Changes to Air Racing at Reno

By Debbie Hersman

Nearly a year after a highly modified P-51D airplane crashed into the crowd at the Reno Air Races, killing 10 spectators and the pilot, planes are once again in the air at the Reno Air Show. But the event has undergone an overhaul that follows the Board’s safety recommendations. Gone are the fuel trucks that were previously stationed near the spectators, safety barriers have been placed in front of the pit areas and grandstand, which has been moved farther away from the speeding aircraft. The planes in the Unlimited Division have to undergo more extensive inspection and are reporting any modifications.

And NTSB investigators are on the ground, explaining the Safety Board’s investigation of the Galloping Ghost crash to pilots, participants and organizers. Three weeks ago, the NTSB determined the probable cause of the accident was deteriorated locknut inserts that allowed trim tab attachment screws to become loose, which ultimately led to aerodynamic flutter at racing speeds — a critical situation.

In April, we issued 10 recommendations — all of which have been completed or are in the process of being implemented.

Air racing is inherently risky. The pilots understand and assume that risk. Spectators, though, expect and deserve a higher level of safety.

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