I’m not going to say much about this – you can look at You Tube and the news stations. Some of it will probably be accurate – the longer we get from the event the more accurate it will be.

I had left the airport early today and saw the race planes starting down the chute as we got on the highway. Then half way home we were passed by 4 police cars and 5 emergency vehicles going north toward Stead.

Jimmy Leeward in Galloping Ghost, Race 177 crashed today, just in front of the grandstands. Some friends described it as a violent pitch up followed by a snap roll. From the video it went in almost vertically.

There are mass casualty procedures in effect and area news stations are saying 75 injured with 25 of them critical.

I cannot see how the races will be able to continue this year and the question is whether they can recover to ever be held in the future.

Thoughts and prayers go out to all involved, especially the Leeward family.


6 PM Update – Air Races are cancelled for the weekend. CEO will have another press conference at 7 pm Pacific.

Press Conference results:

54 people transported to hospitals. NTSB has taken over control of the scene. No other numbers are being released by RARA.

Best knowledge is that it was a mechanical issue (which matches up with what my friends reported).

A bunch more inane questions by reporters that are not worth repeating.


5 responses to “Air Races – Friday”

  1. Cedarglen Avatar

    Thanks for your notes and yes, it still hurts. I’ve seen two still pix of the control surface ‘departure.’ If this proves to be the proximate cause, and give the extreme speed with virtually no altitude, Mr. Leeward probably had no opportunity to make a ‘piloting error.’ Even if he had been equipped with an ejection seat, -ah what’s the point? The pilot probably did not have time to make an error. Thanks for your commentary. From other comments, I take it that this is your home field and the Swift’s homebase. A double ouch!! I hope that the organization and events will recover and be able to continue next year. Lastly, a raw opinion. Becasue of the civilian (observer) deaths and many injuries, I suspect that the FAA is going to require even greater distances between participants and observers for future events. While I think that pending rule change is sad, I find zero basis to argue against it. Personally, I would knowingly accept the risks associated with an up-front seat and I certainly understand that they are substantial. Not all observers really do and for that reason alone, the rule makers will probably expand the buffer zone to a near-perfect distance. I see it as sad, but I have no worthy argument against such rule changes. And yes, I’ve personally attended the Reno races twice. Best wishes, Tracy and I hope that your community makes a robust recovery. -Craig

  2. Tracy Avatar

    The challenge is that there is no room to move the grandstands South and because of the terrain it would not be feasible to move the course North – it would require smaller radius turns to stay on the course.
    Even if those changes could be made, I would expect that it would now be very difficult to obtain insurance for the event. I’m sure the RARA board will do whatever they can to keep the event going.



  3. Cedarglen Avatar

    Got it, loud and clear. I don’t have the answers, but I’d hate to see this high-end sport die, for lack of a venue or ‘legal or insurance’ reasons. If it was part of my Fall plan, I’d still attend, even signing a waiver for all liability. Sadly, that’s just not the mass Amerikan way. While the risk, the stastical odds of spectator death or injury at an even such as Reno are far higher than, say basic commercial air travel, those odds are still small enough to be *insignificant*. Per participant, far more folks drown from sport fishing and party fishing boats, than do paid visitors to air races. In recent months, I’ve make some crab-catching expeditions that were *slightly* on the risky side and will not be repeated. I made the trips as a fully informed, responsible adult and I accepted the risks. Serious air races are not a carnival-like sport; they are designed and presented for the serious fan of aircraft performance. Perhaps the organizers of these race events have extended their promotions well beyond those who are seriously interested in flying – just to put a few more bucks into the purse. I don’t know. Where there folks in those close seats who did not appreciate the risks? I’d bank on it. We all have different interests and we accept different degrees of risk. We are old(er) and we have most of our obligations well covered. For us, it really is OK to die, on schedule, or by accident. For much younger folks, the risks are usually ignored or accepted without serious consideration. We of a prior generation have already faced our risks and often know how to avoid them, yet still have a ‘good time.’ I think I’m preaching to the choir director here, so enough. I hope that RARA survives and thrives, if only as a point of competition for those rich boys. I’d buy a seat at a tight pylon if I was in the area. I’d accept the risk as my own and expect to see some damn fast, articulate flying, risks included. And I accept the idea that others may disagree. I’ve said enough; I am sad and I’ll move on. I hope that the GA community at your field is also able to move on. A quick return to normal operations is a good thing, especially for the the brighter heads. -Craig

  4. C172 Pilot Avatar
    C172 Pilot

    I’ve thought about what to say for a week now. It isn’t easy saying anything about a crash. I’m sorry it happened, sorry people were hurt. Hope the results of this crash are not an over the top backlash. My prayers go out to all invoved.

  5. Tracy Avatar


    I understand. There’s not a whole lot that can be said. The accident will be analyzed for months and possible causes determined. And the event organizers will look hard at what they could have done to change the outcome. I’m sure, given past performance, that the courts will attempt to place the blame somewhere and probably get it wrong- they usually do in aviation matters. In the end, I would expect it will be the financial viability of the event that will determine it’s future.