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On September 14, 2007, at 1000 Pacific daylight time, a Tuttle Cassutt III M, N11XR and a Deluca-Owl OR-71, N1VD, collided in midair while racing at the Reno Air Races, Reno-Stead Airport, Reno, Nevada. Both pilots were operating their airplanes under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. N11XR sustained substantial damage and the pilot was killed. N1VD was substantially damaged and the pilot received serious injuries. Two people on the ground sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The airplanes departed from Reno-Stead about 0955.
According to race personnel standing at pylon 1, as the airplanes approached pylon 1 the two airplanes involved in the collision were leading the group. When they entered a turn for pylon 1, the airplanes collided. Following the impact, N11XR collided with the ground. N1VD pitched up and the pilot performed an emergency landing on the right side of runway 14.
According to the pilot of N1VD, he was participating in the Formula 1 race. Due to the winds, they did a scattered start, which meant that they all departed, performed a teardrop pattern, and returned to start the race. When he departed, the pilot stated that the pilot of N11XR was on his left side. The pilot of N1VD was flying ahead of everyone and nearing pylon 1 to round it. As he began to roll, he heard a boom, felt a vibration, the canopy departed, and he thought the airplane was going to crash. He continued to fly the airplane, but with his right eye injured and the airflow entering the cockpit due to the loss of the canopy, he was having a difficult time functioning. The pilot attempted an emergency landing on runway 14, but the airplane began to sink excessively. After impact, he turned off the switches and climbed out, and walked to the ambulance. The pilot further indicated that normally during a race, he would be in front of the group of racers and as he rounded the first pylon, N11XR would normally pass him.
Pilot of N11XR
The pilot of N11XR, age 52, held an airline transport certificate for multi-engine airplanes and commercial pilot privileges for airplane single-engine land, airplane single-engine sea, and gliders. The pilot also held a certified flight instructor certificate for single and multi-engine airplanes and instrument. He reported over 22,000 hours on his 2007 Pilot Data form for the Reno Air Races. The pilot's last medical certificate was issued on March 13, 2007; it was a second class.
The pilot was the five time consecutive winner of the Formula 1 race since 2002 at the Reno Air Races. The pilot began air racing at the Reno Air Races in 1984. In addition to the Formula 1 races, the pilot flew in the T-6 and unlimited classes.
Pilot of N1VD
The pilot of N1VD, age 36, held a commercial pilot certificate for single and multi-engine land, with an instrument rating. The pilot's last medical was a second class, issued in May of 2007. The pilot reported 2,700 hours of total flight hours on his 2007 Pilot Data form for the Reno Air Races.
The pilot had been racing for 5 years. This was his forth year as a Formula 1 racer. In addition to the accident airplane, the pilot also raced a T-28 and a bi-plane.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
N11XR came to rest on the east side of runway 14/32. N1VD landed on the west side of runway 14. The first identified debris was identified 500 feet west of the centerline for runway 14, approximately 6,500 feet down its length. This debris included composite propeller pieces, the canopy frame and pilot helmet of N1VD, and the right wing tip, right horizontal and elevator tips for N11XR. Also in this area was debris from N1VD. The debris continued to the main wreckage of N11XR in a north-northeasterly direction, approximately 815 feet. Smaller pieces of debris spanned outward from the main wreckage of N11XR.
Examination of the N11XR showed that the cockpit area and engine were destroyed by impact forces. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator had been broken from the remaining structure at the vertical stabilizer. The main spar section and portions of the wings were located near the tail section.
The examination of N1VD revealed that the runway edge was lined with gravel, and the first identified point of impact was approximately 150 feet from the final resting point of the airplane. The main structure of the airplane was generally intact. The main landing gear separated from the airplane and was located nearby. The outer right horizontal stabilizer and elevator had been separated from the structure, in addition to the right wing tip. The left wing tip, left horizontal stabilizer, and elevator were undamaged.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Washoe County Coroner completed an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was attributed to multiple blunt trauma due to an airplane crash. The FAA Forensic Toxicology completed toxicology testing. The results were negative for volatiles and tested drugs. The carbon monoxide and cyanide tests were not performed.
According to race requirements, "An aircraft overtaken must not in any way impede or interfere with a faster overtaking plane. The overtaking pilot must keep the overtaken aircraft in sight at all times during the pass. An aircraft overtaking a slower aircraft will not pass between that aircraft and a pylon and will pass on the outside until the over taken aircraft is extremely wide and can be kept in sight at all times during the pass by the overtaking pilot" According to race personnel, there are no specifications for passing above or below a slower aircraft.
Race personnel and spectators submitted various photographs and videos.
A photograph showing the airplanes immediately following the impact was reviewed. It was taken from race personnel standing at pylon 1. From the viewpoint standing at the pylon looking to the approaching airplanes, N1VD was positioned higher and to the right of N11XR, and banked to the left approximately 70 degrees to the ground. N11XR was positioned to the left and lower of N1VD, and was also in a left bank, approximately 90 degrees to the ground. N11XR appeared to be intact and had damage to its left outboard wing leading edge, as well as to the left wing tip. N1VD was generally intact, although the right wing tip and a tip portion of the horizontal and elevator were missing. The photo captured several items in mid-air, including the canopy of N1VD.
Videos of the collision were reviewed. One video showed the pilots approaching mid-field. N11XR was in the lead and N1VD approached N11XR from the outside and lower. As N11XR entered a left bank for pylon 1, the airplanes collided. N11XR continued rolling to the left and impacted the ground.
Another video showed N11XR in the lead. N1VD then approached N11XR and was about several wingspans in front of N11XR and lower. As N1VD passed N11XR, N11XR entered a left bank. N11XR continued his left bank and the airplanes collided, prior to N11XR impacting the ground. N1VD then pitched up before going out of view of the video.