Reno Air Race Blue Ribbon Report Focuses on Safety

 - May 28, 2012, 4:45 PM
Reno Air Race Association's blue-ribbon panel provided 15 recommendations to improve safety.

In its final report of its review of the Reno Air Race Association (RARA) and the National Air Championship Races, the blue ribbon review panel formed by the RARA recognized that the element of safety is “contextually different” than typically encountered at some other aviation events and offered 15 recommendations to improve safety. The RARA released the panel’s report last week.

The four-member panel’s findings follow an NTSB report in April on a number of inconsistencies unearthed during its investigation of the fatal crash of The Galloping Ghost, pilot Jimmy Leeward’s highly modified P-51D Mustang, killing himself and 10 others at the the Reno Air Races last year.

The RARA panel’s mandate was to “review the entirety of the National Championship Air Races, from race course design to qualifying procedures to safety precautions to team qualifications [and] identify areas that might be able to be improved upon to further enhance the level of safety at the event.” Among the panel’s recommendations was creation of positions for a director of safety and a director of aerospace medicine within the RARA. The aerospace medicine director, said the panel, will review issues, such as pilot age and medical status, to determine if any changes need to be made. It also wants to see the association implement a safety management system, a step that is already underway.

The panel further noted many of the airplanes involved in the races are experimental. To ensure that race aircraft meet safety standards, it recommended that “RARA should require any [highly modified] aircraft provide, as part of the RARA application process, the FAA-approved substantiation, testing and approvals for said alterations.”