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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation A-12-012
Details
Synopsis: On September 16, 2011, about 1626 Pacific daylight time, a modified experimental single-seat North American P-51D, N79111, collided with the airport ramp in the spectator box seat area following a loss of control while maneuvering during the unlimited class1 gold race at the NCAR at Reno Stead Airport (RTS), Reno, Nevada. The airplane was registered to Aero-Trans Corp, Ocala, Florida, and operated by the pilot as Race 177, the Galloping Ghost, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The commercial pilot and 10 people on the ground sustained fatal injuries; based on preliminary information, 66 people sustained serious injuries, and numerous minor injuries were reported. The airplane fragmented upon impact with the ramp. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local air race flight, which departed RTS about 10 minutes before the accident. Numerous photographs and videos of the accident sequence have been collected from the public during the investigation, and an airplane performance study is being conducted. Based on available information, the airplane was established in a turn while passing pylon 8 on the 10-pylon course (see figure) when it experienced an upset. Its airspeed was about 460 knots (530 mph) at this time. After the initial roll upset, it entered a severe rolling climb maneuver and traveled a downward spiral flightpath to impact the ramp in the box seat area. Preliminary findings in the NTSB’s ongoing investigation point to the need for safety improvements regarding evaluation of aircraft with structural or flight control modifications, the unlimited class course design, and training for air race pilots concerning potential physiological effects of high g4 operations.
Recommendation: TO THE NATIONAL AIR RACING GROUP UNLIMITED DIVISION: Evaluate the feasibility of requiring pilots to wear g suits when racing at the Reno National Championship Air Races; if the evaluation determines it is feasible, implement a requirement.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Aviation
Location: Reno, NV, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: WPR11MA454
Accident Reports: Pilot/Race 177, The Galloping Ghost, North American P-51D, N79111
Report #: AAB-12-01
Accident Date: 9/16/2011
Issue Date: 4/10/2012
Date Closed: 8/27/2012
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: National Air Racing Group Unlimited Division (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: National Air Racing Group Unlimited Division
Date: 9/28/2012
Response: The UDNAG stated that all NCAR race pilots are required by RARA to attend daily briefings by RARA and that RARA will provide g-awareness training during these briefings. In addition, RARA will require all race pilots, prior to requesting a qualification time, to fly four to six laps on the race course to increase their g-tolerance. The UDNAG evaluated the feasibility of g-suit use in the NCAR race environment; this evaluation determined the following: • That the g loads sustained on the course are normally between 3 and 4 g, which would not require a g-suit to fly safely • That the UDNAG does not believe that the use of a g-suit would have changed the outcome of the accident because the sudden and extreme g loads involved were far beyond any benefit that a g-suit can provide • That it would be difficult to equip the very small cockpits of the race airplanes with g-suit capability • That a pilot’s use of a g-suit in the very hot race cockpits could introduce heat-exhaustion problems and prevent pilots from using cool suits Accordingly, the UDNAG will not recommend a rules change to require the use of g-suits. However, it will not prohibit the use of the suits, leaving the decision of whether to wear one to the individual pilot or operator. In consideration of the UDNAG’s evaluation and findings, at our August 27, 2012, Board Meeting, Safety Recommendations A-12-11 and -12 were classified CLOSED—ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: NTSB
To: National Air Racing Group Unlimited Division
Date: 8/22/2012
Response: Correspondence control #201200364 was closed administratively, see correspondence control #201200449. No response letter was mailed using correspondence control #201200364.

From: National Air Racing Group Unlimited Division
To: NTSB
Date: 8/22/2012
Response: -From Thomas L. Camp, President: On July 6, 2012, I responded to the NTSB’s Safety Recommendation letter dated April 10, 2012. At that time, I informed you and the NTSB that we, the Unlimited Division of the National Air-racing Group, Inc. (UDNAG), would not comment or implement the Safety Recommendations until the NTSB completes its investigation and issues its final report and all factual reports to the public. Since the time of our initial response, we have had several discussions with NTSB staff and believe that we can, at this time, respond to the Board’s Safety Recommendations. Evaluate the feasibility of requiring pilots to wear G suits when racing at the National Championship Air Races; if the evaluation determines it is feasible, implement a requirement. Any determination of the feasibility of G suit use must include a practical consideration of cost and benefit. Upon that consideration, our Committee does not believe that G suits would be a beneficial or practical addition and that their use may in fact negatively impact safety. In this regard: (1) the cockpits of the race airplanes are very small and to equip these aircraft with G suit capability would be a real challenge; (2) the cockpits of these airplanes are hot and as such a pilot’s use of a G suit could add heat exhaustion problems (in fact, some pilots now wear cool suits because of that extreme heat); (3) the G forces on the course are normally between 3 and 4 G’s which would not require a G suit to fly safely; and (4) we do not feel a G suit would have changed the outcome of the accident in 2011. The sudden and extreme G forces that were put on the aircraft/pilot were to the point of structural failure and far beyond any benefit of a G suit system. In sum, we do not believe the use of G suits would improve safety to our pilots or spectators in the current race environment and that their use may actually have a negative effect. Therefore, we will not presently recommend a rules change to require the use of G suits. Of course, our owners/operators are not prohibited from using G suits if, in their judgment, the systems can be installed and their use is preferred.

From: National Air Racing Group Unlimited Division
To: NTSB
Date: 7/6/2012
Response: -From Thomas L. Camp, President: On April 10, 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), over your signature, sent a letter containing four Safety Recommendations for consideration by the Unlimited Division of the National Air Racing Group, Inc. (UDNAG). These Safety Recommendations were derived from the NTSB's ongoing investigation of the September 16, 2011, accident that occurred at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada. In your letter you urged the UDNAG to take action on the Safety Recommendations and requested a response from UDNAG within 90 days addressing actions we have taken or intend to take to implement the NTSB's recommendations. We appreciate the efforts of the NTSB staff in their investigation and the Board's Safety Recommendations A- 12-9 through A-12-13. At this time, however, we are not prepared to comment on or implement the NTSB's recommendations until the NTSB's final report and all factual reports are issued. It is our understanding that these reports will be complete and made available to the public by the end of August, 2012. Following our review of these reports, we will provide you and the NTSB with a letter summarizing actions taken or to be taken relative to the four recommendations.