The Reno Air Race Association (RARA) announced on January 4, 2012 the formation of a Blue Ribbon Review Panel to study the events occurring around the tragic accident on September 15, 2011 that took the life of pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 fans on the ground and injured more than 60 spectators.
The panel will examine any possible changes or modifications that could be made to enhance the already high level of safety established by the FAA and existing RARA procedures.
Headed by former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Jim Hall, and former
Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Nick Sabatini, the four members of the panel bring a wide breadth and depth of experience.
The panel also includes Steve Hinton, the current pace plane pilot in the Unlimited Class and a highly‐acclaimed movie stunt pilot, aviation choreographer, two‐time national Unlimited Air Race Champion and John Sharp, an Aeronautical Engineer and a pilot with the most wins in the history of air racing.
RARA also announced that, despite many challenges in the near and long‐term future, they are planning to hold the 49th Annual National Championship Air Races at the Reno‐Stead Airfield.
In a statement made by President and CEO of RARA, Mike Houghton stated, “Buoyed by the overwhelming support of the victims and families of last year’s terrible tragedy, our sponsors, air race participants and fans and aviation enthusiasts all over the world, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to hold this historic event in 2012. The safety of our fans and pilots has always been our foremost and primary concern, which is why we feel so strongly about a blue ribbon review. This effort is not designed to interfere or duplicate the efforts of the National Transportation Safety Board and we will continue to cooperate with them to the fullest extent.”
The panel conducted its first meeting shortly after the press conference and will release its preliminary results and recommendations to RARA within the next 90 days, allowing race officials to study them before the event’s annual Pylon Racing Seminar (PRS) in June, 2012.