Friday, September 16, 2011

Chilled

More intel continues to trickle in from Friday's horrific crash at Reno's Stead Field, home to this year's 48th Reno National Championship Air Races.

Photos are trickling in, and this photo may display the Smoking Gun.

Clearly visible is the missing elevator trim tab on the left side elevator. This is exactly the kind of failure that would cause aerodynamic imbalance , and induce flutter into the control surfaces (especially the elevator in this case) and make the airframe shudder, making recovery of control at this high speed and low altitude extremely difficult.

Reno's daily paper the Reno Gazette Journal has a photo album with another good photo clue.

AP Photo/Grass Valley Union Tim O'Brien
Two pertinent things are visible in this photo from the Gazette Journal's gallery. The tail wheel is deployed here milliseconds before impact, and Jimmy's helmet is not visible in the canopy as you would expect.

That tail wheel is normally retracted in race trim. Odds are control flutter from the unbalanced elevator combined with the high-G pull-up maneuver shook it open.

Eyewitness reports say Jimmy did everything he could to keep that plane out of the crowd. He was probably pulling on that stick with everything he had.

I'm chilled to the bone tonight. I was packing to head up to Reno for the weekend. I'd hoped to get underway after lunch, but circumstances beyond my control held me up until the Friday night rush. I decided to cool my jets, and depart after the Giants game and let the Friday Freeway Frenzy precede my trip across the Big Valley and up the hill. I got wind of the crash minutes after it happened. I was surfing an Air Racing bulletin board for Reno news, where a thread alerted me to the disaster.

I pray for the victim's families and souls, and pray that RARA finds a way to continue the Reno Air Races into the future.

10 comments:

  1. Interesting that there may have been a defect on the left elevator trim tab. There is a YouTube video showing the plane doing a warm-up, testing gear cover retraction and doing to ground tests. Towards the end of the ground tests the pilot returns to the ground crew and appears to ask one of them to look at (check out?) the left elevator. About 4:28 into

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLvYrpO3zpk

    In the Smoking Gun photo, there also appears to be a puff of smoke from the lower left fuselage below the 177 decal.

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  2. Are we sure this was not a DOMESTIC TERRORIST ATTACK? Looks like the pilot had purposefully kamikazed his airplane right into the hapless spectators. And why are these planes permitted to fly over the spectatorsin the first place?

    Also, should he have not already been forcibly retired from flying airplanes decades ago? I mean, the pilot was ancient, from what I read on Russian media.

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  3. This plane was using boil off cooling or whatever you call it so the puff of smoke is probably normal.

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  4. That's not smoke. Galloping Ghost did not have the normal cooling system installed (note the lack of the characteristic belly radiator). It used a tank of water / alcohol mixture that was boiled off and vented overboard during flight. There was a feature article in one of the magazines this past year on the airplane that described that.

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  5. The warmup video linked by the previous anonymous poster has absolutely *nothing* to do with this incident, as made obvious by the fact that it was uploaded seven months before the accident happened.

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  6. Why isn't the pilots head visible in the cockpit? Was the seat on this particular plane located that far back? Is he being pulled down due to a high G load? Thanks.

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  7. N94622, Jimmy's head should be mid-canopy in the Diving Ghost Photo.

    He's either slumped forward unconscious or leaned back so far that his helmet is below view.

    Eyewitness report that Jimmy was doing everything he could to keep the Ghost out of the crowd. Many of these witnesses are pilots who've been annual attendees at Reno for decades.

    I find them at Wyne Sager's AAFO forum:
    http://www.aafo.com/hangartalk/forumdisplay.php?f=2

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  8. "Are we sure this was not a DOMESTIC TERRORIST ATTACK? Looks like the pilot had purposefully kamikazed his airplane right into the hapless spectators. And why are these planes permitted to fly over the spectatorsin the first place?

    Also, should he have not already been forcibly retired from flying airplanes decades ago? I mean, the pilot was ancient, from what I read on Russian media."

    You're an idiot!

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  9. Russian media didn't mention how fit 74 year old Leeward was? These guys are athletes.

    Not domestic terrorism...save the idiot slur for yourself Sergi!

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