Blue Ribbon Panel Formed by RARA

Jet Class TS-11 Iskra

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.

Steve Hinton - Pilot

T-33 Pace Plane – Unlimited Class

Steve Hinton Sr. – Blue Ribbon Panelist – Unlimited Class Pace Plane Pilot

Landing for Heritage Display – Grumman A-6 Intruder Partially Loaded – All Weather Attack Aircraft for US Navy & US Marine Corps

Tragedy at the Reno Air Races Friday, September 16, 2011

Jimmy Leeward Pilot, Galloping Ghost, Race 177 - Photo taken 9/14/10 by Andy Martin

At approximately 4:20 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16, during Unlimited Class Gold Heat, the P-51 Mustang “Galloping Ghost,” piloted by Jimmy Leeward, crashed into the box seat area in front of the main grandstand.

Jimmy Leeward & Galloping Ghost, 2011 - Photo taken 9/15/11 by Andy Martin

It was a mass casualty situation and local emergency personnel were on the scene immediately.  All aspects of the horrific situation were handled swiftly and professionally by the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) staff.  The Executive Committee, Police Chief, Fire Marshall officials, FAA, NTSB, Reno Mayor and Nevada Governor were convened in the media center to review the situation and prepare official statements.

Mike Houghton, CEO and President of RARA gave two press conferences and extended his deepest sympathies and condolences to all of the families involved in the tragic accident.  “The Air Races are truly one big family and our thoughts are with all of our aviation family members, immediate and extended.” – just some of the official comments provided in last night’s press conference.

Because of this very sad time this is all I can say… For now, you may view the second press conference video from last night here.  (sorry, wordpress is upgrading their system so we can’t upload the video press conference until Monday, September 19, 2011) 

Later I will post many beautiful photographs taken by many of my fellow photographers.

My deepest condolences to those who have lost their loved ones and to the family of Jimmy Leeward.

Kimberley West, WarBiordBabe

Reno 2010 – Another Great Year at the Races!

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This year I had an opportunity to interview more pilots and crew than ever. I am so pleased to post these interviews in their entirety. With special permission from the RARA, I talked more candidly with the pilots and crews in the pits and was not concerned about hitting key points in only 30 seconds.

I really enjoyed hearing the individual stories of past flight experiences, interesting aircraft flown and or tested and what draws pilots and fans to the races each year. I take pleasure in learning more about the illustrious careers of these interesting people and I hope you will as well. I’ll be posting these interviews throughout the next few weeks and months.

Like every year, I wish there were more days to this event. I never seem to meet my goals for those I hope to interview. As the races approach the final two days of events, the crews and pilots are increasingly busy and focused.

This year the pilots and crews were all so very nice and gracious to let me steal a moment of their time – I appreciated every minute. My thanks to all who let me in their world for a moment – I truly loved meeting everyone.

Thank you Reno Air Race Association and all the volunteers, (especially media personnel who shuttle us around for a week) and for coordinating a wonderful event for the world of race fans scattered on every continent – it’s always amazing to see who shows up from where.

I for one think it’s the best spectator sport out there and seems to getting better every year – don’t you think?!

For those who didn’t have the opportunity to be there in person this year, here’s a tiny sliver of what happened for a few days in September, 2010 in Reno…