Reno Crash Update: Telemetry Data Emerges

Other Reno accidents come under scrutiny.

Reno Crash
Reno CrashReno Crash

On the heels of the news that two more spectators have died in the Reno air crash, bringing the toll to 11 victims, NTSB investigators have announced that they discovered that the accident airplane was outfitted with telemetry and an outward-facing video camera. On Sunday accident investigators found the camera, along with, more importantly, its data card, at the crash site. Investigators have not said what clues they hope to learn if technicians can recover video from the card.

It does seem clear, however, telemetry information, which NTSB officials said included aircraft health information, could add critical details needed to piece together a complete picture of what happened to Jimmy Leeward’s airplane in those fateful last moments.

A few hints of just how crucial the data from Leeward’s airplane might be emerged Monday when a few details from the telemetry information were reported by a crewmember of a different airplane. They included an 11-G pull up, the temporary loss of power at the top of the climb (presumably as the fuel was interrupted) and then the resumption of power as the airplane started back down. The data also showed that the engine was putting out very high power all the way down.

Another incident in another highly modified Mustang involving the racer Voodoo back in 1998 has also come to the NTSB’s attention. In that incident, pilot Bob Hannah was racing on the back side of the course when the airplane lost a trim tab. Voodoo immediately pitched up at what Hannah estimated as more than 10 Gs, at which point he lost consciousness. By the time he came to, Voodoo had climbed to 9,000 feet, and he was able to bring the airplane back in for an uneventful landing. A third Mustang event, the fatal crash of Miss Ashley II a year later, was determined by the NTSB to have been caused most probably by flutter. That highly modified P-51 disintegrated in flight, killing pilot Gary Levitz.

Emerging on Monday was new video shown by NBC on its Today show, showing new, disturbing footage of Leeward’s mustang crashing into the crowd.

The NTSB says that it plans to release a factual report on the crash on Friday.