L-29 pilot Aaron Hogue was killed Sunday during the Jet Gold Race at the Stihl National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada. Organizers suspended all racing after the accident, which occurred at Outer Pylon 5 about 3:45 p.m. local time. As seen in the accompanying video (graphic and disturbing content) Hogue’s aircraft was turning at high speed when it lost altitude at high speed and exploded. 

“All other pilots landed safely and race operations for 2022 have been suspended,” the organization said. “We express our deepest sympathies to the pilot’s family and friends, as well as racers and race fans who make up our September family.” It would appear Hogue was the only casualty in the tragedy. “The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate,” an event spokesman tweeted. “The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates.”

31 COMMENTS

  1. “Hogue’s aircraft was turning at high speed when it lost altitude at high speed and exploded. ”
    Makes it sound like an in-flight explosion when put that way.

    The pilot did not recover from the the descent, and the aircraft impacted the ground in a steep turn, while apparently structurally intact.
    Technically at this point it did NOT explode, but the suddenly breached fuel tanks did result in a rapid burn of the remaining fuel (headlines like to use the term ‘fireball’), as is typical in a destructive impact of this kind.

    Very sad to see. Given what appears to be a sudden high-G pull immediately prior to the beginning of the descent, it may be a case of G-LOC.

  2. It looks like he was distracted during the high G turn, and didn’t notice the descent. Those jet racers fly on the ragged edge: Traffic, High Gs, Low Altitude and speeds that don’t allow the slightest inattention, especially when you’re rounding pylons. Like the T-6 Races, these aircraft appear evenly matched. Hence, they’ll cluster in groups instead of spreading out.

    • A G-suit (not a pressure suit, which is a whole different animal) obviously helps, about 1.5G worth. But a well-conditioned pilot can sustain 9G and more without one, provided he stays ahead of the G-onset. All pilots of high-performance fighters demonstrate that in a centrifuge before going to the airplane. Top-level airshow performers will pull more than that during their performances. Even aging, recreational aerobatic pilots like me routinely pull 5-6G with no problem, (though I don’t do it in a traffic jam low to the ground).

    • The Blue Angels routinely endure 6 G maneuvers, and they don’t wear G suits. Military pilots are subjected to simulated G loads up to 8, and they learn how to minimize those loads to remain conscious and functioning. This aircraft is a trainer, and most likely equipped with G suit equipment to keep the neophytes from conking out during loops and steep banks. One F-4 pilot related his dogfight experience with a Mig, claiming he pulled to 12 Gs. I dunno, that might be Kentucky Windage.

    • Well, shame on me, I guess. 100 percent virgin prose from me. I suppose I could have included “on impact” but I thought the video was pretty self explanatory. As for the distinction between explosion and fireball I argue they are virtually interchangeable although I think fireball is well, inflammatory.

    • Absolutely. It is risky for both participants and spectators. I wouldn’t go anywhere near it, but I respect the rights of those who hold this event. Closed-course air racing has a long and storied history in the U.S.A.

      • People do all kinds of risky things, and it’s part of the lure of these events. I’ve attended 6 Air Race events, never at Reno, but only one became what you’d call dangerous. In Phoenix, AZ, a highly modified Corsair had an engine fire, which began as a wisp of white smoke as the plane rounded the home pylon. I actually focused on the rest of the field, because it looked like the old Chance Vought would pull up and land on one of the adjacent runways. I heard a scream from the stands, and I looked up to see balls of flame puffing out of the lower cowling. This spectacle got much worse, as a steady stream of fire signaled the end of that fighter, and the entire crowd erupted in applause when a chute deployed as the Corsair spiraled vertically to the ground. My one chief concern was that the plane would be headed toward the grandstands. Danger is everywhere, and we have to accept that no matter where we are, our ticket could be punched in a myriad of ways.

    • My father wangled a spot on the course for the Mojave, CA 1000 (Kilometer) Air Races, and we were assigned to monitor the pylon for pilots cutting inside. It was absolutely amazing how fast and low those old fighters operated during the race. On occasion, we would hit the deck in fear of getting our heads chopped off by a wingtip. One year, they had a DC-7 entered in that race. That was comical.

  3. …I looked at the very disturbing video and there is no change in bank angle, no apparent effort to stop the descent… and no-one apparently close enough for any wake turbulence. When the video begins, he’s already well into the descent and within 3 seconds it’s over. It looks like the video was shot from near the start pylon looking towards Pylon 4. I can post a link, but out of respect, I’d rather not.

    • …just the same for NASCAR, Indy Cars, Formula 1, 2 and 3, SCCA, Ferris Wheels, and sometimes the drive through at McDonalds. Perhaps we should all wrap ourselves in bubble wrap and try not to bonk into one another.

    • So, what’s the “right level” of fatalities? Should we park all the cars and take a bus? Maybe not. If someone is worried about mortalities of willing participants (and spectators are most certainly willing to get right close) why don’t they vote with their dollars? I don’t care to jump out of perfectly good aircraft, do hard core low level aerobatics, nor do I street race or ride bulls & broncs. I know some great people who like the rush, have the smarts, can afford to do it… so why not? What’s your vision of the perfect world? Everyone surviving through their youth … and middle age only to succumb to obesity, boredom, diabetes, and dementia?

  4. The aircraft was second in the race, and flying inside and behind the leader as it approached a pylon. The mishap jet rolled RIGHT, as if the pilot was attempting to prevent cutting the pylon, then when outside of the leaders turn radius, it reversed back into a steeper, tighter left turn, which was held to impact. It crossed the turn radius of the lead, then it’s turn radius decreased possibly to get back on the course. The G increased, we know the possibilities from there. I am not familiar with the normal G required while flying the race course, but the velocity and flight path should be available in due course and will be used to estimate the G after the reversal.

    That reversal isn’t apparent on many videos, but some show it. Didn’t appear that the mishap aircraft was in a position to encounter the leaders wing vortices, and was too fast for any sort of departure. Mechanical issue, G-Loc, who knows? It’s sad to see someone lost in a meaningless air race.

    I’m sure the Youtube nitwits have it all figured out by now.

  5. All the above is conjecture. Facts:1. 2nd year race pilot, non military. 2. he was in the lead 3. aggressive pass by #2 without voice call on race radio. Conjecture: High speed departure due to possible wake turbulence causing over G and G-loss of consciousness followed quickly by descent to the ground with unconscious pilot. If you weren’t there and/or don’t like air races you might not wish to comment.