The future of Unlimited air racing

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If your goal is to eliminate all risk from racing, I don't think that's reasonable. Indeed, in many cases a "safety airplane" has been found to be less-safe than a more-conventional alternative.

You've found one case of a crash due to hindered visibility. And one more (and thirty years old at that) attributed to wake turbulence. I don't see how these examples provide a call for significant change in racing. Airplanes crash. Airplanes crash even if they're not racing. It's absolutely impossible to eliminate risk from any endeavour - the race pilots could be killed on the drive to the airport as easily as in their highly-tuned, highly-inspected race aircraft.

40,000 people a year are killed in auto accidents in the United States alone. If your real goal is saving human life, why are you pursuing air racing (and Reno in particular) as some horrific risk about which "something" needs to be done?

What is your real goal with your posts here?
Actually, it is now under 40,000 a year who get killed in road accidents. It used to be over 50,000.

Seat belts, by the way, became standard equipment in cars because John Stapp discovered the Air Force was losing more pilots annually in road accidents than aviation accidents.
 

Topaz

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One crash is all I need. "A wise man expects the unexpected." ...
Well, you're entitled to your opinion, of course, but I disagree. Using "one crash" as a reason to "trash" the methods of an entire industry does not seem realistic to me, again, because it's a fallacy to believe that all risk can be eliminated or even forseen.

Just out of curiosity, are you now or do you intend to become a race pilot?
 
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Well, you're entitled to your opinion, of course, but I disagree. Using "one crash" as a reason to "trash" the methods of an entire industry does not seem realistic to me, again, because it's a fallacy to believe that all risk can be eliminated or even forseen.

Just out of curiosity, are you now or do you intend to become a race pilot?
I wasn't referring to an "entire industry." I was referring to air racing.
 

jlknolla

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NO, we're NOT discussing a solution in search of a problem.

One of the FATAL crashes at Reno involved a pilot blinded by leaking oil.

September 12th, 1994: William “Bill” Speer, 48, of La Mesa, California – Flying a North American P-51D, registered as N51U, the pilot collided with level terrain while approaching runway 8 at the Reno-Stead Airport during the in qualification heats at 1:17 in the afternoon. According to race control authorities, Speer pulled up off the race course and transmitted a "Mayday" distress call, and indicated the airplane's windscreen was covered with oil and he could not see. Another race pilot was maneuvering his airplane to join Speer's airplane and planned to assist the accident pilot land on the runway, and noticed that Speer's airplane was right of the runway extended center-line, and directed him to turn left. Then, the plane's rate of descent "increase sharply,” and proceeded to collide with the ground in a "20-25 degree" nose-down attitude, and broke apart on impact. The NTSB determined the probable cause of this crash to be Speer's failure to maintain aircraft control during an attempted forced landing, and contributing factors were the failure of a propeller blade-feathering oil seal which leaked oil on the windshield, obscuring the pilot's vision.
First, let us begin with the obvious difference between a 'contributing factor' and 'probable cause'. A sudden pitch 20-25 degrees nose down following an attempt to turn into the runway is not a visibility problem, it is a loss of control/loss of flying speed problem, pure and simple, nothing more. These words have specific and important meanings in this context.

What our intrepid poster failed to uncover in the 2 second Google search is that even though the oil leak and reduced visibility were not determined to be the cause of the accident, the RARA/Air Race community reacted to a potential problem following this accident by adding a windshield washer system designed to spray solvent or fuel onto the windscreen and letting propwash blow any oil off. It is a simple system comprising a small tank/reservoir, a pump and nozzle, and a switch.

Simply put, the perceived problem was solved, nearly a decade ago, without having to move the engine behind the pilot, without adding a synthetic vision system, without adding an ejectable pilot capsule, without a call for fences, without a switch to unducted fans, and most importantly, without a return to unproven WWII or Pre-WWII airframes like the Mikoyan I-250 (MiG-13), Zimmer Skimmer or Bugatti 100p.

While Google is good for finding accident reports, it can only find things which have been written about - search for the wrong term, or choose not to search for the fix, and one can be blind-sided when actual knowledge/facts are brought to bear on opinion, supposition and innuendo.

This is but one example, of many which could be brought to bear on the specious arguments being presented, as well as the 'solutions', which are being suggested without any apparent comprehension of the physics of flight or design challenges involved, and without any apparent knowledge, understanding or appreciation of the evolution of technical and operational approaches to air racing over the past 50 years.

In particular, I am personally offended at the characterizations of the aviation and Air Race communities in general, and of the accident pilot in particular, by this one poster as 'arrogant' or insinuating that the aircraft was 'untested' - both simply not being borne out by the facts.

Having been chosen to lead 2 flight test incident investigation boards for turbine aircraft OEM's over the years, and having participated in roughly half-a-dozen other investigations and tiger team efforts following flight test incidents, I feel qualified to point out that the 'ready, fire, aim' approach being advocated by one poster, especially in light of the questionable value of the suggestions being shotgunned by that same poster, is simply ridiculous and adds no value.

In an incident/accident investigation NOTHING happens beyond a decision about whether or not to require a safety stand down until all of the facts are gathered. This evidence/fact gathering would, in the case of GG, include gathering and examining all the debris, any/all telemetry data, all video and still photo evidence, any audio evidence, any radio calls, and all eyewitness descriptions. This element alone can take days, weeks, even months.

In terms of pure technical reasoning, I would not suggest a stand down following the GG accident, but I would understand and accept if that were part of the process given the high-profile nature of the accident.

Once the data is gathered and evaluated, the board reconstructs a timeline, looking for any physical/technical or operational issues, this might include interviews of subject matter experts.

Once the timeline is completed and a technical/physical or operational reason identified (if any), the board can then issue a probable cause. Then, a larger group examines what if anything could be done in technical/physical and/or operational terms to address the probable cause. If any of the possible changes can be implemented without themselves adding more risk than they reduce, they will probably be adopted. But this takes a coordinated and focused effort and that means time.

This is the process, in a nutshell, that follows nearly every aircraft accident, be it an ultralight/LSA, an experimental, a spamcan from Wichita or Vero, even military and commercial aircraft, and yes, even racing aircraft. These investigations can take anywhere from weeks to months, sometimes even years to complete depending on resources available, complexity of the issue, etc.

This is how we went from barely travelling 120 feet, to being able to go to the moon and back, in less than 70 years.

This is how we went from no regulations, to simple rules, to the CAR-3 spec, to FAR 21, 23 and 25, etc.

It is how travel by air went from an oddity at barnstorming shows, to a normal way of travel resulting in millions of passenger-miles flown with an amazing safety record.

It is, simply put, a measured, informed, evolutionary process.

There is such an immense body of knowledge in play here, that those of us with decades of direct experience in industry are not typically able to manage it all as individuals without reference to countless reports, advisory circulars, rulebooks, texts, and personal networks.

So forgive me if I have zero faith in the ability of someone who does not appear to be a pilot, maintainer, engineer or designer with any relevant experience to prognosticate on cause, let alone to make what are truly laughable recommendations about how to move forward that display an appalling lack of comprehension/appreciation for the physics and energies involved.
 
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First, let us begin with the obvious difference between a 'contributing factor' and 'probable cause'. A sudden pitch 20-25 degrees nose down following an attempt to turn into the runway is not a visibility problem, it is a loss of control/loss of flying speed problem, pure and simple, nothing more. These words have specific and important meanings in this context.

What our intrepid poster failed to uncover in the 2 second Google search is that even though the oil leak and reduced visibility were not determined to be the cause of the accident, the RARA/Air Race community reacted to a potential problem following this accident by adding a windshield washer system designed to spray solvent or fuel onto the windscreen and letting propwash blow any oil off. It is a simple system comprising a small tank/reservoir, a pump and nozzle, and a switch.

Simply put, the perceived problem was solved, nearly a decade ago, without having to move the engine behind the pilot, without adding a synthetic vision system, without adding an ejectable pilot capsule, without a call for fences, without a switch to unducted fans, and most importantly, without a return to unproven WWII or Pre-WWII airframes like the Mikoyan I-250 (MiG-13), Zimmer Skimmer or Bugatti 100p.

While Google is good for finding accident reports, it can only find things which have been written about - search for the wrong term, or choose not to search for the fix, and one can be blind-sided when actual knowledge/facts are brought to bear on opinion, supposition and innuendo.

This is but one example, of many which could be brought to bear on the specious arguments being presented, as well as the 'solutions', which are being suggested without any apparent comprehension of the physics of flight or design challenges involved, and without any apparent knowledge, understanding or appreciation of the evolution of technical and operational approaches to air racing over the past 50 years.

In particular, I am personally offended at the characterizations of the aviation and Air Race communities in general, and of the accident pilot in particular, by this one poster as 'arrogant' or insinuating that the aircraft was 'untested' - both simply not being borne out by the facts.

Having been chosen to lead 2 flight test incident investigation boards for turbine aircraft OEM's over the years, and having participated in roughly half-a-dozen other investigations and tiger team efforts following flight test incidents, I feel qualified to point out that the 'ready, fire, aim' approach being advocated by one poster, especially in light of the questionable value of the suggestions being shotgunned by that same poster, is simply ridiculous and adds no value.

In an incident/accident investigation NOTHING happens beyond a decision about whether or not to require a safety stand down until all of the facts are gathered. This evidence/fact gathering would, in the case of GG, include gathering and examining all the debris, any/all telemetry data, all video and still photo evidence, any audio evidence, any radio calls, and all eyewitness descriptions. This element alone can take days, weeks, even months.

In terms of pure technical reasoning, I would not suggest a stand down following the GG accident, but I would understand and accept if that were part of the process given the high-profile nature of the accident.

Once the data is gathered and evaluated, the board reconstructs a timeline, looking for any physical/technical or operational issues, this might include interviews of subject matter experts.

Once the timeline is completed and a technical/physical or operational reason identified (if any), the board can then issue a probable cause. Then, a larger group examines what if anything could be done in technical/physical and/or operational terms to address the probable cause. If any of the possible changes can be implemented without themselves adding more risk than they reduce, they will probably be adopted. But this takes a coordinated and focused effort and that means time.

This is the process, in a nutshell, that follows nearly every aircraft accident, be it an ultralight/LSA, an experimental, a spamcan from Wichita or Vero, even military and commercial aircraft, and yes, even racing aircraft. These investigations can take anywhere from weeks to months, sometimes even years to complete depending on resources available, complexity of the issue, etc.

This is how we went from barely travelling 120 feet, to being able to go to the moon and back, in less than 70 years.

This is how we went from no regulations, to simple rules, to the CAR-3 spec, to FAR 21, 23 and 25, etc.

It is how travel by air went from an oddity at barnstorming shows, to a normal way of travel resulting in millions of passenger-miles flown with an amazing safety record.

It is, simply put, a measured, informed, evolutionary process.

There is such an immense body of knowledge in play here, that those of us with decades of direct experience in industry are not typically able to manage it all as individuals without reference to countless reports, advisory circulars, rulebooks, texts, and personal networks.

So forgive me if I have zero faith in the ability of someone who does not appear to be a pilot, maintainer, engineer or designer with any relevant experience to prognosticate on cause, let alone to make what are truly laughable recommendations about how to move forward that display an appalling lack of comprehension/appreciation for the physics and energies involved.
National (Thompson trophy) air races in 1930 through 1939 killed one pilot. At that rate, it would've taken the Thompson trophy races 170 years to kill as many pilots as have died at Reno. Since 1972, Reno on average kills one pilot every other year. While over the last thirty years safety in major professional car and boat racing has gotten progressively better, air racing safety has gotten worse.

http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/Tragedy-at-Reno.html
"People are drawing parallels between the air races and car races. There is a considerable difference. Most racing car series are based on purpose designed and built cars. Racing cars in this day and age are designed and built by teams of true professional engineers. You can witness the success of the designs by how many drivers now walk away unhurt from major race car crashes. The large teams of people that designed and built the original airplanes that the Unlimited air racers are based on were also true professional engineers. Those engineers could not foresee the use their designs would be put to in Unlimited racing. The problem with Unlimited racers is that they are VERY heavily modified from the stock airplanes. While the Unlimited teams have a lot of experience, most do not have the depth of knowledge in all the disciplines of aeronautical engineering to design and build fully safe modifications to these airframes."
 

Monty

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that's not what I asked, what do you propose? I know of a lot of problems in the world....Workable solutions are another thing entirely.

You point out a lot of problems...you are really short on solutions.

So let's hear your solutions.
 
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that's not what I asked, what do you propose? I know of a lot of problems in the world....Workable solutions are another thing entirely.

You point out a lot of problems...you are really short on solutions.

So let's hear your solutions.
So far all I hear is the "experts" saying there is no problem. Why don't you ask them why one pilot every other year does not represent a problem? Given the supposed seventy years of progress since the thirties Thompson trophy races.
 

Topaz

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>>> MODERATOR ANNOUNCEMENT - THREAD IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED <<<

This discussion is going round and round with no clear motion in any particular direction. Everyone has adequately expressed their opinions, and we've had some warnings and such issued for TOS violations in this thread.

I'm imposing a temporary "cooling-off" period on this thread until 6pm Pacific Time tomorrow, October 17th. If the discussion continues in this vein after that re-opening, I'll close the thread for good.
 

Topaz

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Okay guys, this thread is now reopened. Please keep the discussion on-topic, constructive, and non-personal, or it'll be shut down for good. Please refer to the TOS for more information.
 

jlknolla

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Just an FYI, the RARA/Air Race community has been invited to participate in the Nevada Governor's Banquet as a show of support for the races and to help raise funds for the Think Kindness Family Assistance Fund for victims and families effected by the crash as well as the victims of the tragic Carson City IHOP shootings.

Mike Houghton, RARA CEO has been personally invited to attend by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

I take this as a good sign and encourage anyone interested and able to attend to show support for the victims and their families as well as the Air Races.

The charity can be contacted at:
Home | ThinkKindness.org | Helping | Children | Donate

Also, there is the site I posted up where you can purchase amazing photos of Reno which have been donated by some of the best aviation photographers out there (all proceeds to victims and families):
LOADEDTV
 

jlknolla

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Here is an article from the local Reno paper about a family of race fans who were all injured, and lost their mother to the accident last month.

Family members who lost limbs, mother in Reno Air Race crash: "I can’t imagine this happening in a better place" | Reno Gazette-Journal | rgj.com

I think it sets a good tone about the future of Unlimited Racing. The letter from the family to the community of Reno is amazing.

Interestingly, the Reno Gazzette Journal is not seen by the Air Race community as particularly supportive - some consider it hostile to the races in fact, so call this a random act of good journalism.
 

Toobuilder

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... These are not frivolous lawsuits.
If the injured were there against their will, and it was the defendants in the case that forced them there, then I agree.

This is like running with the bulls in Spain and then crying because you got stepped on.
 

autoreply

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Aside from the deaths, there were people maimed with permanent life altering injuries. There is medical expenses, prosthetics, and rehabilitation to be paid for. These are not frivolous lawsuits.
I think this and the 25 million are mutually exclusive and while claiming injuries, disability and so on seems perfectly reasonable to me, 25 million for a lost loved one seems a bit steep to me. But I won't get into whining about the US legal system again. Let me just note that in a similar case here, if you could convince a judge, you'd be lucky is you'd get 25,000 euro's...
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The family of a Texas man killed when a racing aircraft crashed into spectators in the National Championship Air Races in Reno filed a $25 million lawsuit Tuesday against the pilot's family, a mechanic on the World War II-era aircraft and the Nevada organization that hosted the event.

The lawsuit filed in Collin County, Texas, is believed to be the first stemming from the Sept. 16 crash of pilot Jimmy Leeward's P-51D Mustang during air races at Reno-Stead Airport. Eleven people died, including Leeward, 74, of Ocala, Fla. At least 74 were hurt.

"Some people say this was an accident," said Houston-based attorney Tony Buzbee, who filed the civil liability lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Sezen Altug, a physician and widow of dead spectator Craig Salerno, and their two children, ages 6 and 8. "But it seems to me the formula that they created made an accident inevitable."

Leeward's son, Kent Leeward, declined comment on the lawsuit, which names Texas-based mechanic Richard Shanholtzer Jr., the Reno Air Racing Association, another Leeward son, Dirk Leeward, Leeward Racing Inc. and family corporations in Florida, and Aeroacoustics Inc., an aircraft parts maker in Washington state.

Reno Air Racing Association chief executive Michael Houghton said he hadn't seen the lawsuit but offered "condolences to the families and fans that were affected by this devastating tragedy."

"We fully expect a number of lawsuits to be filed," Houghton told The Associated Press. "This is the first."

Shanholtzer and an Aeroacoustics official did not immediately respond to messages.

Salerno, 50, of Friendswood, Texas, was a dispatcher for Continental Airlines and a lieutenant for a volunteer fire department who also volunteered at an annual Houston air show and was an avid racing pilot. He attended the Reno event with a friend who was hospitalized with critical injuries after the crash.

Speaking for Salerno's family, Buzbee said in a telephone interview that no amount of money could fix the "huge gaping hole ripped from their lives."

The attorney said he wanted to hold "two groups of wrongdoers" accountable: "Those who pushed the limits of physics on the plane, being risk takers and reckless without regard for the people who might be watching them, and those who promoted and profited from hosting the show."

Buzbee also raised questions about the independence of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, pointing to evidence that the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority has lobbyists in Washington with ties to the NTSB. Neither the airport nor the federal investigative board was named in the lawsuit.

"A NTSB investigation should not be subject to the efforts of lobbyists," Buzbee said in an Oct. 25 letter to Howard Plagens, the chief NTSB investigator in the Reno crash. "Who will be the lobbyist for the victims?"

NTSB officials did not immediately respond Tuesday to messages seeking comment.

Records show the Reno airport authority paid $62,000 in 2011 to three Washington lobbying firms — Gephardt Group, Porter Group and Akerman, Senterfitt & Eidson — to handle transportation funding issues before Congress. Gephardt Group is headed by former Democratic House majority leader and presidential candidate Dick Gephardt of Missouri. Former Nevada Republican Congressman Jon Porter heads the Porter Group.

Airport spokesman Brian Kulpin acknowledged that one of the airport's lobbyists hired Peter Goelz, a senior executive at the O'Neill and Associates in Washington and former NTSB official, as a consultant "to interpret the NTSB process."

"There is no lobbying taking place in regards to the air race crash issue at all," Kulpin said. "They're seeking guidance in the NTSB investigation process."

NTSB findings have not been made public and a ruling on the cause of the crash is pending.

Board officials said last month that while investigators found no readable onboard video amid the debris of the crashed aircraft, technicians were still trying to extract information from an onboard data memory card from Leeward's plane.

Leeward was a veteran movie stunt pilot and air racer who competed at the Reno air races since 1975. He said in interviews before the air races that that he hoped modifications to the aircraft he named "The Galloping Ghost" would help win the championship.

The fateful flight was captured on photos and video by hundreds of spectators, and a NTSB board member said investigators found a piece that apparently fell off the tail of as it went out of control.

Photos showed a tail part known as an elevator trim tab missing as the plane climbed sharply, then rolled and plunged nose-first at more than 400 mph into box seats on the tarmac in front of the center of the grandstands. Dead and injured people were scattered widely, but there was no fire.
 

bmcj

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This is like running with the bulls in Spain and then crying because you got stepped on.
I don't know if I would equate "the running of the bulls" with "the air races" for assumption of risk, but I still agree with your basic premise.
 
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