Federal Agency to Hold Hearing on Air Shows, Races

By | December 5, 2011

A federal hearing will examine the safety of air races and air shows after a horrific crash killed 11 people and injured more than 70 at an event in Reno.

The hearing announced last Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board is not solely related to the Sept. 16 disaster at the National Air Race Championships, but the 47-year-old competition will be included in the review, agency spokesman Terry Williams told The Associated Press.

Chairman Deborah Hersman and all five agency board members plan to participate in the Jan. 10 hearing at NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C., indicating the issue is considered especially important.

It is aimed at gathering information on safety regulations and oversight in the planning and execution of air races and shows, Williams said.

Testimony at the hearing will come from regulators, aviation organizations, industry groups and airport authorities. They will be questioned about safety practices, procedures and protocols.

Williams said there is not yet a witness list, and he could not say whether any Reno officials would be invited to testify.

The hearing is separate from one that will be held to determine what caused a modified World War II-era aircraft dubbed “The Galloping Ghost” to crash into the apron of the grandstand filled with thousands of people at Stead Airport.

The victims included the pilot, Jimmy Leeward, 74, of Ocala, Fla., a veteran movie stunt pilot and air racer who competed at the Reno air races since 1975.

Photos showed a tail part known as an elevator trim tab missing as the P-51D Mustang climbed sharply then rolled and plunged nose-first at more than 400 mph into box seats.

It was the first time spectators had been killed at a national competition since the races began 47 years ago in Reno. But 20 pilots, including Leeward, have died in that time, race officials said.

Reno Air Races spokesman Mike Draper said the organization has not had any direct contact with the NTSB about the hearing on races and shows and did not know if CEO Mike Houghton would be invited to testify. Houghton was not immediately available for comment.

Officials for the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which leases the property to the group for the competition, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.