Friday, September 16, 2011


Breaking: Massive casualties reported in Reno air show crash—estimate 10 dead, 40 injured

by Larry Geller

Crashes do happen at air shows, and another tragedy is unfolding now, this very moment, documented by Twitter and a couple of YouTube videos. At least one of the videos is quite graphic (body parts). The casualties occurred in a viewing stand at the Reno, Nevada.

In Honolulu, air shows have been held over the beach area in Waikiki, fronting a densely populated part of Honolulu. Just as troubling, the fuel-laden jets returned for their next pass over the ridgeline at low altitude over bedroom communities such as Manoa. They could have returned over the open water.

I wrote about this in Did Air Force Thunderbirds endanger residents by flying over homes instead of over water? (9/18/2011). As part of my research I called the FAA.

According to the FAA, neither the air show in crowded Waikiki nor the return over land is a problem.

Must we risk a tragedy such as is taking place today in Reno? What should common sense dictate about rules for these exciting but potentially deadly events?

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The risk can be controlled at an airshow. The usual rule is that no risky maneuver has the aircraft coming at the audience. The performers plan their routines with that in mind. Not as easily done at race like the Reno event, the planes are flying a circuit.

You can plan risk, but not eliminate it. The pilots are certainly aware of the risk and choose to make that choice. To a certain extent the audience does to. These crashes happen, at car races, airshows, even bicycle races. We all make risk/reward decisions every day. We should have the freedom to make those decisions on our own. A risk free life would also be a really boring/pointless life.

Risk can be minimized. That is why the air show planes should return over water. If there should be an unfortunate accident, it won't be a massacre. Also, choosing a location away from a population center sounds prudent to me.

I agree with you on other points. Yes, even attending an air show, or in particular, a race, carries with it a certain risk.

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