2011 NATIONAL AIR RACES

By James Turnage

The NTSB announced its findings today about the tragedy that occurred at the 2011 National Air Races.  74 year old pilot Jimmy Leeward of Ocala Florida, and 10 others on the ground were killed, and more than 70 were injured.  The plane crashed into the box seats closest to the airfield and buried itself in the ground.

The NTSB reported; “Deteriorated lock nut inserts found in the highly modified North American P-51-D airplane that crashed during the 2011 National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, allowed the trim tab attachment screws to become loose and even initiated fatigue cracking one screw.  This condition which resulted in reduced stiffness in the elevator trim system, ultimately led to aerodynamic flutter at racing speed that broke the trim linkage resulting in a loss of controllability and the eventual crash.”

The NTSB also stated that the aircraft had not been properly tested, and that the steep climb Mr. Leeward attempted produced a G force of approximately 17.  The shuttle astronauts experienced a G force of 3.  The overseeing of more stringent pre-flight tests will be part of the procedures instituted by the race supervisors and inspectors.

The 2012 National Air Races will resume in Reno next month.

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