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Squawks & HeadlinesNTSB: Pilot overwhelmed by g-forces in Reno crash

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NTSB: Pilot overwhelmed by g-forces in Reno crash

Washington (CNN) -- The pilot of the P-51 Mustang that crashed at the Reno Air Races last September experienced overwhelming g-forces at the outset of the incident, and likely was incapacitated almost instantly, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday. (www.cnn.com) More...

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jack mitchell 4
I am in agreement with all of these statements, however I do agree most with James Wallace second statement ! Either accept the risk or stay at home, and if U do go don't try to blame it on to someone else. I am a current pilot, and retired member of Aeronautics Commission so I have seen a few air shows.
preacher1 2
jack: I agree with James too. It's just all a part of the dumbing down of America. There was a beautiful, panoramic vista off a mountainside, not far from my home in Western AR. It is now spoiled by a 4' chainlink fence and signs that say "WARNING, CLIFF, STAY BACK". Duh, as in people can't see
scott moore 5
All aircraft that fly in the GOLD RACE ARE ALL MODIFIED!!!!! I am a PYLON JUDGE of the Races and know all of the racers. It was a tragic Accident that took a friends life!
Robert Frank 2
Are g-suits and the required systems to heavy for use in racing aircraft? Just asking because I don't know.
When you operate equipment at the extreme end of it's capacity and yours (be it airplane, boat, car, etc) there will be failures of equipment or operator. That means there will be crashes and consequences. That is "racing" or demonstration at the ultimate. Anything less is just not exciting. Being safety conscious, yes; being safe, no.
alistairm 2
I know the Blue Angels do not wear g-suits, only because it would be restrictive for the control stick. The same reason could be why the pilots of racers don't wear g-suits. Of course it would add weight to and its all about saving weight;)
chalet 1
I agree with you but the problem is that it is not only the pilot risking his life -and several hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of over-modified monsters- and that is his prerogative- it is the spectators themselves who demand to be as close to the action as possible and when something terrible like this happens, it is too late. Who then I ask, has the authority to push the fans say a mile outside the course and would they obey.
Every air show or air race presents risk to all involved including spectators. The unthinkable will always happen at some point. Accept the risk or stay home. But don't say it's someone else's fault.
Jim Hahn 3
Max I.A.S at 5000 feet is 505 mph for the P51. If you exceed this, you are asking for trouble. Safe airspeed for the P51 at 5000 feet is 480 mph. The speed at which the air load on the wings & other structural members reaches the maximum that these members are designed to carry. Above this speed, the wings & other structural members cannot carry the extreme air loads that develop. The phenomenon of 'compressability'. As is approaches its max safe I.A.S. it loses it efficiency. Compression waves or shock waves develop over the wings & other surfaces of the airplane. The air, instead of following of the air foil seems to split apart. It shoots off at a tangent on both the upper and lower surfaces. The lift characteristics of the plane are largely destroyed and intense drag develops. Thus, stability, control & trim characteristics of the plane are all affected. The tail buffets,or the controls stiffen or the plane develops uncontrollable pitching and porpoising. It's found that at .775 mach, a pull of 10 lbs. was required to maintain a straight forward flight path....facts from the 1944 NA P-51 training manual. Yes, theses great planes are highly modified today, but the basic body shape has never really changed.
Do any of those numbers actually factor in though? 8 of it's 37 foot wingspan was chopped off - the "right trim tab was locked in a faired position", those two alone wildly change it's aerodynamics. This bird (at this point in it's life) was merely 'called' a P-51 and nothing like the original Mustang.
But do any of those numbers (still) factor in correctly? 8 of it's 37 foot wingspan was clipped off; the "right trim tab was locked in a faired position". Those two alone would wildly effect it's flight characteristics. At this point in the plane's life it was merely 'called' a P-51 and far from the original Mustang.
One of the videos show no one in the cockpit!! Where is he? I thought shoulder harnesses would keep him upright! Explanations anyone?
Don Milliken 1
I was in box A29 and will try to go again this year. I outlined below the incident as I recall where a failure at the worst place out of the valley of speed with a sharp pylon turn, most demanding for both pilot and aircraft were exasperated in turbulent air. I believe the NTSB recommendations will improve safety while maintaining the thrill for fans as they witnessing the fastest race.
crk112 1
Planes don't have ACCELERATORS... did they mean it exceeded the limit of the plane's ACCELEROMETER???
Wingscrubber 1
NTSB are saying he was overcome by g-forces which was the cause of the subsequent pitch-up and the trim tab broke off after the fact, I don't buy it, think it happened the other way around, because the aircraft had been modified from its original configuration of having two trim tabs, the single trim tab failed under more than double its normal load, and the resulting severe pitch up almost certainly blacked out the pilot.
Wingscrubber 0
There's more evidence to support the trim tab theory - in 1998, Bob Hannah in 'Voodoo' had a lost a trim tab, was knocked unconscious, woke up at 9000ft.
I don't know however, if it's common to keep one trim tab faired on racers, and whether this was the case on Voodoo or not, but if the trim tab theory is true, it makes it a terrible shame that people have been killed despite foreknowledge of this type of failure within the community.
Jim Hahn 0
thanks Alistair. Iam not looking for a grade.nor did I copy and past. Just trying to supply a little info to what could have happend.good luck with your postings.
Jim Hahn 0
One may also consider inertia coupling this is a potentialy lethal phenomenon of high speed flight in which the inertia of the heavier fuselage overpowers the aerodynamic stabilizing forces of the wing and empennage.The problem became apparnet as single-engine jet aircraft were developed with narrow wing span that had relatively low roll inertia,relative to the pitch and yaw inertia dominated by the long slender high density fuselage.Inertial coupling occurs when an aircraft such as the one described is quickly put into a roll,resulting in violent pitching and yawing,and loss of control as the aircraft rotates on all three axes.The phenomenon itself is not aerodynamic,and is caused by general conservation of angular momentum acting on mass whose radial distribution is not symmetric about the axis of rotation.
chalet 0
I have said this before in this and other blogs but nobody not even among the hard core race pilots, officials, aficionados in general people has come forward to demonstrate that all these extreme modifications (clipping wings, etc.) were first proved to be OK through theoretical structural calculations on the ground and that furthermore wind tunnel testing proved them to be OK too. I hereby submit again that all these modifications have been done on blind faith that the modified aircraft are going to fly safely and of course races won.
R123154 0
Regardless this is still very sad.I would like to know just where the info that the NTSB has came from.Do they have data that was recorded by the aircraft and other photos that haven't been made public?Let me say this,I by far am no expert but being in Aviation all my life I can't help thinking the trim tab was a factor,especially at those speeds.Either way the investigation goes Jimmie will be missed.
alistairm 3
I do beleive that there was a data recorder onboard.
scott moore 2
Most racers have some sort of telemittry on board.
preacher1 2
Ya'll don't get down on Sparkie too hard.LOL. Regardless of whether G-forces got him first and then the trim tab broke from the extra strain, with it gone you might as well say he was along for the ride and Jimmie is still just as dead. Looking at the time frame in the report, IF the G forces had not put him out, I guess he would have pulled on out and taken the strain off the trim tab and kept flying, but there are a lot of IF's in todays world.
alistairm 1
THe NTSB report states that the trim tab came off 6 seconds into the accident sequence. THe report also shows that the pilot - by all visual evidence - was unconcious just 2 seconds into the accident sequence.
Let's see the autopsy. Will not happen. Here is a better lie - the aircraft entered a microburst windshear of extreme density altitude causing engine suffication and complete loss of lift. Try and shove that down everybody's throat. Sheesh, at least try and lie a little better. FACT - mecganical failure and or combination. SEAT & control surfaces.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

alistairm 5
wow, that is a pretty arrogant statement. With all your years of aircraft accident investigation experience, please do tell us exactly what caused the crash?
sparkie624 -9
The pilot was very well trained, he knew what he was doing... He was able to get the plane to a location as far away as he could to minimize loss of life. I personally feel that he had a medical issue. I feel if it was a case of G-Forces that he would not have been able to control the plane as well as he did.
Tim Smith 8
And you know this from watching the youtube videos?
linbb 2
Gee now we know the real cause, sparkie your name says it all no dummy he was out like the burned out light bulb you can clearly see from the pix but hey you dont know the first thing about flying so go find another blog.
chalet 1
You don't know what the hell you are talking about, go fly a kite or a paper plane
linbb 1
When are you going to work for them so they can get it right??? You and sparkey can do it all.
Can anyone explain in one of the videos the pilot is absent from the cockpit. Shouldn't shoulder harnesses have kept him upright even if he was unconcious?
Don Milliken 4
The P51 Mustang seat has pins that will shear when exceeding 9+ G's. As Jimmy was making the pylon turn coming out of the "valley of speed" he was also preparing to pass Rare Bare making this hardest pylon more of a challenge in "rough air". You see the aircraft quickly exceed 90 degrees, wash out (heavy G force at that point). Jimmy did get a RH roll control correction that the aircraft maintained till impact, however that wash out was where the G load was too great putting him out, shearing the seat pins forcing him down, releasing the tail gear, over stressing the down forces on the trim tab breaking it off. There was telemetry equipment on the aircraft, I am sure the NTSB in this preliminary release matched it up, however the photographic evidence already supports this.
john cook 1
Dons got it right.But the seat wasn't stock so i dought it had shear pins.
If you have ever seen Jim flying the ghost he aways leaned froward in the cockpit when racing.
The report says OVER 9G. It's also the sudden onset of high G's.that get you.
There are only a handfull of pilots that can handle a highly modified high G race plane and Jimmy Was at the top of that list PERIOD.
R123154 1
You guys know more than I do for sure so I want to ask why there are shear pins on the seat?