Thursday, September 22, 2011

To Sleep...Perchance to Dream...

What a week so far! It started with a bang...up at Stead Field, and I've been riding the "Emotional Roller Coaster" ever since. I felt real pain when the Giants had Monday off...I needed that pastoral beauty of baseball to distract me from my feelings for a few hours...

The not knowing is the worst...I sat near those boxes where Jimmy's racer impacted the first time I attended the Reno National Championship Air Races back in 1981. I've only missed three years since.

One of those years was 2001 when the Air races were cancelled in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, and the Pentagon. General Aviation was still grounded by FAA decree two weeks later when the Races were scheduled.

The first time I missed was 1993. I was stoked to see Burt Rutan's Pond Racer compete in the Unlimited Class again. In '92 it qualified at 400MPH and looked to be the future of Unlimited Racing. The Pond Racer was a purpose-built composite, Burt Rutan designed, twin engine racer with Electromotive Nissan Auto Racing Engines.

The Pond Racer with Rick Brickert
I'm a history fanatic, and I hate to see the dwindling supply of historic WW2 warbirds being cannibalized and turned into racers, though I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit the thrill I get every time one of those old fighters fly over in full song. There is something irresistible about "The Sound of Freedom" echoing through the Valley of Speed!

Early in the week, the Pond Racer with Rick Brickert at the controls, developed an oil leak, then fire, and was lost along with Brickert. I just didn't have the desire to go to the races after that. 

The third year was this year, I was packing to go to Reno when the news of Jimmy Leeward's crash came crashing into my Twitter feed.

I've spent a fair amount of time commiserating on the Air Racing Bulletin Boards, while looking for answers that will quiet my mind's search for answers for a while. I was fairly unsettled when my post "Chilled" got noticed online and attracted 14K hits. I watched in morbid fascination as hundreds of web surfers clicked on my blog hour after hour, all weekend long and into the work week.

Today I surfed across a blog that puts my mind at ease. Martt at AirPigz nails it in my opinion. Martt posits that the Trim Tab Pushrod failed, beginning the chain of failure that lead to the tragic end. I can relax now, eventually the NTSB will publish it's findings, but Martt's theory does it for me for now. We may never know the exact failure...did the pushrod break, the mounting point, the fasteners?

Several eyewitnesses in the Pits saw high-speed oscillations of the tail leading to the pull-up. That's the smoking gun in my opinion. The blog features photos of the Galloping Ghost overhead with the trim tab still attached, after the high G pull-up. The tab breaks and separates before the rollover is completed.

Tonight I enjoyed the Giants beating the Los Angeles Dodgers at their house. You could really hear the traveling Giants' fans in the nearly empty Dodgers' Stadium.

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