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'it Was Like A Bomb Went Off': 75 Injured And 'multiple Fatalities' At Air Show Horror As Pilot, 74, Crashes World War Ii Plane Into Crowd

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2038452/Mass-casualty-situation-Officials-say-75-injured-Reno-air-race-crash.html

Three people confirmed dead at the scene

56 injury victims taken to three hospitals by emergency crews; more in private vehicles

15 in critical condition, 13 in serious condition with potentially life-threatening injuries and 28 non-serious or non-life threatening

Air races attracted scrutiny in the past over safety concerns, including four pilots killed in 2007 and 2008

An horrific accident.

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An 80 year old pilot sporting a wig is a surefire way of making an accident happen. His wig probably slipped down over his eyes during a loop the loop. Could I suggest a upper age limit for pilots in air displays of 35. I think 80 is too old or is that ageist ?

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An 80 year old pilot sporting a wig is a surefire way of making an accident happen. His wig probably slipped down over his eyes during a loop the loop. Could I suggest a upper age limit for pilots in air displays of 35. I think 80 is too old or is that ageist ?

It does seem rather likely that his age and physical well being has had a bearing at the accident. Bit silly having OAPs doing this sort of stuff in front of crowds - who probably had no idea a 74 yr old was about to kill them.

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An 80 year old pilot sporting a wig is a surefire way of making an accident happen. His wig probably slipped down over his eyes during a loop the loop. Could I suggest a upper age limit for pilots in air displays of 35. I think 80 is too old or is that ageist ?

Probably. WW2 types were tricky to fly and the P51 was the ultimate development of the prop driven fighter.It's more likely that experience is the key.At 80 he was most likely too young to have flown in combat conditions where the survivors would have been the best pilots.There are so many things to go wrong on a plane approaching 70 years old.More likely mechanical/structural failure.

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There are so many things to go wrong on a plane approaching 70 years old.More likely mechanical/structural failure.

There are so many things to go wrong on a human approaching 70 years old when they are performing acrobatic manoeuvres.

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Probably. WW2 types were tricky to fly and the P51 was the ultimate development of the prop driven fighter.It's more likely that experience is the key.At 80 he was most likely too young to have flown in combat conditions where the survivors would have been the best pilots.There are so many things to go wrong on a plane approaching 70 years old.More likely mechanical/structural failure.

Indeed, there is a trade-off between ultimate fitness and experience. An older experienced pilot could well be safer than a young inexperienced one. Experience can often outweigh fast reactions.

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Having been on the Python rollercoaster at Drayton Manor Park and Zoo a few years back I consider myself an expert in these matters.

Even at a comparitively young age, I felt like my brain was going to burst, so god knows what the effect of acrobatics is on an 80 year old.

Anyway :

Mechanical failure, does that normally result in the plane nose diving into the ground ? I would have thought that normally as the pilot fights for control the plane is all over the place. I guess if the thingys were stuck in the down position it could result in this.

Shame about the old guy, the people that got killed on the ground and the plane. Going to watch airshows, car racing etc is not risk free.

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I was at the RAF Brawdy air show when the jet went into the sea off Newgale beach, my dad was chatting to eye witness who actually saw the plane go into the sea, the pilots could not eject fast enough before the plane crashed. I remember the sea smelling of kerosene for days after.

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Indeed, there is a trade-off between ultimate fitness and experience. An older experienced pilot could well be safer than a young inexperienced one. Experience can often outweigh fast reactions.

Great, I'll let my dad know his retirement ideas as a fighter pilot/racing driver are not over yet.

Seriously though, I think there is a trade off between experience and ability to withstand physical stress. Being able to withstand the physical stress is a minimum requirement.

I don't think this guy probably lacked experience, he'd been a stunt pilot and probably had more hours in the air than a lot of military pilots.

FTR I think the historical tradeoff between experience and fitness in these kind of situations is interesting. It seems to me like the best age for airline pilots/surgeons etc is mid forties to mid fifties. Old enough to have the experience but young enough to still do the job. I think in the recent plane crash in the altantic one of the problems was that the younger pilots who had less experience were at the controls while the older captain was in the back and didn't enter the flight seat.

Also if you look at the moon landings most of the guys selected were all approx. 40 (apart from Shepard who was a bit older at 47). Old enough to have gained significant experience but not so old that they could not take the physical demands of reentry at 10g or whatever.

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Having been on the Python rollercoaster at Drayton Manor Park and Zoo a few years back I consider myself an expert in these matters.

Even at a comparitively young age, I felt like my brain was going to burst, so god knows what the effect of acrobatics is on an 80 year old.

Anyway :

Mechanical failure, does that normally result in the plane nose diving into the ground ? I would have thought that normally as the pilot fights for control the plane is all over the place. I guess if the thingys were stuck in the down position it could result in this.

Shame about the old guy, the people that got killed on the ground and the plane. Going to watch airshows, car racing etc is not risk free.

An experienced pilot (I believe he was 74, not 80) will know his physical limits and fly appropriately, but no amount of experience can compensate for a catastrophic mechanical failure.

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Th Hudson River landing pilot was 58.A brilliant piece of flying.Even a degree or two different on the approach and it would have smashed to bits.

And also a clever piece of aircraft design. The Airbus A320 family has a (thankfully, little used) feature called a 'ditch switch', which, when operated, seals all openings in the fuselage and makes it watertight, thereby enabling it to float if its structural integrity survives a water landing. The engine nacelles are also designed to shear off without taking any of the pylon or wing with them. The equivalent features were not found in any other mass-production airliner: Boeing in particular decided that the chances of a plane surviving a water landing with fuselage intact were so low that it wasn't worth the expense of adding this feature. If the Hudson 'flying boat' had been a 737, it probably would either have cartwheeled when the engine nacelles made contact with the water and broken up, or started to sink almost immediately after coming to a stop.

As for this accident, the age of the plane would only have been a factor if it wasn't maintained properly. Any aircraft can be kept airworthy more or less indefintiely and as safe as the day it was built, if you're prepared to spend enough money. There are DC-3s built in the 1940s that are still in revenue-earning service. The real problem is that as fewer of a given type are left in service, there are less and less engineers around who are type-rated to maintain them. Eventually, when there are only a few classics left in the air, the engineers working on them are learning as they go from surviving manuals and other training materials, rather than being taught by people who built up a lot of experience on them when they were in mainstream use. As a result, there is a greater risk that maintenance procedures will be carried out incorrectly. That's essentially what happened when a restored DC-3 crashed in Germany a couple of years ago (thankfully, with only minor injuries): they later found that the flap control mechanism had been calibrated incorrectly. If memory serves me correctly, a restored Spitfire was crashed and written off (both plane and pilot, sadly) at an airshow in Britain quite recently, and for similar reasons.

The moral of all these stories is that flying restored classic planes in close proximity to crowds (as in, low and right over them) is an unnecessary risk, IMO. I remember thinking that when they flew a Lancaster and some Spitfires over Central London during the Royal Wedding.

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Probably. WW2 types were tricky to fly and the P51 was the ultimate development of the prop driven fighter.

I remember reading a book by Richard Bach years ago where he wrote about how many Mustangs had crashed since WWII, including his. It seems to be the piston-engined equivalent of trying to keep an F-16 flying as a private jet with a lot of highly-stressed hardware that can go wrong.

The real question is why he was in a position to crash into the crowd, as air shows have been designed to eliminate such risks since the big crashes of the 50s.

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He does not appear to have gained enoug height before coming back down - a common issue where pilots believe they are higher than they actually are. Possible that he momentarily blacked out or blacked out completely. Eyewitnesses say they say him wrestling with the controls but I doubt there was enough time for people to see such a thing.

Whatever, he was simply too low and the moment he turned he was doomed. You can see a number of similar cfrashes at various air shows. Think the Russian or Ukraine one with the MIG is typical of this.

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BTW For those who are interested in the cause of the accident, from photos of the event it looks like the stabiliser trim tab broke off. This happened on another P-51, causing a 10G nose pitch. It doesnt matter how young or fit you are, you'll pass out when that happens. And even if you didn't, you wouldn't be able to control a P-51 after that.

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Related to my post yesterday, here is a story in yesterday's Telegraph about a Spitfire buried in tidal sands after it crash-landed on a beach in 1940, that has just been restored to airworthiness; cost, 'a lot', and almost certainly in the millions. This for an aircraft that cost the equivelant of £455k in today's money when bought new from the factory. So pretty much anything that ever flew can be put back into the air with enough money, but all the money in the world cannot buy you the expertise of a critical mass of pilots and engineers who work on the type day in, day out for years. I wouldn't be surprised if they find out that the control pulley for that stabiliser tab on the Mustang had been tensioned wrongly, or that there's a little-known trick you won't find in the service manual about how to mount it, or that for some peculiar reason you need to keep inspecting it very closely, etc. etc.

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And also a clever piece of aircraft design. The Airbus A320 family has a (thankfully, little used) feature called a 'ditch switch', which, when operated, seals all openings in the fuselage and makes it watertight, thereby enabling it to float if its structural integrity survives a water landing. The engine nacelles are also designed to shear off without taking any of the pylon or wing with them.

I believe that the ditch switch wasn't activated in that flight, and it was said (either by the pilot or the investigation) that it wouldn't have made any difference if it had been due to rather large holes than the ones it closed being torn open. Amazing bit of piloting though.

Good point about experience improving skills. I'm interested in old mines. One book I've got was written by someone from a family of miners in the Lake District (he died in th 70s, I think), and because that was a physically demanding job as well as a skilled one this guy's father told him that by the time someone had enough experience to be a really good miner they were too past it physically to be a really good miner. Probably not the same these days with the machinery although as recent events have tragically demonstrated it's still a dangerous job.

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I used to complain about just how far away we were from the aircraft when I went to these types of displays but having seen the devastation perhaps health and safety in this instance is correct.

This is why planes don't get close to the crowd at British airshows anymore:

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Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear....

In a podcast uploaded to YouTube in June, Leeward said major changes were made to the plane before this year's race. He said his crew cut five feet off each wing and shortened the ailerons -- the back edge of the main wings used to control balance -- to 32 inches, down from about 60 inches.

The goal was to make the plane more aerodynamic so it goes faster without a bigger engine.

"I know the speed. I know it'll do the speed. The systems aren't proven yet. We think they're going to be OK," he said.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/09/17/federal-investigators-looking-into-what-caused-deadly-crash-at-air-show/#ixzz1YKeSgLri

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Looks like the pilot thought he could re-design and re-engineer a perfectly good a/c.

Except, as someone mentioned above, there are photos showing part of the elevator separating from the aircraft so it looks like the wings and ailerons had nothing to do with the crash.

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