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September 16, 2011

Air Crash in Reno
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:10 PM * 27 comments

A multiple casualty incident in Reno, Nevada, 1615 PDT. Plane crashed into crowd at Reno Air Races multiple injuries, and fatalities. Video here. Story at CNN here. Photos here.

Live Police/Fire/EMS scanners here. Special Events scanner here.

It is given to no man to know the day or hour.

Comments on Air Crash in Reno:
#2 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2011, 09:26 PM:

Oh, God. What a nightmare.

#3 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2011, 09:31 PM:

Listen for the Medical Branch, Transport Branch, and IC (Incident Command). This is where all the training pays off. It's what the Incident Command System is for. The situation is horrible. It's up to Fire/EMS/Police to keep it from getting worse.

IC just said that the "EOC is standing up." That means the Emergency Operations Center is coming on-line and becoming operational.

#4 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2011, 11:39 PM:

Video has already been removed from multiple points and this is probably just as well. 2 confirmed dead, 54 in the hospital with a number of critical cases.

#5 ::: Errolwi ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2011, 11:57 PM:

Unsurprisingly, Reno hospitals need blood.

I expect to be watching a P-51 Mustang display at the NZ Warbirds Battle of Britain Open Day tomorrow. My thoughts are with everyone affected.

US Warbirds forum thread.

#6 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 12:38 AM:

The video is at CNN:

The only difference between what's being broadcast on a pretty-much continuous loop and the YouTube video is that at CNN they bleep out the word "Shit!"

#7 ::: Stu Savory ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 05:45 AM:

Looks to me like nothing broke off the aircraft.
An internal failure then (but no smoke trailing the plane?), because you can see he rolled it level then traded kinetic (speed) for potential(altitude) energy, which is what you do to give yourself time to look for a place to put it down gently.
But then it flips over on its back and dives in nose first. Pilot was octagenarian, but with lots of hours on the Mustang (which was shortened, btw).

#8 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 06:01 AM: is pointing at a possible hardware failure:

O'Brien said that from the photos he took, it looked like a piece of the plane's tail called a "trim tab" had fallen off, which is what he thinks caused the plane's sudden climb.

#9 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 06:24 AM:

James A. Gosling (inventor of the Java programming language) was in the boxes, about fifty feet from the crash site. Here's his first hand report: They're saying "30 serious injuries" but I know that's a long way from the truth. At least that many died instantly in the impact. I suspect that there were not a huge number of serious injuries. It was not a small airplane. You either died or you didn't. I didn't. My brother and I are still shaking.

#10 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 06:30 AM:

Re Errolwi@5: what particular sorts of major incidents result in a sudden need for blood donors? I would presume it would be those incidents where lots of victims all need invasive surgery immediately... what about burns victims—do they need blood, or just plasma?

#11 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 11:18 AM:

Reno area scanner traffic (stored). This is the EMS response swinging into action.

#12 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 01:24 PM:

xeger @8

There are trim tabs for the elevators and rudder, which can be adjusted in flight to minimise the forces on stick and pedals at the desired attitude.

Rudder trim can be used to correct for the engine torque on take-off (which is as much the rotating airstream from the propellor pushing the fin sideways, yaw rather than roll). According to the Pilots Notes for the Mustang III, take-off rudder trim was 3-degrees right.

Elevator trim is adjusted for varying air-speed and angle-of-attack, different for take-off, climb to altitude, cruise, and landing. The Pilots Notes only warn that the stick eventually has to be pushed forward to maintain the nose-up landing attitude.

Without a trim tab, the stick forces can be excessive at high speed, just holding the 'plane straight and level. There's a photograph showing the elevator and trim tab here.

The O'Brien photo is startlingly clear, and there's no doubt the trim tab is missiug. There are all sorts of interactions between air speed, throttle setting, flaps, and undercarriage which might have stabilised the 'plane, but I doubt there was enough altitude to sort things out.

#13 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 01:49 PM:

The New York Times says that there had been 19 deaths in the Reno air races between 1964 (the year they began) and 2008 (the last death before this accident).

Is that typical for air shows of this type? (I've heard of various air show deaths elsewhere this year.) I really couldn't stomach going to one of these types of shows if so.

#14 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 02:25 PM:

JMO, 13: Here is my anecdata: my dad, a generally cautious sort, used to take my brother and another boy to the Houston airshow every year. He also took my brother and my nephews at least once. There's no way he would have done that if he'd thought the odds of a crash were anything less than astronomical. (His descriptions of the Reno Air Show make it sound like an airplane Worldcon, BTW. I can only imagine what that community is going through right now.)

#15 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 03:04 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @ 13: [19 deaths in the air races 1964-2008] Is that typical for air shows of this type?

I don't think there are any other shows of the type, with racing and all.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 03:38 PM:

It's the air racing part that's unusual - I don't think there's any other place where it goes on, and that's when most of the crashes have occurred, to the best of my recollection.
Air shows have had fatal accidents, but not nearly as often (or with as many people involved).

#18 ::: Geri Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 08:14 PM:

I recommend Mass Casualty by volunteer hospital chaplain (and SF writer) Susan Palwick. It's about the 3 hours she spent at St. Mary's last night.

#19 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2011, 10:48 PM:

Here's the photo showing the missing trim tab.

#20 ::: Errolwi ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2011, 01:07 AM:

Steve @10. I was going on 'small city (I now see that it has a pop of 220,000) just had 50+ people taken to hospital with trauma'.

#21 ::: Errolwi ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2011, 01:36 AM:

National Transportation Safety Board Press Briefing on Youtube. This includes Reno PD reporting (at least) 54 taken to hospitals, 2 deaths at hospitals, 7 known deaths on site, and 17 injured still in hospitals.

#22 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2011, 01:45 PM:

Another plane down, this one at an airshow in West Virginia. Only the pilot was killed. (After Rammstein, they don't fly directly over the crowds anymore.)

Is it just Norway, or have the media in general been conflating "air show" with "air racing"?

#23 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2011, 01:50 PM:

No, it's not just Norway.

#24 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2011, 04:23 PM:

Roy @22
The difference is the main point I get across when talking to people (they generally know I am a 'plane geek). That and 'how many people died in vehicle accidents on the way to airshows in the last 50 years'.

#25 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2011, 07:53 PM:

Geri Sullivan @ 18: thanks for the link.

#26 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2011, 02:30 PM:

There are risks associated with everything--crashes at car races, control failures on airplanes on takeoff and landing and in maneuvers (an entire four ship formation of the Thunderbirds lost when they were still flying T-38s, when the lead plane had a catastrostrophic control hardware failure in a maneuver--the planes were too close together and not high enough to have any margin to avoid "following the leader into the ground." And if it had happened in an airshow the death toll would have been a lot higher, because there was nothing humanly possible to react quickly enough and with any effective mitigation, to avoid total disaster), car crashes when the driver has a stroke or heart attack or blackout while driving, meteor strikes, lightning strikes, tornaodoes....

Something that stuck with me from a proposal class, the presenter said, "You are the MGM Grand Hotel, reopening after a disastrous, fatal fire. How do you advertise?"
(Engineer in audience response) "We have the best fire suppression system money can buy!>'
Presenter: "Spoken like a true engineer!" (and gesture corresponding to no, that is not the right answer) "Next?!"
Finally the presenter picked up a magazine that was in his presentation materials, opened it, and showed the center pages ad to the room. On it was a picture of the hotel, the MGM lion in a kingly pose, its mouth open, and the notation, "The lion roars again!"
"This is how you advertise," said the speaker. "People don;t go to Las Vegas for safety, they go for excitement, they go for thrills...."
Some of the thrill of airshows and air races is is exactly that thrill and attraction, the -danger- that something might go horribly, dramatically wrong... there is the urge to gawk/stare at disasters, people slowing down for the best view of gore and gruesomeness of traffic accidents, the morbid thrill and scariness... and some of that pulls people to airshows.

#27 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2011, 04:54 PM:

@26 the 'Diamond Crash'
And if it had happened in an airshow the death toll would have been a lot higher
Surely at an airshow that maneuver would have been performed so it was not directed towards the crowd? Therefore 'a lot higher' is very unlikely (although not impossible).

When attending the local Warbirds Open day on the weekend, I especially noticed the big sign at the entrance pointing out the risk of death or injury, and how the aircraft turn 'around' the crowd line. Wouldn't have been that helpful for me when I moved to the airfield fence on the 'wrong' side of the display line (so I wasn't shooting into the sun), but I know and understand the risks, and I was further from the display line than the crowd line was.

Wings Over NZ forum photo thread.

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