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Archive for Monday, September 19, 2011

Lawrence pilot witnesses fatal crash at Reno air race

Jodi Handel points out a plane in the sky to her grandson Cage Handel, 4, at a memorial site for victims of an airplane crash in Reno, Nev., Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. The Reno Air Races were canceled after pilot Jimmy Leeward's plane crashed on Friday. Several people were killed, including Leeward, and dozens were inured.

Jodi Handel points out a plane in the sky to her grandson Cage Handel, 4, at a memorial site for victims of an airplane crash in Reno, Nev., Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. The Reno Air Races were canceled after pilot Jimmy Leeward's plane crashed on Friday. Several people were killed, including Leeward, and dozens were inured.

September 19, 2011

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Lawrence aviator, local attorney and real estate developer Steve Craig was standing less than 500 yards away from the air show plane crash that killed 10 people and injured dozens more last weekend in Reno, Nev.

“It was your worst fear in these races and any air show when you’re flying very high performance aircraft in close proximity to the ground and spectators,” Craig said. “The sad thing is so many innocent people were killed.”

He also was acquainted with the pilot, 74-year-old Jimmy Leeward, who lost control of his modified World War II-era P-51 Mustang and slammed into a box seat area.

After Craig witnessed the event, and saw photos and videos later, he said he had formed an opinion to how the crash occurred, though he stressed that federal aviation officials are still investigating the crash. Craig said as the plane was losing control, it looked like it was missing a part of the tail called the trim tab, which can affect the plane’s stability.

“That trim tab is an Achilles heel on these airplanes,” said Craig, who has flown P-51 Mustang aircraft from the era, but never one that had been modified like those used in the race.

Craig said he is close friends with John Penney, an accomplished racing pilot. Penney’s daughter, Heather Penney, was recently featured in a Washington Post story that told of her role on 9/11 as an Air Force pilot who was ordered to bring down the United Airlines plane that eventually crashed in Shanksville, Pa., even if that meant she had to ram the aircraft with her F-16 fighter plane.

She was sitting within 10 feet of the impact zone of the crash when it occurred, Craig said.

“She wasn’t scratched,” he said.

Nelson Krueger, a Lawrence pilot, has also attended the Reno race in the past. Last year, he attended the race in the pit area, where he had to sign a waiver to be granted access. He said he also thought the airplane’s trim tab was to blame for the crash, after looking at photos and video from the scene.

“Those box seats, I’ve sat in those very seats,” he said. “It’s kind of spooky to see.”

— Higher education reporter Andy Hyland can be reached at 832-6388. Follow him at Twitter.com/LJW_KU.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Comments

Steve Jacob 2 years, 10 months ago

The Westboro group has already said they will be at the funerals.

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Crazy_Larry 2 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Crazy_Larry 2 years, 10 months ago

Why are we wasting tax-dollars investigating the crash of an antique airplane that was legally racing? What's the point? Is the USA suddenly flush with cash or something?

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Mary Ellen Hall 2 years, 10 months ago

Crazy_Larry, you have a point. With all due respect to the families who lost loved ones, knowing exactly why it crashed isn't going to bring anyone back. And it's not like a commercial plane crashed and we need to know what the airline is or isn't doing to keep their fleet safe for paying passengers.

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Bob Forer 2 years, 10 months ago

But it could provide evidence that might cause the FAA to consider banning future air races, or at least, modify the exiting regulations.

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Crazy_Larry 2 years, 10 months ago

Make airplane racing illegal....problem solved--money and lives saved. Right? I still don't see the point in wasting tax dollars we don't have investigating this racing accident.

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CreatureComforts 2 years, 10 months ago

Street racing is illegal yet it's a huge industry with many racers and many accidents, some involving deaths. Drugs are illegal yet they're a huge indsutry with many users and many overdoses, some involving death. Making something illegal doesn't mean it will stop...

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RoeDapple 2 years, 10 months ago

The FAA investigates all flying related incidents/crashes. It's what they do. Investigating this crash may make the next event you or yours choose to attend a little safer.

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meggers 2 years, 10 months ago

With the help of those evil regulations, of course. :)

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 10 months ago

“It was your worst fear in these races and any air show when you’re flying very high performance aircraft in close proximity to the ground and spectators,”

But also one of the greatest attractions. I hope no one killed or injured at this race was unfamiliar with the risks of pushing antique aircraft past their design limits in close proximity to audience members.

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rodentgirl16 2 years, 10 months ago

Not to make light of this situation because it is tragic, but you made me think of that Simpsons' episode where they are at an airshow. Every time it looks like a plane is going to crash, the audience collectively gasps in excitement, and then collectively "awws" in disappointment when it pulls up just in time. That thrill of a potential crash is what makes an airshow, or other daredevil stunt exciting. Again, nobody ever really expects it to happen and certainly not for innocent people to be hurt or killed.

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Kontum1972 2 years, 10 months ago

they also call it very, very poor pre-flight....by the crew-chiefs and the pilot himself....

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blindrabbit 2 years, 10 months ago

UNIKU: Just what I was thinking about Nelson Krueger; I'll bet this publicity will allow him to add more pictures and press to his already substantial, self promotional shrine at the Lawrence Airport. I just wonder when the Re-Naming is going to occur. I'll bet they invite the Pope whenever!

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N2av8n 2 years, 10 months ago

Kontum 1972: there is possibly no fault in pre-flight. At those speeds the trim tab could have been susceptible to flutter. So before you go and degrade the crew or pilot over a trivial opinion get the facts.

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Richard Ballard 2 years, 10 months ago

Aircraft have lost rim tabs, (and complete control surfaces for that matter) in flight many times before and didn't crash. Losing a trim tab is sort of like when your car needs the front end aligned.

I think there will be much more to this after the investigation is completed.

rc

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N2av8n 2 years, 10 months ago

“There was an incident during the 1998 Reno Air Races in which a trim tab came off a P-51 named Voodoo Chile,” writes Russ Niles, editor-in-chief of AvWeb. “In that incident … the aircraft pitched violently up, causing pilot Bob Hannah to black out under a G load estimated at 10 Gs. He regained consciousness at 9,000 feet and was able to land safely.” This shows that the trim tab is possibly the culprit to the accident. This incident resulted in a favorable outcome unlike the recent accident. The only differences is Voodoo Chile may have been modified differently than Galloping Ghost to where it had better stability factors.

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blindrabbit 2 years, 10 months ago

From the photos I've seen when the plane was in it's final dive, the pilot was not visible. Yet, there have been report that the pilot was trying to avoid the crowd., and maybe some radio communications going on. Any thoughts about this?

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N2av8n 2 years, 10 months ago

Rcmodel: it depends on the design of the aircraft. Military aircraft are of negative dynamic stability unlike general aviation aircraft are positive dynamic stability. NDS is when you induce an oscillation and it doesn't dampen like PDS it magnifies instead. So that tab is essential to maintain the fine line of stability. Read the story from a P-51 pilot say it is the Achilles heel of the aircraft. The dynamics are always changing requiring the pilot to constantly have to re-trim all the time in flight. It is not a normal aircraft of trim and forget. Also at those speeds they are near the regime of compressibility to were that trim tab is crucial to ease the massive stick forces required to fly the plane. Without it in that area a pilot would not be able to push or pull the stick to keep it from going out of control. It is not a fly by wire aircraft.

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