks that attend are truly passionate about Aviation and understand that being around aircraft has its risks. As an A&P/IA and ATP Pilot, I have seen my fair share of accidents, but that does not keep me from going to the airport almost every day, and I hope that I can attend Reno in the future.

Posted by: Steve Magnuson | September 20, 2011 10:50 PM    Report this comment

I'm all for the race to go on. It's a big deal for Reno, like the "Running of the Bulls", in Spain! At Reno, the noise of the powerful birds, is intimidating, so, I have experienced some trepidation, there! But, I've been ducking rotor blades on Chinooks, since I was a young soldier, way back in 'Nam. The Air Show and static display is all a slight thrill, but ducking, is always on my agenda, around aircraft! Serious injuries, I get on my bicycle! Now, that really makes me nervous! Tail flutter, and G-LOC, that's out of my league, although not by choice! I'd be okay dying passed-out, and instantly disintegrated, no pain. My luck, it'll be end-stage dialysis, or maybe stage four pancreatic cancer in a hospice, waiting ever so slowly for death! How can I count the ways?

As pilots, we should deal with the truth, so I am grateful to understand how severely clipped wings can put wing tip vortices closer in, slamming the horizontal stabilator, with heavy force. Voodoo Chile, should have taught all. There is a NASA video, taken from movie film days, that shows the extreme tail flutter on a twin Comanche being oversped, bowing and flexing the stabilator to what looks like metal-breaking force, but the Comanche survives without repair, flying for another 38 years, until a lunkhead human runs out of gas, on both engines, of course!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 21, 2011 4:26 AM    Report this comment

The Romans had arenas full of gladiators for sport, and I think the gladiators were the oppressed people. Now, society has evolved to where the oppressed people are the ones with the velcro sneakers looking in, from outside, through the fence, and the privileged are the ones on the inside, having all the fun with the fancy equipment!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 21, 2011 4:33 AM    Report this comment

All issues considered...fascinating stuff and input here. It is an "experimental" environment, I would suggest that stay exactly as it is. I have attended these races for over 25 years. In my opinion, there is one majoy factor that could help mitigate this scenario recurring, and that is to consider the relocation of the last pylon prior to the start/finish pylon. I have for years watched the race aircraft round that last turn and their momentum is in fact towards the Pits and the grandstands. The distance of the "dead line" was considered enough to be "safe". Now that we have had another demonstration of "Murphy at work", it might prove to be prudent to consider the relocation of that last pylon so as to not at any time have the trajectory of the aircraft cross the pits or the stands. By moving this last pylon, we would have the racers strictly in a "straight and level" profile as they come by the stands. As it is now, the racers are in a constant bank from the last pylon, past the start/finish pylon, and then to pylon #1, which is an indicator that if an aircraft wanted to "avoid" the crowd in this stage of the race, he would have to increase his angle of bank in order to pull up towards the inside of the course. In this particular case, it appears that the "pullup" was involuntary due to the tab failure and Leeward was instantly incapacitated and could not increase his angle of back in order to "escape" toward the inside of the course.

Posted by: Blaine Banks | September 21, 2011 6:26 AM    Report this comment

Dan James, you have crossed the line in the name calling. I deleted your last. I'll ask you to cease and desist, please.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 21, 2011 6:55 AM    Report this comment

Answering your question about the aerodynamics. At the speeds these airplanes are flying--really at any cruise speed--the airplane requires quite a bit of nose down trim to maintain level flight. That places a lot of load on the trim tab.

If the tab fails, that down force is instantaneously converted to pitch up moment and it would be very violent. Telemetry data show an 11G pull up to a vertical climb during which time fuel flow was momentarily disrupted. At the top of the pitch up, the engine recovered and on the down angle, the data showed it was at 105 inches of boost until impact.

It's very unlikely that any pilot, no matter what his condition, could remain awake for 11G rapid onset. Even 6 or 7 coming on that fast would G-LOC most people. So if this turns out to be the fact pattern--none of it confirmed--then one can easily see why the outcome occurred.

If you listen to our podcast from an eyewitness, you can easily understand why it's probably not possible to protect spectators entirely. At the speeds involved, an out-of-control airplane will cover the distance from the course to the bleachers in mere seconds, as it did here.

Organizers of these events do all they can to assure spectator safety. But at some point, you don't have show if you get too obsessive about it, thus the idea that spectators have to accept their share of the risk.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 21, 2011 7:09 AM    Report this comment

Thanks Lynn for all your great comments. Remember it's all about money. You say not? How many pilots have been killed in Mid-Air collisions. Are we required to carry a PCAS in our airplanes? My non-pilot friends ask me if 74 is too old. I tell them only if you want to get paid! Reno needs to stay, at least until I get out there. Flying into Oshkosh, I know and feel the risk. Once I get there I've never thought abought any risk once I'm out of my aircraft. This year I took my 9 year old daughter and wife to OSH for the first time, we drove. My wife asked me why I wouldn't watch the airshow and I told her because Amanda wasn't here. I've been to a million airshows and have pictures of many of the fallen pilots. I've never felt unsafe as a spectator. Kevin H Cincinnati, OH

Posted by: Kevin Hillman | September 21, 2011 8:33 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I don't remember many aviation questions that have stirred up so much passion! I've stayed on the sidelines until now because I'm not sure how I feel! The organizers, will, undoubtedly, need to come up with some safety enhancements in order to sell the Races to the sponsers, the public, and certainly to the event's insurers. When the question of whether or not to continue is raised, perhaps it strikes at the heart of what we aviators seem to cherish most; our freedom! We understand the risks and I think that most of us agree that as adults, we should have the choice. The rest of the public certainly got an education about the risks this last week and they too can make a choice.

Posted by: Steve Tobias | September 21, 2011 8:36 AM    Report this comment

Anyone who thinks they are not willingly exposing themselves and their family to risk by attending an airshow/air race is delusional. Suggestions of law suits are equally delusional.... If you don't want to take any chance of being harmed, stay home. But send me your tickets!

Posted by: RONALD MOORE | September 21, 2011 8:37 AM    Report this comment

I've just had the "one operable trim tab" issue confirmed. There were two tabs on GG, but the right one was modified to be fixed. Only the left tab (the one that departed the a/c) was moveable. Robin White

Posted by: ROBIN WHITE | September 21, 2011 8:39 AM    Report this comment

Thanks, Robin, for that clarification. So the question now (for me, at least) is "Why?" I'm nothing close to an aerodynamicist, but would two tabs at those speeds be more of a liability than an asset? Too effective? Would two movable surfaces increase the likelihood of flutter? Just curious to know why Jimmy made that modification to his plane.

Posted by: Phillip Potter | September 21, 2011 9:04 AM    Report this comment

I was 30' from the impact sight and sustained a slight laceration which required stitches. A man sitting 3' from me died. Two people in my box had severe lacerations which severed their Achilles tendons.

I think that anyone who goes to the races and is not aware of the inherent risks is at best not thinking clearly. I would go back again next year and sit in the same box (If I was again so lucky as to know someone that would let me) without thinking twice.

Over the same period as the Reno Air Races have been going on, Formula One Motor racing has lost 400 spectators.

Life is full of risks, to try to avoid all of them is to not fully live in my book. I don't see any governmental agency forcing anyone to attend, and I sure hope no governmental agency forces us not to attend.

Posted by: Mark Mirviss | September 21, 2011 9:43 AM    Report this comment

Mark, thank you for your comments. Paul, thank you for returning civility to the discussion. As a person fortunate enough to fly a Mustang from time to time (not a racer), I completely agree with the explanation of the trim needing to be far forward (I've been told that it is full forward at those speeds). Sudden loss of "nose down" trim would be similar to a "sudden back pull" on the stick. Unless you were prepared for it, it seems possible to have lost grip on the stick (many flight instructors have had a student suddenly do something and catch them by surprise).

I've never been to Reno. Anyone who thinks that it's too dangerous is free to "not go". I've been afraid I'd get addicted, and have to return year after year, and go broke.

Might I suggest that anyone who thinks that there is "lawsuit material" here be required to list their connections with legal firms, or their prior success at plaintiff's suits?

Posted by: STAN MUSICK | September 21, 2011 10:11 AM    Report this comment

Why one operable trim tab? Because two operable trim tabs is more complex, heavier and doubles the chance of failure. Even with two tabs the result would likely have had the same result when one failed. It is possible that Leeward felt the trim tab start to fail and made the initial pull-up, while still in the climb at very high speed the tab tore loose, the the gyrations of the tab being torn off caused structural damage throughout the tail (something caused the tailwheel to extend). At that point the violence of the ensuing rollover incapacitated Leeward and the plane dove for the ground. Had the tab simply failed cleanly and departed the plane, it probably would have been the same result as the 98 Voodoo incident. It was the violence of the tearing loose of the tab that created the problem. But this is simply guesswork based on the rather sketchy information available. As usual we need to wait for the NTSB to put it together.

Posted by: Richard Montague | September 21, 2011 10:14 AM    Report this comment

That is a dumb question. How about this, next time there is an accident at a car race where spectators are injured should we discontinue auto racing? There have been more spectators injured and killed at auto races than at air races. I do think that we need to examine the operation, but in the final analysis I do not think we need to discontinue the event. The spectators can only be moved so far before the race is not interesting. This is a world class exciting event that many look forward to all year. There is no such thing as an event that is risk free and we as people are aware of that fact.

Posted by: Jimmy Wright | September 21, 2011 10:49 AM    Report this comment

1 of 2 Maybe the trimtab is a symptom or a result rather than a cause. Here's what I mean...we have several anomalies in this incident, 1)The missing trimtab, 2)pictures that appear to show no pilot in the canopy, 3)the extended tailwheel, and then an out-of-control situation that seems to me as an engineer and 8000+ hour pilot somewhat out of proportion to what one would expect from a missing trimtab. Could all these oddities have been caused by the failure of some completely different component? It seems safe to assume that the mods of the Galloping Ghost must have included many weight-saving measures, including removal of armor and other factory pilot-protection features which would then likely reduce the strength of the seat support structure. I don't have any detail drawings of the control system of a P51 and certainly none of the BB, however it seems clear that there are elevator and rudder control cables passing under the pilot seat...and something to operate the retraction mechanism of the tailwheel. I do not think any of these are hydraulically actuated, but even if they were, my hypothesis could cover that as well. Here is what I'm getting at:

Posted by: Karl Schneider | September 21, 2011 10:55 AM    Report this comment

Richard M. I really think the scenario was a total surprise, involuntary pull up, like having the stick pulled out of your fist, toward your body. The resulting G force is akin to hitting a concrete wall, and that fast, too! The curving motion to vertical, would have folded the upper body down to assume a fetal position. The upper body likely impacted some control levers, and knobs, too, causing uncommanded results. It's likely the pilot was completely unconscious, and stayed that way, from the G force involved from the uncommanded pitch up. The pictures show the pilot was slumped over (back of his helmet is visible in the upside down photo, and he's not even visible in the profile picture). Aircraft are "rigged" for cruise flight, at high power, you must push the nose down to prevent climbing. Without a trim tab, a lot of physical nose down force would be required, by the pilot. The trim tab relieves the force the pilot would have to apply, but when the trim tab is lost, the stick shoves into the pilot, and an uncommanded pitch up occurs, with the accompanying G forces.

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 21, 2011 10:55 AM    Report this comment

2 of2 What if, during a high-G turn, something in the seat structure, obviously under large loads, collapsed and allowed the seat and pilot to instantly "fall" onto the control cables (and very possibly onto pulleys, bellcranks or other components that might be in that location)? This would at minimum, cause the pilot to lose outside visual reference and most likely would either jam or break movable control mechanisms which could in turn cause elevator (and/or trim tab) excursions in excess of their design strength. I am guessing that there is also some motion-transmitting apparatus below the seat which raises and/or lowers the tailwheel, this could have been broken or compromised at the same moment and explain the extended wheel.

I never flew a P51 but I have piloted an AT-6 and over 220 other types and have experienced some strange failures, including total loss of aileron control...if it had been a broken elevator pulley instead of the aileron pulley I probably wouldn't be writing this. Feel free to comment on my armchair hypothesis.

Posted by: Karl Schneider | September 21, 2011 10:55 AM    Report this comment

Let's not forget there is a huge difference between Air Shows and Air Races. Since 1952 there have been zero spectator deaths at air shows in the USA. Different boxes, clear spaces, crowd lines,waivers, etc. that races. At shows we are not to have aerobatic energy directed at the crowd. As far as banning the activity is concerned, it's the nature of the beast for those wanting total protection from everything to put out this call. We can only hope that cool heads will prevail.

Posted by: Jerry Morris | September 21, 2011 11:01 AM    Report this comment

Good comments, Karl, and makes a lot of sense. I wondered why we didn't see ANY of Jimmy in that descent photo. Unconscious, we still should've seen a slumped over pilot.

Posted by: Phillip Potter | September 21, 2011 11:18 AM    Report this comment

Ron Brown...yes that is absolutely true but I have serious doubts that a pilot in a race like this one would have the elevator trimmed the same way as in straight and level flight. To maintain the short radius turns getting around the pylon obviously requires a lot of 'nose-up' elevator (remember 2 Gs are produced with just a 60 deg bank at constant altitude)...it seems to me it would be difficult and terribly tiring to hold that kind of back pressure on the stick for several laps (without a lot of positive trim, I mean)...? What do you think?

Posted by: Karl Schneider | September 21, 2011 11:29 AM    Report this comment

They shouldn't stop racing, but has anyone asked why the course is designed as it is with a high-g turn rounding pylons 8 and 9 while passing in front of the crowd?

If something happens as a racer approaches those pylons and while turning in front of the crowd, the pilot either has to relax g, widen the turn, and go behind the crowd disqualifying himself, or reef it in, and tighten the turn in an attempt to keep from crossing the "dead line." (Reno-Stead runway 08/25)

If a pilot pulls too hard and stalls while trying not to cross the "dead line," the momentum of the airplane would be towards to crowd.

Perhaps someone will have to re-evaluate where the high-g turns are and where the crowd sits.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | September 21, 2011 11:46 AM    Report this comment

In my other post I refered to the plane as the "BB", of course I meant to write "GG"...sorry, brainfart.

Posted by: Karl Schneider | September 21, 2011 12:04 PM    Report this comment

Yes Gary, you are right. On a previous comment I said that that final pylon should be moved north so that if a plane misses it, it will be over generally open desert.

However, preaching to the choir isn't going to let the Races continue. The general public and especially the City of Reno is going to decide what will happen and I doubt if the spectators are going to accpt the idea that they are supposed to risk dying to watch the Races. If this were so there would be no liability in the coming law suits.

Steps are going to have to be taken to significantly reduce the risk, or at least perceived risk, to the spectators or it's very unlikely that the Races will continue. The public is calling the shots here NOT the aviation community.

Posted by: ARTHUR THOMPSON | September 21, 2011 12:07 PM    Report this comment

Anyone remember the Schneider Trophy, National Air Races, Thompson Trophy, or Cleveland Air Races? That was, unfortunately, the last organized air race the city of Reno will hold.

Posted by: Glen Keen | September 21, 2011 12:39 PM    Report this comment

Perhaps an "emergency backup pilot" radio-controlling the plane could save the day in case the pilot in the plane is incapacitated? Does current state of technology allow such a setup? Probably, yes. Would it be too costly to install it on race planes? Would it be too heavy? At least it would take pilot incapacitation out of the list of dangers, and it seems like incapacitations happen from time to time. In such high-risk races all the available measures should be employed, and it seems there is a room for improvement. NTSB will sure tell us their recommendations.

Posted by: Andrei Volkov | September 21, 2011 12:49 PM    Report this comment

"Does current state of technology allow such a setup? Probably, yes. At least it would take pilot incapacitation out of the list of dangers..."

Andrei,

It's certainly possible. The Luftwaffe's Ju-87 Stuka had an automatic dive recovery system for the common occurrence of a pilot blacking out during the pull-out after releasing a bomb -- and that was 70 years ago.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | September 21, 2011 1:03 PM    Report this comment

To Karl Schneider...Going fast and staying low, well, that requires nose-down trim! It's natural to pull around banks and turns, even with nose-down trim, and in a way, the nose-down trim helps you avoid G-overloads when your pulling, and you know, it's easy to pull in a bank, because your not fighting gravity, just scooting that tail around. What we don't "feel" on the controls, are the actual stability loads on the tail, which are hundreds of pounds that the structure takes in stride, as the lighter end of the "teeter-tottter". In light GA aircraft, we're talking 200-300 lbs of air-load, and in the P-51, maybe 500-600 lbs. Add some turbulence from wakes and tip vortices from the clipped wings, that beats up the tail pretty well.

As for positive trim? No, not on the race lap, stay low, stay fast! More power? More negative trim, please!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 21, 2011 1:04 PM    Report this comment

There are two entirely different questions involved here, and they must be answered before any conclusions, recommendations, and action can happen.

First, what is the root cause of the aircraft going out of control? The elevator trim tab may well be the visible manifestation of the root cause. The actual root cause could be design, modification, maintenance, inspection, pilot error, or you name it.

Second, what is the root cause of the out-of-control plane killing spectators? It may well be, as has been alluded above, that the course design simply placed the kinetic energy directly in line with the crowd as the aircraft turn pylon 9. That’s fine if every aircraft is able to perform the 4g maneuver to make that final left turn to the straightaway, but for a few seconds the default is every plane headed for the stands. I was in a box seat the day before the accident and I can say that I was uncomfortable with pylon 9. It’s a matter of trajectory more than proximity.

With answers to these two questions we can then decide what must be done to mitigate. If this is not practical, then the races will be closed for ever!

Posted by: JIM HERD | September 21, 2011 1:32 PM    Report this comment

Interestingly, in most Cherokees, we don't use full capability nose-down trim. Add full power to a Cherokee, and it simply climbs. The pilot in a Cherokee usually thinks he's got full nose-down trim when he encounters a stop. The trim control in a Cherokee is a loop of stainless steel cable, closed with a turnbuckle. The loop slips, on the pulleys, with use. Eventually, the turnbuckle positions itself against a bulkhead pulley guide, and that feels like the nose-down trim stop. It's not! If you loosen the loop, and re-position the turnbuckle mid-travel, you can again attain the true nose-down trim stop, which is the cotter pin on the worm screw in the tail cone. Then you can go faster, full throttle, level, rather than climbing. It's not really worth going through the exercise, though! Eventually, the loop creeps, and the turnbuckle is hitting the pulley guide, again! If you go fast, in a Cherokee, chances are you will be pushing the nose down! In most GA aircraft, you won't have very much nose-down trim experience. With low power, you don't need it!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 21, 2011 1:33 PM    Report this comment

People want the Reno Air Races. A lot of development is done there. Thank goodness for the Glasairs and Legacys! It allows GA to improve. The financial health, is really what determines if it goes on. With this year's blow, uncertainty looms. All aviators involved, even in the tragedy, want it to return. To that end, let us all pray!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 21, 2011 1:43 PM    Report this comment

We must not permit these races to be closed but this may even mean canceling the unlimited class. (Stock warbirds are well proven, safe and could still compete.) It really doesn't prove much anymore as the speed limit of propeller planes has essentially been reached. The other races, static displays and air show portion offer plenty of excitement. In fact my main interest this year, as an aero engineer, was to see if taking off the cooling scoop would make Jimmy's plane go much faster. He was an acquaintance and I certainly didn't want him to be killed try to prove this.

Posted by: ARTHUR THOMPSON | September 21, 2011 1:50 PM    Report this comment

If the race portion of Reno were canceled and there was just an aerobatic show, you still have not eliminated 100% potential for an airplane that has something break from turning on it's own and flying into the crowd. Nothing in life is totally free of risk! So, why are we expecting that the races can continue only if we can eliminate all possibility of another accident like this one? Once in 47 years for a spectator to be involved in an accident. I will sure go back without any concern. NASCAR must envy Reno's safety record.

Posted by: Art Jensen | September 21, 2011 2:07 PM    Report this comment

Art, I don't think anyone is suggesting the races must be cancelled unless 100% of risk is removed. But if the root cause of the crowd deaths is the trajectory of the planes caused by the course layout around pylon 9, and if that can not be satisfactorily mitigated, then in all good conscience the races must be stopped. However, I think a new course layout can remove the excessive risk.

Posted by: JIM HERD | September 21, 2011 2:27 PM    Report this comment

Ron...I think you are mistaken. If you adjust the trim (which operates very differently on Pipers, they don't have "tabs") for straight and level flight at some (any) speed, you will have to use a lot of back pressure to maintain altitude in a steep bank which I think is most of the time in a pylon race. In a race like the "Red Bull" series they would want close to neutral trim since turns go both ways but that's a very different flight envelope. I'm thinking about it in terms of engine-out training...I never re-trim the rudder in those exercises because I know I'll get the other fan back soon...but if it's a -real- lost engine I absolutely do because it's going to be a while and that lessens the workload.

Posted by: Karl Schneider | September 21, 2011 2:48 PM    Report this comment

No Karl, I fly my 235 Piper, and the control pressures are easy... especially compared to C-182s, which do have heavy control pressures, and must be trimmed for all maneuvers. Granted, a C-182, is a workout, when exploring all flight regimes. I'm talking experience, 90 degree banks (which some say cannot be flown, due to math models), and the pressures are easy. The Piper has a stabilator, which is more efficient than an elevator-tab, set-up. There is a long wide tab on the stabilator, it's a trim tab, although it's similar to a "servo" tab, which reduces control pressures. The 235 is a little different, because the constant-speed prop claws air at any angle, steep turns always pull-through easily, not really doing that math model where you snap the wings off! Kinetic energy keeps it where it's at, "it doesn't have time to fall", as Orville and his brother, used to say! Anyway, I'm speaking from true experience, the Cherokee is the closest I'll ever get, to a Mustang, or even a Spitfire. In my heart, my Cherokee is both! Oh!...Cherokee rudder trim? Don't mess with it! It's really just a bias spring located in the cockpit! It makes one of your feet, stronger than your other one! If your happy with the rudder trim in cruise, leave it there! Mashing rudder for slips is easy, for climbs and descents, too! If I can, I'll steer you to"How to properly operate a DC-4" a clip in which the guy flies it like me!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 21, 2011 3:58 PM    Report this comment

I don't believe the course layout had anything to do with the accident. The plane didn't go towards the crowd because it was rounding the pylon. At least that's how I saw it. I was pretty far from that last pylon, but I thought he was already on the straight away when he did what looked like at the time a normal pull-up. It was during the climb that it started heading towards, and over, the crowd.

Posted by: Jim Truscello | September 21, 2011 4:03 PM    Report this comment

Karl, take a look at this, it's just my four-engined Cherokee 235, a rendition thereof, in the video! Avweb doesn't take URLs, here, so get on YouTube, and search for this clip, by "chopperrules", (he's only got two vids on there) or type in the following in the search box, and watch the thing to the very end, after the props are feathered, and then abstain from pestering anyone about math models, do some flying, and shag a lady math teacher, you'll absolutely love it, I guarantee it! For the search box:

DC4 Skymaster Flight Sequence - SAAF Harvard 50 Year Anniversary

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 21, 2011 4:23 PM    Report this comment

235's are a cut above regular Cherokees, I admit, but I always have a fondness for the humble!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 21, 2011 4:26 PM    Report this comment

In the course of my business aircraft, I logged a good bit of time in PA-28-181's, -236's, Beech C23 and V35. Of the four... hands down my favorite was the C23. Very little trim needed from no flap to full flap, light on the controls, and would literally kiss the ground on landings with just a little practice. But... we are drifting here a bit, aren't we?

Must admit... light on fuel with just me in the plane - that 236 would claw upwards like a fireman!

Posted by: Phillip Potter | September 21, 2011 5:06 PM    Report this comment

In the end, the outcome will be determined by the cost of insurance to cover the event.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 21, 2011 5:57 PM    Report this comment

Edd, that seems to be a reasonable assessment, but the hungry lawyer's eyes are balancing the "deep" pockets, too! Wal-Mart is a fatter pig, though, for the lawyers that I know! How about one of those well-written disclaimers on the back of the ticket? That would make the ticket extra-large, so maybe they can have laptops, where you agree to the unreadable "agreement" before being allowed to buy a ticket?

In the future, all of it will solved by medical technology. You will sacrifice your life, in order to obtain a ticket. Then, if your purchase price was good, they will resuscitate you for the length of the show! No liabilities, beyond that, though!

They'll be selling insurance to unborn fetuses by then, and the bionic Governor Jerry Brown will make coverage mandatory, too, for the unionized insurance companies!

Children will be indebted before they are born, they will be lawyer's chattels with interest rates on their heads!

In the meantime, this comment may have been processed on equipment that was also used to process peanuts.

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 21, 2011 6:50 PM    Report this comment

Life is a risk! I fear the legals will be a potential nail in this coffin.

Posted by: Leroy Chausse | September 22, 2011 12:26 AM    Report this comment

Yes, of course Reno should end. The fact that the National Air Races have been held almost continuously since 1929 without a spectator injury means nothing. People died last week!

It's time we finally quit paying homage to screwball ideas like "personal liberty" and "personal responsibility" and got serious about safety. No human being anywhere at any time on this planet must ever be allowed to experience even the slightest risk again. We must start now to build a big underground warehouse where all of our frail bodies can be stored on continuous robotic life support, while we experience life through the safety of virtual reality! Yes, it is true that we will no longer be able to reproduce, but with proper planning we should be able to extend the current generation for a couple of centuries, and after we're gone, the world will be better off without us. We will be able to say that on this day, the oceans ceased to rise and the planet began to heal!

Yes, we have the technology to make Reno into a lovely dream where no-one can possible get hurt. We are truly the ones we have been waiting for!

Posted by: JON BAKER | September 22, 2011 7:35 AM    Report this comment

Pilots understand the risks of Reno and most would gladly sit in the grandstands to view a race. But these grandstands are not simply full of pilots. They were kids, wives, dignitaries, honored guest and the disabled. We lead them to believe that they would be safe to THEIR standards, not ours. We failed.

NASCAR had it days when stock cars plowed into the crowds. Formula one was no different. They adjusted their venues to provide safety for the innocent and casual spectators. Motorheads would accept the risks without the fences.

To hear the Reno race spokespeople speak of things like "...people know the risks..." and "...the pilot was a hero..." is disheartening. The lady discussing body parts all over the place didn't help matters either.

Reno needs to be put on hold until they can propose some way to protect the innocent. Either that or don't admit the innocent to the venue.

Posted by: James Minetti | September 22, 2011 7:50 AM    Report this comment

I think the races should continue. A suggestion would be to move or lengthen the course line so that the location of the turns would be moved further back feom the spectators.The most critical or risky time in the race course is in the turns.This way the aircraft would be travelling in a straight line course as they fly by the spectator area. If a race aircraft developed a problem in this case it would be easier for the pilot to make a force landing since it would be out from the crowd more towards the infield.

Posted by: Alfred Dunphy | September 22, 2011 7:55 AM    Report this comment

We now have a school bus sized piece of space junk headed "Somewhere" between 57N and 57S that our Government put up and we are worried about Reno? People are taking odds on where it will hit and "The GOVERNMENT" is saying don't worry, but let's look at canceling those crazy, dangerous races. You gotta love our public perception of safety. Please oh please Mr. Government, save me!

Posted by: Jerry Morris | September 22, 2011 8:09 AM    Report this comment

Jon & James,

Not sure if your joking or not Jon, but in case you are serious, pay attention. Life is full of risks every day. Think about what you are saying. Your proposals are the equivalent of shutting down all passenger flights because we have had air crashes. How about Believe it or not, cars have still made it over the new fences at Daytona, so why don't we shut down NASCAR. Everyone knows the risks of smoking yet it is not illegal to smoke. You never know when the next drunk, texter, or druggie is gonna hit you head-on while driving, so why don't we eliminate cars? When you say, "No human being anywhere at any time on this planet must ever be allowed to experience even the slightest risk again.", you are asking people, unreasonably, to never LIVE LIFE. There is risk in just existing! Right now we have a large piece of space junk ready to pummel SOMETHING SOMEWHERE, but no one knows exactly where or when because there is no control over this object. What are you gonna do to eliminate your risk?? NOTHING. You are gonna get on with life and not worry about it, hoping, in the back of your head, it doesn't affect you.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 22, 2011 8:28 AM    Report this comment

Of course I'm serious. We absolutly do need an underground robotic virtual reality vault even if it does result in the extinction of the human race. Safety is everything! Why would you think I'm joking?

Posted by: JON BAKER | September 22, 2011 9:16 AM    Report this comment

Gosh...and I had the silly impression that this was about the Reno air races...silly me....

Posted by: Blaine Banks | September 22, 2011 9:23 AM    Report this comment

No, it was about the silly idea to end the Reno Air Races because once every 82 years a spectator gets hurt.

Posted by: JON BAKER | September 22, 2011 9:51 AM    Report this comment

You know life if full of risks.

Lood at what happens at soccer meets around the world or nascar races. Little is said about that. Now one wants to tend soccer of nascar reces.

It is like taking aim at general aviation because some people view it as some sort of playthig for the rice, Yet who says anthing about a 3 or 4 hundred thousand moter home or an expensive sports car

Posted by: Dennis Gottlieb | September 22, 2011 10:41 AM    Report this comment

This is a non-issue.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway = over 55 fatalities Daytona = over 20 fatalities Le Mans = over 20 fatalities

Its racing. If there was no risk, people wouldn't watch.

Posted by: John Van Geffen | September 22, 2011 11:24 AM    Report this comment

Comparisons with car racing deaths miss the point. In every such case there has been a process of introspection and continuous improvement. That's what's just begun at Reno right now, and well it should!

BTW - most of those spectator deaths in car racing have a similar causal factor as at Reno - extreme speeds of heavy objects with a trajectory aimed at the crowd while relying on everything to go right to change the trajectory away from the crowd!

Posted by: JIM HERD | September 22, 2011 12:08 PM    Report this comment

While most comments center on the right of pilots to race, the right of spectators to enjoy same and the economic benefit this event brings to Reno, few talk about the degraded physiological ability age brings to a pilot. At age 40, I handled 9 G's in the F-15 but at age 65, 4+ G's in my GA airplane brings noticeable impact on my body. There's a reason the USAF doesn't allow 74 year old pilots to remain on active duty and fly sustained G's in fighter jets. Duh!! As pilots we all know that flying an airplane in day VFR is as easy as driving a car. Flying a highly modified -- and unproven -- P-51 in a pylon race is a whole different thing. Now add the proximity of spectators and you have a recipe for disaster. The organizers of this event -- knowing the hunger the media has for sensational news, especially involving airplanes -- brought great harm to general aviation in this case. Every one of us pilots needs to THINK about what we're doing with an airplane before we do it lest we, too, bring discredit on our beloved vocation/avocation. Jack Roush owns a NASCAR team but doesn't actually drive the car ... for a reason yet still flies a light jet. It's no wonder pilots are viewed as 'those rich guys!' One highly publicised crash negates a thousand safe aviation evolutions and brings discredit to GA.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | September 22, 2011 12:35 PM    Report this comment

Amen to Larry Stencel. And note that Jack Rousch almost killed himself with what appeared to be a base-to-final stall while landing at Oshkosh last year in stressful circumstances. He and his friend survived but only just. The jet did not, and luckily he crashed onto open ground.

Posted by: JIM HERD | September 22, 2011 1:12 PM    Report this comment

Larry & James,

What exactly are you saying here? Are you implying that older people shouldn't fly? Are you implying that older people can't handle high G-forces? If so, you must realize that both implications have NOTHING to do with age. We are all medically and physically evaluated at regular intervals to determine if we should be in the cockpit or not. In fact Larry, I know several older pilots in the Air Force that passed up promotions on purpose so they could STAY in the cockpit. Out of the norm, yes, but not impossible with good health. If you think Jimmy did not THINK before taking GG to the track, you are sadly mistaken. Jimmy and his team were very safety-conscious and the aircraft was tested before-hand. No one expected this to happen. It was nothing more than a freak accident. As far as Mr. Rousch goes, he's not the first to have an accident and certainly won't be the last. For you to condemn him because he's old or had a bad day in your eye's is unfair. He only made the news because of WHO he was and WHERE it happened. Anyone else at any other airport and you wouldn't be making any comments, again, not fair.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 22, 2011 1:35 PM    Report this comment

Aviation medicals do not test g-force capability. The military does not allow 74 year olds anywhere near a high-g aircraft. Of course older people should fly! Evereyone should fly well within their personal limits. Jimmy Leeward was not qualified to judge his own capabilities to pull g's.

Posted by: JIM HERD | September 22, 2011 1:46 PM    Report this comment

Scott ... you missed the point. I was NOT saying "older" pilots shouldn't fly. I'm saying that the stress of sustained high G's in the competitive environment of a pylong race in an airplane that was "unproven" at age 74 isn't smart. As an aging pilot, I'd be arguing that I shouldn't fly anymore at age 65 ... I'm not. I'm saying that age DOES, however, degrade one's ability to endure the G forces and at some point a pilot has to admit to that. As I already said, there are NO 74 year old USAF fighter pilots. I, too, know of officers who wanted to fly so turned down promotion ... but NOT at age 74. Even the professor emeritus of test flying -- Chuck Yeager -- was not allowed to fly a single place fighter in straight and level flight to open the Edwards AFB Open House events ... he was in a two place airplane with a safety pilot in back. The USAF even disallowed that when he was in his late 70's. I personally spoke with Jack Roush at EAA this year and he confirmed that ATC painted him into a box where the proximity of the airplane in front of him was too close and he was distracted. Age was NOT a factor ... my point was that one external distraction and the evolution went bad. Now extrapolate a bunch of airplanes flying in the pattern at 400+MPH pulling G's in a pylon race. Let's just see if the NTSB doesn't ultimately decide that physiological factors contributed to this sad event.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | September 22, 2011 1:55 PM    Report this comment

James,

Not trying to pick on you, but the military DOES let people in their 70's fly. I'll admit they are a bit rare, but I have known several of them. A couple that EVERYONE knows are Chuck Yeager and Jimmy Doolittle. Did you know Jimmy? Were you his doctor? If the answer to either is no, then you are not qualified to say, "Jimmy Leeward was not qualified to judge his own capabilities to pull g's.".

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 22, 2011 1:56 PM    Report this comment

"...but the military DOES let people in their 70's fly. I'll admit they are a bit rare, but I have known several of them."

Scott,

Yes, they flew, but not solo, and not on high-g combat missions or training missions, and were certainly not combat ready. When they flew they would have a "seeing-eye captain" with them whose main job was to keep them from embarrassing themselves.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | September 22, 2011 2:14 PM    Report this comment

Larry,

You have mistaken Jimmy's comment about the GG being "unproven". Of course the aircraft was proven; that airframe has been raced exclusively since 1946. It WAS a proven aircraft. What he was saying when he made that comment was that they had made some systems improvements (most notably the boil-off system to eliminate the air scoop) to the plane. There was no reference to any structural changes that hadn't already been proven on this or other Mustang racers. Also remember, ALL Unlimited racers are EXPERIMENTAL. Theoretically, every flight is a test in these aircraft. That was part of the thrill and draw. People know this.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 22, 2011 2:19 PM    Report this comment

Larry,

You said, "Let's just see if the NTSB doesn't ultimately decide that physiological factors contributed to this sad event."

Lets just be clear on this, Jimmy's telemetry recorded the pitch-up that happened when he lost his trim tab as an ELEVEN G event. It's pretty simple; he G-LOCed. Nothing could have changed that, not even a 25 year old in a G-Suit could have stayed awake with a sudden 11 G event.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 22, 2011 2:27 PM    Report this comment

I had a chat with Henry Haigh once in Atlanta... who won the National Aerobatics title at age 56 and the World title at age 64. We discussed his age, and he said he could tolerate G's at his older age better than when he was young. Harder veins, or something like that. Anyway... didn't slow him down against all those other youngsters.

I'm no doctor... just relating a conversation with a world aerobatic champ.

Posted by: Phillip Potter | September 22, 2011 3:32 PM    Report this comment

A good way to stay young, is have to a fatal accident before you grow old!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 22, 2011 4:46 PM    Report this comment

My young computer gets it's words backwards sometimes! I hope it improves with age!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 22, 2011 4:49 PM    Report this comment

It seems like High G forces are involved but did his plane actually have telemetry for G forces? However, videos could be used to calculate G forces as altitude change vs. time would determine this.

Posted by: ARTHUR THOMPSON | September 22, 2011 7:14 PM    Report this comment

It is certainly not a given that a departed trim tab was the cause, rather than the effect of some other failure (perhaps flutter)...

First of all about the heavy nose-down trim that was supposedly dialed in...that makes no sense...a race plane would be set up to need little if any trim while flying at race speed...

Reason is that any tail down force whether up or down will make induced drag...that tail lift needed to keep the nose down comes with lots of induced drag which requires more thrust...result is you are giving away speed...

This is confirmed by the fact that the race plane had only one trim tab, the other one being renedered inop...not being necessary to do much trimming...

The other problem is why would you dial in nose-down trim while going 500 mph at 50 feet agl?...lose your group on the stick even for a nanosecond and in you go...

Plus how are you going to pull through those steep turns that might be more than 4 g, when you've got all kinds of nose-down trim in there...? Are you going to retrim while flying into the corners...?

If anything you would have nose-up trim dialled in so you are holding stick forward to fly the plane and keep the nose down...if you lose your grip you go up not down...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 5:08 AM    Report this comment

IMHO, Reno style air racing is both mindless and meaningless (as are many other "sports"). An unproductive waste of time, money, classic few-of-a-kind aircraft, and occasionally lives. And this opinion from a pilot of 45 years.

Posted by: R Boswell | September 23, 2011 6:53 AM    Report this comment

People who are surprised at events such as this are quite detached from reality. In recent years, a football stadiumm collapsed, killing people. A famous line from the old "M*A*S*H" TV show, "Rule #1: People die. Rule #2: Youcan't change rule #1". We take reasonable precaautions and get on with life. That said, in the end it will actually be the lawyers and insurance companies who detirmine whether sanctioned air racing continues, and more;s the pity. However, air racing, like automobile racing, will cease when there is only one example of each left in existance. (If that is ever the case, they'd be racing each other, anyway) The rest of the conversation, cutting up warbirds for racing, all the rest of the noise, is not really part of the conversation.

Posted by: Gary Smrtic | September 23, 2011 7:26 AM    Report this comment

Gordon,

You are not understanding aerodynamics. If there was any flutter, it would have occurred AFTER the trim tab came off due to the then unbalanced condition of the elevator. As far as nose down trim, if you fly, then you should know that, in most aircraft, the faster you fly, the more nose down trim is needed to maintain straight and level. At race speed, there would indeed be quite a bit nose down trim. Don't believe me? Ask any racer.

Yes, nose down trim will cause induced drag. This is a product of design and you can do nothing about it. This is also why controls tend to stiffen up at high speed. The fact that only one tab was operational would have more than doubled the load on the remaining tab (probably a factor in why it failed). The only way to eliminate this issue is to use a stabilator instead of a horizontal stab and elevator. This was discovered when they were testing the Bell X1 to break the sound barrier. There are no deflected surfaces on a stabilator do create induced drag.

As far as using nose down trim at 50 ft AGL goes, as I explained, trim is required to neutrilize control forces that increase with speed or unusual attitudes. Altitude has nothing to do with it. There is no retrimming required when turning the corners as turns are temporary; it is the speed you are flying at that determins how much trim to use.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 23, 2011 7:45 AM    Report this comment

Excuse me Scott, I work as a flight test engineer in Part 25 certification...I think I know a little aerodynamics...

We explore flutter margin in flight test by nosing the airplane over and heading straight down...

If flutter will happen it will happen at high speed, due to the flow over the surface which will induce vibrations at high speed, especially when accompanied by shock waves when some portion of flow inevitably goes transonic over a flight surface...

Usually a trim tab or control surface letting go is a result of flutter, not the other way round...

As for nose-down pitching moment at high speed, this is the way the airplane was designed at the factory...this is necessary for positive static stability at both ends of the speed envelope...

When the airplane is heading straight down with zero lift you want the tail to make maximum nose-up pitching moment to right the airplane...so its incidence is set to do just that...which means the tail incidence is set lower than the wing...

In a race plane you will reset the tail incidence to provide zero lift at course speed, thereby minimizing your drag...since your design priority is not stability throughout the flight envelope, but speed...

A race plane properly set up is going to be in trim at its "design" race speed with the tail neutral...

this might require moving the CG in order to balance the total moments about the CG...continued...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 8:36 AM    Report this comment

continued...

These would include the tail force if any, the airfoil pitching moment which is caused by wing camber (if any), and the moment that results from wing lift acting through the lever arm which is the distance from the center of lift to the Cg location (which there always is)...

Like I said, I would guess they had the plane set up to be in trim at race speed without any tab deflection, hence only one functioning tab on the airplane...

Also very likely they had enough nose-up trim dialled in that pilot has to push some forward stick in the straightaways, while making pulling back in turns easier also...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 8:37 AM    Report this comment

Also worth noting that if the tailplane began to flutter, it would almost certainly yank the controls out of the pilot's grip...

With nose-up trim dialed in, up she goes...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 8:41 AM    Report this comment

Larry and James: The Air Force would not allow General Officers to fly their planes solo either... Did they suddenly lose everything the day they pinned on the first star?

I wrote the following for someone else the questioned "old pilots" racing.

No offense taken from your observation. I have an ongoing, personal, self-grading evaluation of MY ability to continue to fly high performance aircraft; not only at Reno, but for every day operations.

Reno flying does demand that a person concentrate on the task at hand. However, it is not comparable to what we fighter folks did in our younger years. The biggest difference is in the duration of the “G” forces. During BFM/ACM in our previous life the “G” forces would be sustained. At Reno the “G” forces in the 4 to 5 range are of short duration at the turn points and are just a few seconds in duration.

The part of the race course just prior to the turn where Jimmy ran into trouble is the longest straight stretch on the course and is know as “the valley of speed” and is the point of highest speed on the course. However, the turns that lead to flying parallel to the crowd is not the turn that has the highest “G”,at least for me.

The problem encountered by Jimmy appears to be a G-LOC caused by the abnormal pitch-up caused by the loss of the trim tab on the left elevator. My personal opinion is that right roll and dive into the ramp was caused by random inputs to the controls by the unconscious pilot.

Posted by: Lynn Farnsworth | September 23, 2011 9:32 AM    Report this comment

First off, should the Unlimited races continue, yes, they should. Not just because of the possible economic impact to the area. Unlimited racing is an expression of passion. Eliminate the "preferred seating" along the flight line, best view, but most danger, as we have seen. Due to the similar circumstance encounered by Bob Hannah in Voodoo, a bit of wind tunnel time might be in order here... for safety, and reliability's sake, mainly to see if the tail's structural integrity is being compromised at these speeds. Maybe look into a "full tailplane" type of trim, ala F-86, and Mooney aircraft. A number of "tail mods" could be looked at. Pilot incidents cannot be avoided here on the cutting edge, it is the nature of the beast, but, spectator safety should be the primary goal. KEEP EM FLYING !!!

Posted by: John Kasse | September 23, 2011 9:33 AM    Report this comment

This is a continuation of my comments.

The problem encountered by Jimmy appears to be a G-LOC caused by the abnormal pitch-up caused by the loss of the trim tab on the left elevator. My personal opinion is that right roll and dive into the ramp was caused by random inputs to the controls by the unconscious pilot.

There was an almost identical incident a few years ago with a P-51 on the course that lost a trim tab, except in that case the aircraft continued to climb and the pilot(much younger than 74) regained consciousness climbing through about 9,000’.

There are more than a few of us “mature” race pilots at Reno and the “G” forces encountered under “normal” operations do not make us a threat to each other or the viewing public.

Best Regards,

Lynn Farnsworth

Misty 146

Super Sport Race Pilot

Race #44

TSIO-550 Powered Lancair Super Legacy

Posted by: Lynn Farnsworth | September 23, 2011 9:36 AM    Report this comment

Gordon,

First of all, these aircraft were never designed for Part 25 certification. The goals of design were not the same and they were not designed for positive static stability at both ends of the envelope. As a fighter, they were designed for high maneuverability at high altitude. Tail incidence is set neutral, not nose up. These are not passenger aircraft. You are also making some assumptions about set-up that you just don't know about. It is not likely that info will come out publicly before the investigation is done. Keep in mind, this accident already happened once before, in 1998, to another Mustang called "Voodoo". The trim tab (which had nose down trim dialed in) departed the aircraft causing a rapid pitch-up, G-LOCing the pilot Bob Hanna. The difference is Voodoo never rolled. She kept climbing and Bob eventually woke up to safely land her. In GG's case, you can see no pilot in the cockpit in the pics of her in descent, indicating Jimmy slumped over during G-LOC, likely moving the stick with his unconcious torso to cause the roll into the crowd.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 23, 2011 9:41 AM    Report this comment

Scott, I was stating my qualifications to talk aerodynamics not saying that a mustang is a part 25 airplane...

But yes the Mustang would have been designed positive static stability which means nose up pitching moment as speed increases and nose down pitching moment as speed bleeds off...

As for some of your other comments...a level turn of 75 degrees will pull nearly 4 g on the airplane and require strong back stick...80 degrees will be almost 6 g (g load = 1 / cosine of bank angle)...

If you have a lot of nose-down trim you are going to need very strong arms to pull that kind of turn...

the agl part is about survival...not being a racer myself I would assume you would crank in some nose up trim when flying that close to the ground...lose your grip and you go up, not down...

A stabilator will create just as much induced drag as any other flying surface (if it is flying at an angle of attack and making lift) because induced drag is drag due to lift...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 9:58 AM    Report this comment

I have heard that some of the unlimited racers crank in enough nose-up trim that it takes 40 pounds of stick forward to keep the plane level...

If flutter yanked the stick out of Leeward's hand's that plane would have shot up with that much nose-up trim in there...enough to knock him out...?it's all guesswork right now...without many real facts at hand...

what happened or didn't happen in a previous incident is another story...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 10:04 AM    Report this comment

Gordon,

As far as trim on the race course goes; I fly with the trim neutral.

Posted by: Lynn Farnsworth | September 23, 2011 10:10 AM    Report this comment

Gordon,

You may want to check your facts. The Mustang, as all military fighters, was designed with NEUTRAL STABILITY. Regardless of speed or altitude, the intent was for the aircraft to go exactly where the pilot pointed it with as little effort as possible.

As far as high G turns, yes 3-6 G's are normal in racing, but this does NOT equate lots of strength being required. Remember, the idea of trim is the NEUTRALIZE control forces at any given speed. If the aircraft is trimmed neutral at race speed, only minor input will be required to make the turn. Nose down moment will not occur until the throttle is reduced and speed lowered significantly, at which point a retrim would be necessary.

You said, "I would assume you would crank in some nose up trim when flying that close to the ground...lose your grip and you go up, not down...". Not true. No racer in his right mind would do this as A. out of neutral trim will induce more drag, slowing the aircraft a bit, and B. this would add to the force required of the pilot to hold the craft in position, effectively tiring the pilot at an accelerated rate. The goal is to get the plane to work for you, not try to fight the plane into submission.

See part two next

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 23, 2011 10:35 AM    Report this comment

Part two

Stabilators fly through the air absolutely clean and neutral. A stabilizer/elevator is ONLY clean and neutral when the elevator is directly in line with the stabilizer. ANY deflection of the elevator requires positive force and induces drag. The effect increases with speed. This is why controls stiffen up with speed. They found with X1 that, as they reached supersonic, the controls would stiffen to basically locked until the transsonic shockwave hit the tail and tore it off. It was then they invented the stabilator.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 23, 2011 10:36 AM    Report this comment

Of course the races should continue. This was an accident. Admittedly, a very spectacular accident which plays really well on TV and so will garner a lot of attention, but an accident nonetheless. And anyone who thinks that any activity can be made 100% safe for either participants or spectators is not capable of rational thought. If you sit in a seat at the side of a racetrack or just off the pylon at an air race, you have to know there's an element of risk there, as there is sitting in the box seats down the baselines at a baseball game or high on the bleachers at a basketball game. There are different levels of risk, but zero risk is unattainable. Of course, some lawyers will be claiming that their clients were too brain-dead to realize they might be in danger and so they should become instant millionaires simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time (less 1/3 of course), and some jury incapable of coherent thought will agree, mostly because they hope that someday they might also win the liability lottery, and so the races might fall victim to economics.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | September 23, 2011 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Scott, I know my facts but it appears that you do not...

The Mustang has a static longitudinal stability of about 5 percent, which means its CG location is about 0.05 chord length ahead of the aircraft center of lift which is the aerodynamic center (think of it as the "CG" point through which all lift, drag and moment forces are assumed to act...)

This is a bit less than the static margin of a transport which will be about 5 to 10 percent...GA aircraft have even more static margin...a C-172 has 19 percent...

All fighters have always had longitudinal static stability, except for the newer fly-by wire models starting with F16 which were designed with negative static margin (0 to 15 percent) but the flight computer restores stability by making continuous inputs...

End result is the pilot is still flying a longitudinally stable airplane because flying the other kind is not what we want to be doing...

What you are talking about when yousay neutral stability is the lateral stability of the Mustang, which is roll stability...here the airplane will stay in a bank that is commanded until commanded otherwise...a good trait for an an aircraft where precise maneuvering is important...continued...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 11:11 AM    Report this comment

And now your comments about not having any trim directly contradict what you have been saying all along...that there was heavy nose down trim in the airplane...so when the tab let go the airplane pitched up...

I said from the beginning that makes no sense and now you seem to agree...

As for nose-up trim I am only saying what I have heard...yes it will cause extra drag but it's better than cratering into the ground...and it makes a hell of a lot more sense than nose down trim...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 11:16 AM    Report this comment

Thanks Lynn, that's what I would have guessed...I'm just saying what I've heard about some unlimiteds...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 11:41 AM    Report this comment

Gordon:

"The other problem is why would you dial in nose-down trim while going 500 mph at 50 feet agl?...lose your group on the stick even for a nanosecond and in you go..."

I think we may have a bit of mis-understanding as to "nose-down trim." Ideally, i'd expect a plane to be designed for neutral trim, at race speed - e.g., by changing the stabilizer incidence. I don't know how practical this is, but it appears that these birds aren't in that condition, that they do need a bit of speed-sucking trim via the tab. In such a case, nose-down trim is required for "neutral" flight - that is, straight and level (not down) if you let go of the stick.

I don't believe that anyone is suggesting that the pilot had to be pulling at the stick throughout the race. Nose-down trim indicates the deflection of the tab, not the overall effect on the plane's "balance."

Posted by: Rush Strong | September 23, 2011 12:26 PM    Report this comment

Re: Lynn Farnsworths comment "My personal opinion is that right roll and dive into the ramp was caused by random inputs to the controls by the unconscious pilot" does not make sense to me. Please consider that at the very beginning of the uncommanded pitch up, any pilot would attempt to level the wings (right roll) to convert the pitch up into altitude. Assuming G-LOC shortly after introducing the right roll to level the wings, that rolling moment will continue past wings level ie: to the right toward the accident scene. The aircraft, now with a serious nose up trim due to loss of the trim tab, continues into the final loop. Please also consider the possibility of a seat-back failure either as the initiator or result of the pitch up, which would have further moved CG aft providing further nose up trim. The failure of the seat back appears likely given Leeward is not visible through the canopy. Given the harness system, small canopy and high G event, the pilot moving rearward out of view must be considered. Accidents are often a complex chain of failures vs. a simple single event. Sadly this one had tragic consequences. If Reno is run next year, I'll be there again.

Posted by: Daniel Helm | September 23, 2011 12:49 PM    Report this comment

And about stabilators...

Anytime you deflect a stabilator you have the same kind of lift, drag and moment that you get with an elevator...there is no free lunch...

And if the airplane is going to have longitudinal stability the stabilator will still have to provide exactly the same nose-up restoring moment at high speed and low lift...

and the reverse pitch-down moment at high alpha and low speed...so you still need a trim tab...

A stabilator is just as prone to flutter as any other flying surface...

As for supersonic flight that is a whole different ballgame...

the airplane's neutral point (aerodynamic center) will suddenly shift aft when going supersonic, from about the quarter chord point to about half chord...

That is what caused the problem with the early experimental planes, which they did not fully understand at the time...

The aft shift in neutral point greatly increased the static stability margin and made it too big...so they needed a much bigger elevator force to trim the airplane...due to the large distance between the neutral point and CG...that is why they went to a stabiliator...

has nothing to do with the set of problems we face at well below sonic speeds...

but for a small airplane without boosted controls a stabilator can provide increased stick free stability...by hinging its pivot point aft of its aerodynamic center...

You can do this to some extent with an elevator too, but it's more complicated...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 2:08 PM    Report this comment

Daniel Helm said:

"The failure of the seat back appears likely given Leeward is not visible through the canopy".

I did see a computer enhanced picture that appeared to show Jimmy slumped forward, head in the vicinity of the glare shied.

Posted by: Lynn Farnsworth | September 23, 2011 2:37 PM    Report this comment

Rush, if there was only a little trim then losing the trim tab would not be a problem...the pilot could hold the stick and balance the airplane manually ...

But if we are talking about the plane rocketing skyward at 10 g then that is a whole lot of nose down trim...if the trim tab lets go then there is no way you are going to hold that much stick force...

changing the tailplane incidence is not a big deal and there is some rigging leeway built in...certainly not as big a deal as shortening the wings and fuselage and some of the other radical mods...

makes no sense to fly the course with nose down trim...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 3:50 PM    Report this comment

I have been to many fly in's, air shows and never thought about the fact that I might die. I really hope that Reno can keep it from becomming a thing of the past. If it's your turn it's your turn. Some day before I auger in, I hope to be able to go to Reno!

Posted by: Bob Robertson | September 23, 2011 4:37 PM    Report this comment

Gordon,

None of us here know what range of trim was needed, or available in the Ghost.

It probably had a significant amount in view of the fact that it had a wide speed range and the variability of C.G. caused by the coolant boil-off system.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 23, 2011 4:44 PM    Report this comment

Edd you are right that we don't know many facts...

all I am saying is that this scenario proposed here about the trim tab letting go and launching the plane skyward makes little sense...a race plane is not going to be set up with a lot of trim at its course speed and Lynn, a racer, confirms that...further evidence is only one operable tab on the plane...if you need a whole lot of trim you will not be disconnecting one of the tabs...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 6:20 PM    Report this comment

I thoroughly appreciate the inputs given about stability and aerodynamics, here!

As I catch up on the comments today, I just want to say seat backs and seat integrity, I don't think were a factor. Like Lynn, I think the picture speaks a thousand words, I see the pilot's helmet backside almost adjacent to the glare shield.

Tail flutter, seems to be a necessary culprit, in this case. If the trim tab could be removed instantaneously, neutral stabilization would occur, due to the fixed nature of the horizontal stabilizer, attempting to streamline the elevator. With flutter, "all bets are off"! With a stabilator, tab removal would result in a "floating" control, requiring conscious, forceful, input from the pilot.

Also, what about a 95 degree bank? What are the g-forces, then? In my Spitfire, (Cherokee 235), the tail comes around easily, it's already loaded with some tail-down force from usual stabilized flight.

Combining joyful memories of flight, with mental exercises, is good.

Seriously, we need the races to go on, for a good economy, for proven development of general aviation technology, for human curiousity, and for a grand and glorious human event, that so many of us have a pure passion for!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 23, 2011 6:42 PM    Report this comment

Gordon,

Much of what you have said here is wrong. I doubt you are the engineer you claim to be. Why, because good engineers do not spend their lives behind a computer in Ontario, claiming to know everything about everything from CAT LITTER to the supposed absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to U.S. politics. With all the time you spend with your commentary on whatever the day brings, how could you possibly ever have the time to design aerospace products. As a veteran of the Gulf War, I can tell you first-hand there was WMD. It was not the fallacy you believe. Oh and, pitch stability is LATERAL, not longitudinal as you eloquently tried to explain a few posts back. If you really are an engineer, then you'd know I was referring to the concept of "compressibility" as the issue that causes more stress and stiffens pitch controls as speed increases AND that compressibility is NOT an issue with stabilators because there are no deflecting surfaces on a stabilator. Compressibility starts to take effect at roughly 260 knots and gets more pronouced the faster you go. So no, I was not only talking about supersonic flight. I was just explaining how it was the testing of the Bell X1 that lead to the discovery of compressibility and to the solution of using stabilators. Yes, stabilators can flutter and do need trim, but the trim mechanisms are normally INTERNAL using springs weights and cables in small craft and electro-mechanical or hydraulic in large aircraft.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 23, 2011 7:04 PM    Report this comment

I should mention, if I begin to experience high positive G-loads in my steep banks, I unload the aircraft by mashing rudder, (slipping, mostly). I don't want to mislead any fledgling fliers, here! One time I got sucked up alongside a thunderstorm, and hail was deafening on my spam can! I couldn't descend with nose down trim, and no power, so I stood on a wing tip to fall, mashing full rudder. That's when I discovered the rudder really unloaded G-forces, as I didn't want a full G-force recovery near the ground, just a gradual slip to straight and level, again.

Oh yeah, I give those T-storms a wide berth, now, you betcha!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 23, 2011 7:10 PM    Report this comment

Scott, both you and Gordon make a good, interesting discussion, so, no need to attack! Most readers appreciate the discussion.

I don't recall any thing about cat litter, so, wow, you two are acquainted?

Thank goodness, my (usually) drunken neighbors don't read Avweb, (they are non-flyers), so I speak with impunity from personal attacks. (Hopefully!).

As a 'Nam vet in Chinooks, I appreciate your service, bro!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 23, 2011 7:25 PM    Report this comment

Scott, what you just said shows a complete lack of even the basics of aeronautics taught in ground school..."pitch stability is lateral not longitudinal..."

The fact that you are now making off the wall personal attacks shows only that you have a poor grasp of "character" as well as aeronautics...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 7:44 PM    Report this comment

Gordon,

Even private pilots know that pitch is on the lateral axis, roll is on the longitudinal axis and yaw is on the vertical. You have been attacking everything I say with conjecture rather than facts. You diverted my points on compressibility by talking about aerodynamic center which is totally unrelated. Based on what you did say, I can only imagine you might be trying to describe "inertia coupling", but if so, it's a very loose description you provided, not what I would expect from an engineer. So when you say I'm personally attacking you, yeah, at this point, but I feel you've been attacking me all along.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 23, 2011 8:01 PM    Report this comment

John Kasse wrote, "Eliminate the "preferred seating" along the flight line, best view, but most danger, as we have seen." Sorry, but this is just incorrect. The plane flew completely over the crowd and had to reverse course to get back to where it landed (I was there). It could have just as easily hit behind the grandstand. As someone else said, I would feel perfectly safe sitting in the crater.

Posted by: Jim Truscello | September 23, 2011 8:05 PM    Report this comment

Ron,

Yeah, I went a little outside the box there. If you google Gordon, you will understand my comments better. Based on what I found, it seems he has lots to say about lots of subjects, yet it appears he often does not get the full gist of the particular subjects he attacks.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 23, 2011 8:07 PM    Report this comment

Appreciated info, Scott. Showing some character, too!

Paul B. has to be way to busy to monitor all this stuff!

I gotta say, Paul B.'s writings have always held my interest, starting with the old Aviation Consumer's Used Aircraft Flight Guides. Now, that was some dedication to aviation!

We just gotta police ourselves, here!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 23, 2011 8:24 PM    Report this comment

Ron,

By the way, my uncle was in Nam too! Hearing his stories, I know my time was much easier than yours and his. Thank you for your service too! Thank you to any other vets here who have not identified themselves. You are all brothers and are all appreciated.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 23, 2011 9:22 PM    Report this comment

If our mechanisms for travel are going to improve, it is venues such as racing that serve to provide the incentive for R&D. Accidents happen, people die, and government and lawyers cannot change these facts of life significantly for the better. The races should continue.

After reading all the above, I too discount the likelihood of a seatback failure as a causative factor in this disaster. I will add that I am the lucky survivor of a seatback failure, since I was on the taxiway doing runups when it occurred (crummy drum brakes). Had I been airborne, the outcome would have indeed been much more uncertain.

Last but not least, what I think the vast majority of us here on this blog have been doing is grieving. We all grieve in different ways. Many pilots find it less than productive to discuss the theories with non-pilots, and thus AVWeb gets Kudos for providing a venue, and even for some occasional and much needed moderation.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | September 23, 2011 10:17 PM    Report this comment

Gordon,

You would do well to read the book in your hand then.

Yes, the X-plane program was responsible for discovering compressibility as one of the main limiting factors for breaking the speed of sound at that time.

Posted by: SCOTT SEPPER | September 23, 2011 11:13 PM    Report this comment

Also the Bell X1 was not first to use a stabilator to counteract mach tuck...that was the British Miles M.52...Bell later changed the X-1 tailplane based on Miles data...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 23, 2011 11:23 PM    Report this comment

Picking up on that neutral elevator thing....before it went neutral, it would be biased by the tab. After the tab let loose, the force of the freed elevator streamlining itself to the fixed horizontal stabilizer, would be strong enough to yank the stick from the pilots hand.

Prior to the tab letting loose, nose down trim was reducing tail down force significantly. After the tab was lost, streamlining of the elevator increased tail down force enough to pitch up the plane, exacerbating the whole matter, because of speed, high power, kinetic energy, and rapid g-force growth.

That' how I'd picture it, if everything was operating in normal parameters.

However, there might be actual evidence that flutter occurred. It's been reported that fuselage and/or tail distortion was observed by some. The divergent forces of flutter, are like picking zig or zag, to explain what happened.

The NTSB, like God, will be sorting the whole thing out! Unlike God, they'll be taking a whole year, as usual, to do it! One thing is for certain, the NTSB has our rapt attention, this time around!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 24, 2011 2:49 AM    Report this comment

Speaking of "goofy" ideas, it's widely in the news today that neutrinos are "cleaning Einstein's clock", or, should I say casting doubt on the theory of relativity? That's because neutrinos are traveling faster than light, right through the Earth's core, as if our "rock" was a vacuum! I admire Einstein's logic, so much, especially his calculation of the speed of light, logical brilliance difficult to duplicate. On the other hand, did you know that E=mc squared, was never an an actual mathematical derivation? It was simply an expression of an idea that Einstein had. It was to express the tremendous energy contained in matter. The atom bombs of WWII actually underperformed! Anyway, we shouldn't disparage ourselves for trying to think out loud on these posts. Rather, we should be grateful for the efforts of one another, to make sense of the world around us! I, for one appreciate the thoughts, contradicted or not, and they weren't actually that contradictory, and on some things, saying the same thing.

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 24, 2011 3:30 AM    Report this comment

Ron, coming around the turn Leeward would have been holding back stick to keep the nose up against the increased g-load of the turn...maybe 4 or 5 gs...

The way I understand the chain of events, he never fully rounded that turn...so the elevator would have been in the up position wen things started to go wrong...

I would guess that racers do not retrim the airplane anywhere along the course...that would be absurd...so having a lot of nose-down trim cranked in would increase the back stick pressure in the turns...

So if there was nose down trim,that would mean a down trim tab and down elevator...he would be fighting the trim tab in the turns...does it make sense...?

continued...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 24, 2011 9:56 AM    Report this comment

Sorry...it would be up trim tab and up elevator...and he would be fighting the trim tab in the turns...

But let's just suppose this was the way he had set the plane up...and let's say now that the trim tab departs...

now the elevator wants to align itself with the relative wind and float behind the stabilizer...

it does not necessarily float freely due to a number of factors, but let's ignore that for now...

So now why do we have a violent pitch up? The elevator is basically neutral...in order to pitch up at a rate of 10 g we would need quite a bit of up elevator, don't you think?

continued...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 24, 2011 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Now as I mentioned previously the tailplane incidence of a Mustang would have been set at the factory to provide a nose-up pitching moment at zero wing lift...this is a requirement of pitch stability, which the Mustang has...

This means the incidence angle of the tail is negative in relation to the incidence angle of the wing...in other words it is twisted down...

This means that even with no elevator deflection the tail will be making downforce and a nose up pitching moment on the airplane...

Now remember that this is with the wing at zero angle of attack, like in a straight down dive...

As soon as the wing starts making lift and the nose starts pitching up, the tailplane also begins nosing up and the tail downforce stops...(a tail has to be at a negative alpha to make downforce)...

So the nose-up pitching we get from the tail is momentary...it has done its job, it has raised the nose from a dive and the tail stops making downforce...

This does not jibe with rocketing the plane up at 10 g...

Now we can guess here and my guess would be that there was flutter involved and that led to some structural deformation where the tailplane incidence was altered which caused the wild pitch excursion...

Posted by: Gordon Arnaut | September 24, 2011 10:32 AM    Report this comment

Alright guys, chill out. You're crossing the line and I've had to remove some of these messages.

Debate the facts and ideas, not each other's intent or intelligence.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 24, 2011 10:56 AM    Report this comment

To address the trim tab issue in a standard p51 this system is a flying deflection based trim system to get a nose up result the tab has to fly the elevator aerodynamicly to the desired deflection....now from the story back in 98 when voodoo Chile had its own trim tab incident we can glean real world examples of what a p51 does at the loss of a trim tab....the elevator is designed to bias a nose up attitude relative to speed this was originaly intended for a dive situation the speed would increase and cause the nose up moment to do the same....the reno guys have to then use the trim tab to shut these aerodynamic functions off....when the trim tab leaves the party at 500 ish mph the result will be a hideously violent nose up moment.....now my question rests on the findings involving leewards seat....was he locked back....did the harness fail to retain him under the sudden g load did the harness mounts break....I want to know why he was slumped becasue there is the root cause of him entering the crowd....voodoo Chile went straight up with no roll input we need to know why this was different so we can correct it for future races

Posted by: russell hayes | September 27, 2011 8:02 AM    Report this comment

To address the trim tab issue in a standard p51 this system is a flying deflection based trim system to get a nose up result the tab has to fly the elevator aerodynamicly to the desired deflection....now from the story back in 98 when voodoo Chile had its own trim tab incident we can glean real world examples of what a p51 does at the loss of a trim tab....the elevator is designed to bias a nose up attitude relative to speed this was originaly intended for a dive situation the speed would increase and cause the nose up moment to do the same....the reno guys have to then use the trim tab to shut these aerodynamic functions off....when the trim tab leaves the party at 500 ish mph the result will be a hideously violent nose up moment.....now my question rests on the findings involving leewards seat....was he locked back....did the harness fail to retain him under the sudden g load did the harness mounts break....I want to know why he was slumped becasue there is the root cause of him entering the crowd....voodoo Chile went straight up with no roll input we need to know why this was different so we can correct it for future races

Posted by: russell hayes | September 27, 2011 8:02 AM    Report this comment

To address the trim tab issue in a standard p51 this system is a flying deflection based trim system to get a nose up result the tab has to fly the elevator aerodynamicly to the desired deflection....now from the story back in 98 when voodoo Chile had its own trim tab incident we can glean real world examples of what a p51 does at the loss of a trim tab....the elevator is designed to bias a nose up attitude relative to speed this was originaly intended for a dive situation the speed would increase and cause the nose up moment to do the same....the reno guys have to then use the trim tab to shut these aerodynamic functions off....when the trim tab leaves the party at 500 ish mph the result will be a hideously violent nose up moment.....now my question rests on the findings involving leewards seat....was he locked back....did the harness fail to retain him under the sudden g load did the harness mounts break....I want to know why he was slumped becasue there is the root cause of him entering the crowd....voodoo Chile went straight up with no roll input we need to know why this was different so we can correct it for future races

Posted by: russell hayes | September 27, 2011 8:02 AM    Report this comment

Sorry guys.....browser error

Posted by: russell hayes | September 27, 2011 9:14 AM    Report this comment

http://www.warbirdaeropress.com/NewGallery/GG2009-1/index.html Take a look at some GG pics, circa 2009. Go to a website called warbirdaeroexpressDOTcom. There's galleries one and two, in any case, there wasn't any room in the cockpit for a moveable seat back, and, if there was a shoulder harness, it probably wasn't too sturdy. The airplane was custom built for one exclusive pilot, not Hertz Rent-a-Plane!

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 27, 2011 1:51 PM    Report this comment

They are required to have a 5 point harness....its part of the reno minimum equipment inspection for racers at registration those types of harnesses usually have a manual lock/unlock function wich would need to be locked before the race after ur through doing any tasks that require bending forward.

Posted by: russell hayes | September 27, 2011 2:18 PM    Report this comment

Picture 89 of gallery 2, shows the harness clearly. It doesn't look very well attached from what I can see. I get the feeling of velcro, from the picture! Maybe there's some AN-3 hardware hidden from view, anchoring the colorful red and black straps.

I don't think being immovably attached to the seat would have helped anything.

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 27, 2011 10:52 PM    Report this comment

Danger close - Reno Air Races 2011.ppt

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 28, 2011 1:43 AM    Report this comment

somebody made a Powerpoint presentation of the Reno crash, but it doesn't hypertext in my previous post, thought I would try to see if it would work.

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 28, 2011 1:46 AM    Report this comment

If he had been immovably attached we would have a repeat of the 1998 voodoo incident....the pitching moment didn't occur until wings level...if the seat had been modified in such a way that it failed or didn't have a restraint system capable of keeping the pilot up against the back of the seat in all conditions then the inspection criteria needs to be changed....voodoo made it thru a trim tab failure just fine the pilot woke up at 9k feet and landed safely because when he passed out he wasn't pulled down onto the stick to make unconcious control inputs....regardless of how the galloping ghost got to the point that a trim tab failure occured the rolling component was induced by leewards unconscious body on the controls...roll and tail wheel and trim tab don't fail in concert like that...air racing needs to continue and the unlimited class needs to continue because as these warbirds age as long as they are regulated for safety the competition in the class is going to start bringing up some new engineering developments just like what's happening in the formula one class...unlimited is becoming a vacuum that is going to draw in and generate new designs....just look at miss ashley...in time this will happen again and be pushed farther by necessity and will eventually dethrone the bear and the mustangs

Posted by: russell hayes | September 28, 2011 7:56 AM    Report this comment

Unconscious was the serious factor, I think. Even if his body hadn't contacted the controls, torque roll, and randomness of the surrounding air, could have rolled the plane inverted to a nose dive.

If a pilot is too bodily restricted, he loses some ability to control the cockpit.

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 28, 2011 4:28 PM    Report this comment

Just heard about a lysteria outbreak....mabey this and the Jackson trial will stop the media spin stories about Mr leeward

Posted by: russell hayes | September 28, 2011 6:48 PM    Report this comment

he hit turbulence which pitched his left wing down, Leeward corrected with hard right rudder and aileron. Just as the aircraft was straightening out, he hit a second mountain of turbulence which caused the tail to 'dig in' resulting in a 10+ G climb rendering Leeward unconscious instantly and resulted in the tail wheel falling out. (broken tail wheel support structure was found on the course). As the Ghost shot upward the LH aileron trim tab broke loose. This can be heard on the tape, so the trim tab did not cause the accident. Since the Ghost was racing at 480 mph with full right rudder and the stick full right, this is where everything stayed when Leeward blacked out. Cockpit camera film that was salvaged from the wreck shows Leeward slumped over to the right in the cockpit. As a result, the Ghost climbed up and to the right, rolled over on her back and then headed for the box seats. Most in the box seats never saw it coming because it came in from behind them. Matt has had long conversations with the NTSB who call the accident a 'fluke'. They are not going to recommend canceling future races. He has also talked to the insurance companies covering the races for Reno and they also say they are not going to cancel their coverage of future races. Now we wait for the FAA to make a decision. Ironically, Matt bought box seats tickets for his good friends who stayed with him for a few days before the races. They were the husband and wife who were killed.

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 29, 2011 1:44 AM    Report this comment

Limited to 1500 characters, here. Well, the previous post is a witness account who watched and video'd from "Furias", behind GG. Oddly he says "LH aileron trim tab broke loose". What about the elevator trim tab that was missing? A miscommunication? (I suspect so!). Anyway, the tab snapping off is audible in the video, after pitch up, so the root cause was turbulence on a marginally stable airplane.

Posted by: Ron Brown | September 29, 2011 1:58 AM    Report this comment

Hmmm plausible definitely....its good to know that info about the insurance company....it'll be interesting to see the final report....turbulence has been a factor in calling the races off altogether in previous years

Posted by: russell hayes | September 29, 2011 7:45 AM    Report this comment

Our group has been going to Stead since the races since 1967. We have been in the reserved section for most years now in sections C and D and all have realized the risk we take by being an air race participant in that location. The rules on safe racing have improved since the races began creating a much safer environment for the pilot as well as the spectator. There are no more pylon wing impacts, or midair collisions while passing as a result of these rules. As the racers round the last pylon ending "the valley of speed" heading for the home pylon they know there is a deadline they cannot cross without disqualification. I have seen one disqualification in all these years and it was a disregard for spectator safety and strictly enforced. When the grand stands were installed they were constructed a safe distance from the flightline. As time passed the box seats crept out in front first one row then three rows. I'm not sure this placement on the black top was best for safety, but in this instance it was a contributing factor. The Reno International Air Races should not be canceled. As in past years investigations will be done and improvements will be made to insure as safe an environment as possible for race pilots and spectators alike. Anyone who attends this event should realize air racing has it's dangers along with the thrills, excitement and unpredictability.

Posted by: Alan Kenyon | October 14, 2011 1:04 PM    Report this comment

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