NTSB Recommends Changes After Reno National Championship Crash

Credit: Ward Howes / Associated Press

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended seven recommendations to the Reno Air Racing Association after a September 2011 crash that killed the pilot of a small aircraft and ten spectators.

The National Transportation Safety Board called on the Reno Air Racing Assn. to review its 8.4-mile course to determine if the risk to spectators can be reduced during races of powerful piston-driven aircraft in the unlimited class. Many of them are World War II-era fighters capable of exceeding 500 mph.

NTSB officials recommended pre-race inspections, testing and engineering evaluations to ensure that unlimited-class aircraft can withstand the stresses of high-speed competition. They also called on the racing association to provide training so pilots can better cope with high G-forces that can incapacitate them.

Investigators further recommended safety barriers for spectator and pit areas and that the Federal Aviation Administration review its air race guidelines. The distance between the crowd and race course exceeded the FAA’s minimum requirement of 500 feet during the event, but NTSB officials were concerned that more distance might be necessary because of the race’s high speeds. LA Times, 10 Apr 2012.

The crash occurred during the 2011 Reno National Championship Air Races in Nevada. Officials have stated that a broken elevator trim tab caused a loss of control resulting in the pilot losing consciousness. The plane crashed within a few seconds of the incident. The pilot had not tested the aircraft prior to the race.