Archive for September, 2011
The Reno Air Race Crash Impact
Almost anyone who has piloted an aircraft, especially a vintage or experimental type, may feel like they have cheated death at one time or another. The fear of death is a natural part of an unnatural act of flying. After all, it’s been said: “If God wanted man to fly he would have given him wings.” No one is immune from the emotions around flying. You can read later in this blog how even the aviation experts at Aero Consulting Experts (ACE) had their brush-ups against death while flying.
Pilots know that the laws of propulsion and physics are on their side giving lift to aircraft. The combination allows for current-day jets to lift close to a million pounds at takeoff and fly at speeds of over 500 mph, while doing it safely. This phenomenon makes flying not only one of the safest forms of travel but makes the entire event seem almost routine.
However, routine was not the case for a vintage World War II P-51D Mustang airplane — aptly named the “Galloping Ghost” — at the September 17, 2011 National Championship Air Races in Reno, NV. The accident killed pilot, Jimmy Leeland of Florida and created one of the largest “mass-casualty situations” in sports aviation history. Tragically, Jimmy’s plane crashed into a group of spectators killing 11 people and injuring nearly 70 other people. It was the first crash in the Reno event’s history where spectators have died (the previous tally was 19 pilots killed at the Reno races since the start in 1964). The cause of the accident is still under investigation.
It is well known that there is a certain amount of risk and danger involved in air racing. People will often say upon hearing of a racer’s death “at least they died doing what they loved.” However, in Reno nothing can be said or done to undo the pain and sorrow that this unforeseen event caused. What we now have — borrowing the words of NTSB investigators — is an opportunity and an obligation to learn the lessons at Reno that could prevent another accident of this type from occurring in the future. In other words, the show must go on. The air race circuit is one of aviation history’s most endearing and oldest traditions.
The era of barnstorming in aviation history in the 1920s was an important stage between the early development of flying (the Wrights) and the launch of commercial aviation in the 1930s (and later the mass production of fighter aircraft used in WWII). Charles Lindberg credits his early barnstorming days as among the best years of his life; when he learned to endure harsh flying conditions and when he was able to save enough money to buy the Spirit of St Louis.
The love and the lore of the solo pilot performer though never died. Today, nearly 75 years later people still crave for the roar of a vintage WWII fighter plane or watch a 1920s era aircraft recreating some of man’s most daring moves in the sky. By the 1950s the era of the exhibition flying was launched again with the Commemorative Air Force and the spinoff of regional air shows.
There are several ACE consultants who know all too well the trill and tragedy around air races and crashes. In fact, one of them, Kent Holiday an avid fan of WW II era flying, and a seasoned pilot in the P-51 Mustang, attended the Reno air races and was at ground zero. He was there at the day of the crash and will soon post his story here. To learn more about this pilot please see Kent’s bio .
The author of this blog, and an ACE aviation public affairs specialist, AC Carrier, launched a journalism career by witnessing and reporting for The Arizona Daily Star on the crash of an A-7D Corsair. This unfortunate accident resulted in the death of two students near the University of Arizona. The experience of witnessing and writing about the Tucson jet crash lead Allen Carrier (AC) to a career with U.S. Rep. Norman Mineta (D-CA) who later became U.S. Transportation Secretary in the Bush Administration during the New York 9/11 Terrorist Attacks.
And that is where we find ourselves today: starring at an air accident again. Even the next day after the Reno crash, a pilot died in a West Virginia air show in front of hundreds of spectators. All of this comes a month after seven people from one family died in a crash in Alabama when the plane’s engines failed less than two miles from the airport. And so it goes, the great flying tradition continues. It is part of the human spirit, this competitiveness that pushes us to try and outdo one another. The air race will continue.
Blog #2: September 6, 2011
One of the great things about living in the modern age of air travel is the way technology continues to push aviation into new historical “firsts.” Take for instance the recent announcement by Japanese airliner, ANA regarding the new Boeing-787 Dreamliner’s first international route starting January from Tokyo Haneda International Airport (HND) Japan to Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) Germany. The 787, the world’s most modern aircraft (there may be some push back from the B-747-800 or A380 supporters) is up, up and away after nearly 20 years of development.
And regarding the super large B-747-800, the FAA — and its European counterpart — this summer gave their OKAY for the world’s largest cargo plane to operate internationally. The flight agencies said the B-747-800 Freighter is compliant with airworthiness regulatory requirements and added that Boeing produced “a safe and reliable aircraft”.
The 747-800 High speed rejected takeoff.
While some things may be getting bigger in the air, other developments on the ground will shrink. United Continental Holdings (UAL) announced it would do away with the trusty flight bags, currently part of the required cockpit equipment. The 25-pound flight bags — used to carry route maps, aeronautical navigational charts, flight manuals and operating procedures — will be replaced soon with a new Apple iPad carrying an app that has the same function as the flight bag but weighing only 1.5 pounds.
UAL will have 11,000 iPads in its pilot’s hands this fall. The move follows Alaskan Airlines (ASA) use of the devise last year. American Airlines (AA) announced it too will follow ASA and UAL. Airline officials estimate that nearly 2.5 million pieces of paper a year will be save PER AIRLINE.
At ACE, the expert witness practice is also evolving. After three years of operations ACE first, announces a name change. ACE stands for Aero Consultating Experts (ACE) and replaces MyAviationExperts.com. The company has a new web site: www.aeroconsultingexperts.com
ACE in the past three years is continuing to grow with a goal of becoming one of the biggest aviation witness practices, aviation consulting firms to include media and film, in the U.S. Among the new team members are two former United B-747-400 Captains; who in addition to flying have extensive knowledge of air traffic control and cockpit communication technology development, aircraft power plant and air frame maintenance, air safety procedures, business banking and finance, as well as an expertise in corporate reputation management and public affairs. The newest consultants join a seasoned group of professional who have extensive cockpit flying experience globally; and who, too, have flown regularly for United Airlines, served as US Air Force fighter jet fighter trainers; as well as flown as private-pilots. Some of the team members with a passion as aviation hobbyists are experts with almost every type of antique and experimental aircrafts.
As readers now know, ACE launched its own written blog on current cockpit updates to legal briefings and aviation news. Readers will find useful information how ACE selects its experts and manage clients in the startup of assignments. All of these resources are in a new and expanded website.
In the past there years the ACE expert witness practice has been involved in four successful verdicts on behalf of clients who have represented commercial airline passengers in a New Jersey state court to a federal case that involved the U.S. Homeland Security Department and airline personnel.
The expert witness practice’s mission is to bring objectivity and fairness to any legal team or litigation situation; news organization or film and video production. In short ACE strives to provide the most accurate portrayal of flying and flight operations that can be achieved. ACE makes that promise based on its successful track records in the courthouse and by the comments made by clients and the news media.
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