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NTSB Closer to Finding Cause of Reno Air Race Crash

Posted by bvalaw on August 27, 2012

When a plane crashed into the crowd at last year’s Reno Air show eleven people were killed, including the pilot of the plane involved, and over 70 were injured. The disaster naturally raised questions concerning the cause of the crash and the safety of spectators at similar events.

The National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) released its preliminary report last week. Although the investigation is ongoing, the NTSB is focusing on loose screws on the elevator trim that helps control the plane. It was clear at the time of the accident that part of the elevator trim broke off the plane. The elevator is the hinged portion of the horizontal stabilizer, and it controls the plane’s pitch (or up and down motion).

Inspectors noted during the pre-show inspections that screws on the right elevator trim were too short. The problems that can result when a screw doesn’t sufficiently feed through a bolt are obvious, particularly in a part under such stress. The plane was traveling over 500 mph at the time of the crash.

This weakness should have been corrected before the plane was permitted to take off at the air show. It wasn’t. And, apparently there were not any required follow up inspections done or other procedures in place to ensure that the deficiencies were actually remedied before the show.

Hopefully, the lessons learned from this tragedy will result in more stringent participation and inspection standards for all air shows.

If you have any questions about this or any other aviation issue, please contact William Angelley at (214) 826-5400.