Pilot Recounts Crash, Explains Possible "Trim Tab" Issue
(MyNews4.com & KRNV) Reno, Nev.-Until the NTSB releases the preliminary crash report and eventual investigation, we rely on witnesses to recount the Reno Air Races crash. One pilot who was sitting just ten boxes down from where the plane crashed shared his story.
“What happened? What was the sequence of events?” It’s a question the NTSB preliminary report due today will start to answer. The report will provide a basic layout of those final moments. But for Tim Brill, an aerobatic pilot and instructor, his mental images and the pictures tell the likely story. “Something happened that caused plane to pitch up,” Brill explains.
Many aviation experts are saying it was the P-51 Mustang's trim tab. From pictures taken moments before impact show the trim tab is gone. Why can a piece a piece this small impact flight so much? Here's a simple analogy: the trim tab acts as the elevator's power steering. When the trim tab goes, so does control of the plane. “Jimmy tried to do as much as he could, while he could do it,” believes Brill. Brill thinks 74-year-old pilot Jimmy Leeward blacked out. Brill explains once the trim tab went, Leeward couldn't physically muscle the stick—slamming a force of 10 to 11 G’s on his body.
One eerie photo shows an empty cockpit seconds before the crash. But until the NTSB’s final report that could come with some changes for the air race world, all this is speculation. We asked Brill to speculate what he thinks the NTSB might change about the sport. “Perhaps like NASCAR, maybe they'll recommend we don't modify these planes as quite as much,” guesses Brill. After all, planes like the Galloping Ghost were modified for speed—to fly two times faster than a race car. “When you start modifying a piece here, you really don't know what it's going to have on the piece over there,” says Brill. He suggests more comprehensive engineering or testing as possible NTSB recommendations, but unlike NASCAR you can't shield fans with walls.
“You're right. You can't put barriers in the sky but again, the odds after an eight-mile course a plane hitting in that spot, at that time is almost astronomical. I doubt it would happen again.” And now the NTSB has made it their mission to ensure it doesn’t.