Friday, September 16, 2011


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.

Chillin' Not a Good Thing in This Case Godspeed Jimmy Leeward

I'm in shock this afternoon. An awful tragedy befell the 48th annual Reno National Championship Air Races Friday afternoon, when veteran Reno Unlimited racer Jimmy Leeward of Ocala, FL lost control of his modified P51D Unlimited Class Racer #177 "Galloping Ghost" on Lap 3 of the Unlimited Gold Heat.

Reportedly, Leeward pulled up to gain altitude only to nose over and crash into Rows A and B of the VIP Box Seats which are on the Stead Field tarmac in front of the Main Grandstands' West End (nearest the pits for those who've been to the Reno Air Races)

The Galloping Ghost broke into pieces on impact sending debris into the crowd. Race Officials report a preliminary estimate of 75 injuries and 12 fatalities. Leeward was pronounced dead at the scene. Witnesses say the plane was shuddering as Leeward struggled to regain control. There was no fire, saving untold numbers of spectators.

RARA, the Reno Air Race Association has cancelled the remainder of this year's event. 

8:46 PM PDT Update
RARA held a press conference at around 7:40PM PDT featuring Race Officials and Nevada Governor Sandoval. NTSB has taken control of the crash scene, and will investigate as is their duty.

RARA's Mike Helton said that 54 injured were transported to Reno area hospitals. Three are dead. Leeward, and one male and one female spectators.

David Wilson, an Australian Aeronautic Engineer in the grandstands, captured the best video I've seen yet. All the video I've seen is SmartPhone Video.

The next presser will be Saturday afternoon.

Reno's Blood Bank has been swamped by donors. United Blood Services asks donors to please wait until Saturday to come and donate.

Dinner at the SturgeUrge Compound

My friend KirkVallus is in town for the weekend. His Facebook post alerted me that he was in town, and hangin' at the SturgeUrge Compound. I rang him up and invited myself to dinner. They were in Oakland having a beer and a fried chicken sandwich at Bakesale Betty's.

About 4:30, KirkVallus called back and our plan was hatched. "I'll be over in half an hour, and we'll make a road trip out to the asian grocery and grab some live dungeness crabs and all the fixins."

We hit the grocery store and headed right back to the fish market. The tank was brimming full of live dungees in the 1 1/2-2 pound range. There was a problem however...they were $10.99/lb!

I was in the same spot two weeks ago, admiring the crab when it was $5.99/lb...Plan B was to the Mexican Market!

They've been upgrading the Mexican produce/fish market this summer, and in the hustle and flow of the sprucing up, they drained and moved their live crab was still empty when we walked in. Fortunately the fish market had a beautiful Ahi loin on ice, and on sale for $8.99/lb. The loin looked to be from a 60-80lb fish...I had the fishmonger slice off three 1 1/4" thick steaks. Holy moly, they weighed a pound each! We grabbed some patty pan squash in yellow and green and were off.

SturgeUrge was playing plumber when we returned to the Compound, so we had a beer and tuned in the Giants vs Rockies game.

In no time (if you don't count three trips to as many hardware stores), Urge wrapped up his plumbing project and set about making dinner...his jaw dropped when he saw the ahi steaks!

A quick Pow Wow and the menu was set, and magically as always dinner hit the table in no time. Cajun Seared Ahi served Sashimi Style as the appetizer, followed by Seared Ahi Sashimi Style with grilled patty pan squash on the side. Add a decent California Cabernet and we had dinner and a game!

Both were excellent! The Giants won to pace the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Giants' third baseman Pablo Sandoval hit for the cycle...the tenth Giant to accomplish the feat since 1883.

It was a good night all around.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chillin' Again

A friend of mine is an award winning home winemaker. He spent Wednesday evening harvesting his Tempranillo and making wine. He answered my question from a month or so ago: "Yes, the crush is late this year" I checked the forecast...

We're warming this week after a couple of cool days...not a lot of heat to ripen the grapes, though afternoon highs will start to rise now.

Forecast matrix for September 15, 2011
While I was dodging thundershowers in Truckee last weekend, it was baking the vineyards in the Napa Valley. I've been down here for four days now, and while catching both noon and primetime newscasts, there hasn't been a single story on this year's crush...

Meanwhile out on the Pacific, things are also a little behind. Members of my online fishing club have just started to chase albacore tuna...most of which are 50-60 miles offshore. This fishery usually begins in mid to late July.

Nearshore waters are a little cooler than usual, consequently the Chinook Salmon are taking their sweet time to move into coastal waters before they push into sweet water for their bash and crash to spawn in their ancestral nursery streams.

Like the salmon swimming upstream, I'm making my annual trip to the Reno Air Races where I expect to see the first Autumnal Light in the High Desert sky...and the "World's Fastest Motorsport"!

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center issued their 90-Day Outlook Discussion today. La Niña is back friends and neighbors. I don't find this surprising given that we've just logged our eighth month in a row of below average temperatures here in Central California!

Pity the Southwest and Southeast. La Niña means their drought and above normal temps will continue.

Looking for the "Silver Lining", Northern Tier states will enjoy good Snowmaking Weather...perhaps a little earlier than usual.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Diffuse Directions

I guess I'm still recovering from my trip to the mountains. You could say I'm a little like a sleepwalker. There, but there's no there there...does that make sense? The only thing lighting me up today is politics, but I try to keep CorduroyPlanet a Politics-Free Zone. All I can do is go grab we go...

The SF Giants suddenly look like last year's model, they've won three in a row, and the batters have come alive! They aren't gaining on the Arizona Diamondbacks who are also on a tear.

Sunday's Formula One Italian Grand Prix was awesome, featuring a daredevil pass for the lead, and good racing from front to back.

After more than two years of sad news from a fading space program, NASA announced a new heavy lift system to fly in six years. This huge rocket will carry the shuttle's replacement Orion, a space capsule for NASA's 21st Century. Russia announced that their Soyuz capsule will resume trips to the International Space Station in November. The noise about abandoning the multi-billion dollar ISS due to lack of resupply was just too disconcerting for my sensibilities!

For the most part, the Tahoe Sierra dodged a big bullet over the past few days. Lots of lightning strikes started a few small fires that fire crews handily doused with the help of lots of soaking rain. Tuesday afternoon one thunderstorm along Interstate 80 was throwing down 650 lightning strikes per hour!

I don't know if the rain made it out to the Black Rock Desert where they're still tidying up after Burning Man, but I found an amazing tidbit from Burning Man's aftermath. 2000 bicycles left behind by the 53K burners will benefit the Reno Bike Collective and other bicycle organizations.

Reno Travis with the 2,000 bicycles left on the playa at Burning Man 2011. Most will go to the Reno Bike Collective and other bike organizations, some will be repainted and added to the BRC Yellow Bike program.
I did the math, in round numbers, one of every 25 burners donated a bicycle. Bless their dusty hearts!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


What is it with our so called Elite Media?

I'm passing the time waiting for the AT&T Tech to call about my DSL problem. I watched the Train Wreck News on TV until 10AM...then switched to FoxNews and it was wall to wall with 9/11 remembrances. Believe me, I still walk around with a heavy heart from that day, but so much "celebrating" reminds me of how far from united we've become...besides I'm up for a happy time while waiting. I don't feel the need to swim in the Maudlin Straits this weekend...or any other weekend for that manner.

I switched over to The History Channel...WTF? They were at it too! Not 9/11 stuff, but a count-down show on the Top Ten Threats to Earth! Each one graphically illustrated in vivid living color and dread.

I'm going to give up on the TV and switch to iTunes (I don't think I can trust the radio either)...KFBK's Outdoor Show should have downloaded by now!

The Modem/Router hangin' with the baking stuff. Too much lightshow for me!
He Shoots-He Scores!
The AT&T Tech was here, DSL wouldn't drop out while she was here, but she did hear static on AT&T's line. The line guys will fix it Monday, and I don't need to be here! She said I'll most likely pick up some more speed once the line is cleared up!