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Another possible cause (Reno)

This may clarify the issue somewhat.

Good News for the future of air racing.

Our new crew member, Matt Jackson, is not only a race pilot, aircraft

business owner and aircraft owner (he also takes care of Tom Cruises P-51)

but he is also the VP of the Unlimited Racing Class and head of the Safety


We had a long talk about the Reno crash on the way to Mojave today.

Matt believes the cause of the crash was due to The Galloping Ghost having a

CG too close to the aft limit which resulted in pitch instability. There are

instructions on the P-51 regarding no combat missions with the aft fuel tank

full resulting in an aft CG problem. Instructions specify to empty the aft

fuel tank first in flight.

During qualifying Matt watched Galloping Ghost from inside the cockpit of

Furias and could not believe how much trouble Leeward was having in keeping

the Ghost in a stable pattern around the course.

Since Leeward lives in Florida and the Galloping Ghost was modified for

racing in Calif., when Leeward picked up the Ghost for the Reno races at the

last minute, a complete flight test program had not been done based on

available information.

There is a video of the entire last lap of the Ghost before the crash which

Matt showed me. As Leeward was coming around pylon #8 at about 480 mph after

passing Rare Bear, he hit turbulence which pitched his left wing down,

Leeward corrected with hard right rudder and aileron. Just as the aircraft

was straightening out, he hit a second mountain of turbulence which caused

the tail to 'dig in' resulting in a 10+ G climb rendering Leeward

unconscious instantly and resulted in the tail wheel falling out. (broken

tail wheel support structure was found on the course). As the Ghost shot

upward the LH aileron trim tab broke loose. This can be heard on the tape,

so the trim tab did not cause the accident.

Since the Ghost was racing at 480 mph with full right rudder and the stick

full right, this is where everything stayed when Leeward blacked out.

Cockpit camera film that was salvaged from the wreck shows Leeward slumped

over to the right in the cockpit. As a result, the Ghost climbed up and to

the right, rolled over on her back and then headed for the box seats. Most

in the box seats never saw it coming because it came in from behind them.

Matt has had long conversations with the NTSB who call the accident a

'fluke'. They are not going to recommend canceling future races. He has also

talked to the insurance companies covering the races for Reno and they also

say they are not going to cancel their coverage of future races. Now we wait

for the FAA to make a decision.

Ironically, Matt bought box seats tickets for his good friends who stayed

with him for a few days before the races. They were the husband and wife who

were killed.


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