Nearly one year ago, a horrific crash at an airplane racing event killed 10 spectators and injured more than 70 more. This morning the National Transportation Safety Board announced the long-anticipated findings of its investigation, concluding that several factors played a role and contributed to the enormous number of deaths and catastrophic injuries.
The crash occurred last September when a World War II P-51 Mustang lost control during a high-speed airplane race in Reno Nevada, slamming into the crowd of spectators. In its report this morning, the NTSB now blames several factors for the tragedy.
The plane bore several structural modifications to make it lighter and more aerodynamic. Further modifications to the trim tab flight controls apparently resulted in a malfunction, rendering the plane unstable and throwing it out of control. The NTSB put the primary blame on this control malfunction.
As the pilot lost control, the plane veered upwards while rolling. Incredible G forces likely caused the pilot to lose consciousness. Loose screws also apparently caused a crucial tail component to fall from the plane. Even if the pilot had still been conscious after the steep climb, he had would have had less than a second to try to avert the crash.
The NTSB stopped short of blaming the pilot but some statements were critical of the modifications. Although the pilot was 74-years-old and apparently misrepresented his age as 59 on his race registry form, the board did not think that his age or physical condition were factors.
Despite the numerous lawsuits and the NTSB's findings, the National Championship Air Races are scheduled to take place once again next month on September 12. Later this week, we will cover the creation of a $77 million fund to compensate crash victims.
Source: ABC News and Associated Press, "NTSB: Trim Tab Failure Caused 2011 Reno Race Crash," Ken Ritter, Aug. 27, 2012