A month after the NTSB issued their recommendations, the Reno Air Racing Association's own blue ribbon panel came out with theirs. As Blue Ribbon Panel member Nick Sabatini announced, "Many of the recommendations made by the blue ribbon review team are similar to the recommendations issued by the NTSB in early April."
The NTSB pushed for technical evaluation of planes, making sure problems were corrected, high g force training, G-suits for pilots, studying course design, moving a fuel truck away from spectators and a better barricade in front of the stands. The blue ribbon panel seconded most of those, but added a director of medicine to check pilot age and certification, safety drills, and an annual race course review:
-Engineering evaluation for planes
-Track problems & verify they were resolved.
-High G-force training to pilots.
-Consider G suits for pilots.
-Evaluate race course design.
-Move fuel truck away.
-Install new barriers.
BLUE RIBBON PANEL ADDITIONS:
-Add Director of Medicine
-Hold safety drills
-Annual race course reviews
Reno Air Races President and CEO Mike Houghton announced they've already decided to move the race course further north away from spectators, but no G-suits for all pilots. He'll make them voluntary, and told us the reason why. "A G-suit, popping on and off as they're going through turbulence, will have more of a distracting impact on that pilot who's got a lot of things to focus on anyway."
The panel also recommended a new safety director. That director is Mike Stallings. He agrees, making G-suits voluntary is enough. He's not sure a G-suit would have prevented pilot Jimmy Leeward from passing out after his sudden pull-up preceding last September's crash. As he told us, "It was such a high g-load. G-suits are not made for that level that I really couldn't say if it would have helped or not."
Over a month ago the Air Race Association boldly put tickets on sale. But we were told by Houghton that they are not selling well. The challenge is now financial…the air races lost money last year. The new insurance policy demanded by the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority was purchased, but at a cost. Houghton told us, "It's costing us 1.7 million dollars more than it did last year."
Despite the odds, the show was always on, in Houghton's mind. One of Reno's biggest tourist draws, attracting close to 100,000 visitors, is still a go. As he confidently told us, "We are going to have a race this year."
What's next? The National Transportation Safety Board's report on the cause of the crash on exactly why Jimmy Leeward's plane suddenly dived into the crowd last September. The Reno Air Race Association hopes those findings come out before this year's event.
Saturday, May 25 2013 2:16 AM EDT2013-05-25 06:16:04 GMT
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