(Updated 09/19/11 @ 23:07) The heavily modified P-51 “The Galloping Ghost”, flown by 74 year-old veteran racer Jimmy Leeward, crashed in Reno yesterday at 4:20 PM, very close to the crowd. According to a recent police report, the pilot was killed upon impact and six spectators were killed by projected debris. Another two died from their wounds at the hospital. Many more were wounded. The rest of the races have been cancelled. (September 19th update: another victim died at the hospital today, raising the death toll to ten)
The reason for the crash is unknown. Videos available on the internet show the aircraft pitching up and looping before falling almost vertically in the ground close to the crowd. Leeward was a very experienced pilot and racer, who had been running at Reno for many years.
It appears Leeward declared an emergency and climbed to leave the race pattern (the usual procedure). It’s at this point that his aircraft went on its back and dived into the ground.
Photos taken seconds before the crash Pictures that appeared on the Key Publishing forum and Yahoo! News show that the elevator trim tab was lost in flight. These pictures are reminiscent of a similar incident with Bob Hannah and the P-51 “Voodoo” in 1998. His trim tab was lost in flight, pitching the nose up in a 10-G maneuver. Hannah passed out but luckily awoke flying at 9,000 ft and was able to land the airplane.
The Galloping Ghost was a heavily modified racing P-51 Mustang: