Pilot killed at Reno Air Races, no one else hurt

RENO — A pilot died in a plane crash Monday while attempting to qualify for the Reno National Championship Air Races, the same event where a wreck in 2011 killed a pilot and 10 spectators on the ground.

No one else was injured in the crash that occurred about 3:30 p.m. on the north end of the race course at Stead Airport north of Reno, far away from the grandstand where the 10 people were killed three years ago, race spokesman Mike Draper said.

Qualifying was canceled for the rest of the day and scheduled to resume Tuesday, though that could change, Draper said.

Draper said he had no details on the crash that involved a plane in the sport class and that authorities were investigating.

It marks the 21st fatal crash in the 51-year history of the Air Races and the first since Jimmy Leeward, 74, of Ocala, Fla., died on Sept. 16, 2011. That crash was the only one where spectators died.

Leeward’s World War II-era P-51 Mustang fighter reached 530 mph before it pitched skyward and then slammed nose-first into the box seats fronting the grandstand. Seventy others were injured.

Federal investigators blamed Leeward and his aircraft modifications for the crash. A crucial tail control known as the trim tab fluttered, its screws loosening, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

The crash prompted the implementation of new safety measures, including a redesigned race course that adds 150 feet of buffer — pushing the distance between racing planes and the permanent grandstand to at least 1,000 feet.

The competition continues through the weekend.


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