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James Gosling Report of Reno Air Crash 338

Earlier today, a tragic crash at the Reno National Championship Air Races killed at least 12 spectators, and left at least 75 injured. Reader xmas2003 writes with a link to Java creator James Gosling's first-hand account of the crash, which he describes as "better than most of what is being reported in mainstream media so far."
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James Gosling Report of Reno Air Crash

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  • Though I live in Phoenix now, all of my family is there, and though its unlikely they went to the show, for some reason I can't get a hold of anyone but my dad and aunt--who are both out of town.

    The Reno Air Races have a long history, and this is apparently the first time a plane crashed into the stands. The previous crashes didn't stop the event--that is, it went on again the next year--and I hope this one doesn't either.

  • i was there (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 17, 2011 @12:51AM (#37426960)

    i saw it first hand, the galloping ghost lost control and did a barrel roll over the stands and crashed 50 feet away from me into the edge of the box seats. it looked like its aileron got stuck and he couldn't correct it. i love the air races like no other and iv been involved with it literately my whole life, but i will never forget what i saw.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I saw an air crash. I've never been the same, but still here is still here. Visiting memorial websites helps a couple years down the road when you get the heebies at night. Be aware of PTSD.

      Best and a prayer to you.

    • Re:i was there (Score:4, Informative)

      by Savantissimo ( 893682 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @04:00PM (#37430422) Journal

      A comment on the Gosling blog has a link [] to a very clear picture from less than a second before the crash showing the left elevator trim tab missing, also possible smoke from under the rear fuselage in the vicinity of the tail wheel. There do not appear to be any major control inputs to my inexperienced eye other than a slightly depressed right aileron and possible up elevator, though the latter is hard to see. The view shows only the top of the plane and no background to show the plane's orientation. The pilot is hunched forward with his helmet at the front of the cockpit.

      Another shot, less than a plane length before impact, shows the tail wheel deployed and the pilot's head is not visible in the cockpit, though the picture would show it if it were above the edge of the cockpit.

      That tail wheel is normally retracted in race trim. Odds are control flutter from the unbalanced elevator combined with the high-G pull-up maneuver shook it open.

      Eyewitness reports say Jimmy [Leeward] did everything he could to keep that plane out of the crowd. He was probably pulling on that stick with everything he had.

      Curiously, the rear portion of the left elevator is not clear, although the shot is fast enough to freeze the propeller and the angle is a perfect left-side profile. The elevator may have been fluttering at an extreme rate, blurring the view, or it may just be a consequence of the low contrast of the elevator against the fuselage with identical paint. At the time of the crash the plane is right-side up, flying above the crowd from the back towards the front of the crowd, as if trying to pull out of a loop and it impacts at about a 45 degree angle.

      Another video [] from the parking lot shows that the plane lost vertical control about 12 seconds before impact and first nosed up several hundred feet in 7 seconds before turning from vertical up to vertical down in less than three seconds, apparently at near full speed the whole way. The crash happened less than three seconds after the plane nosed down.

      Also see: the gallery for the AP story "3 dead, 56 injured in horrific US air show crash" [] for high-resolution versions.

  • Where does the quote "better than most of what is being reported" come from? It's not in Gosling's report, and if anything, what he reports is quite a bit worse than what the media is reporting.

    • "Better" as in "more accurate."

      Not "better" as in "things weren't quite as bad as reported."

      • This. But despite the advantages of a good eyewitness account, one of the advantages remaining for the mainstream media has is enough servers to handle a lot of traffic. *cough* slashdot effect *cough*
  • From the two videos I saw, it didn't look like the pilot lost control. It looks more like he attempted an inverted loop, but misjudged the amount of altitude he needed to complete it. Then again, I wasn't there.

    • by dougmc ( 70836 )

      From the two videos I saw, it didn't look like the pilot lost control. It looks more like he attempted an inverted loop, but misjudged the amount of altitude he needed to complete it.

      Perhaps, but this was an air *race* -- there's no reason for him to do a loop.

      Something went wrong before he went up like that.

  • by leetrout ( 855221 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @01:04AM (#37427012) Journal
    I'm alive

    Friday September 16, 2011

    Just fucking barely. I'm at the air races in Reno with a bunch of friends and a horrific accident just happened. One of the very high end racers, going about 500 mph, lost control and nose dived straight into the audience. The news is currently saying that the plane missed the grandstand, but that's only technically true: in front of the grandstand there are several rows of box seats. It impacted right in the middle of them. I was in a box seat with my friends only 50 feet from the impact. I was watching the plane as it lost control, so I saw the whole thing. The impact happened so fast, there was hardly any sound: just one huge shock wave. No fireball. The plane, and many people, disintegrated instantly, right in front of me. There were bodies everywhere. No crash you've ever seen in a movie is even remotely authentic.

    Update: it's already on YouTube. I was in the middle of the dust cloud you see around the impact. 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.

    Another Update: They're now officially calling it a "mass casualty situation". The plane was Galloping Ghost, piloted by Jimmy Leeward. It was a very cool, highly modified, P51 mustang with a very unusual approach to engine cooling. I doubt that this was at all connected to the accident - it looked like a control system failure.
    • by pfish ( 576318 ) <pofish AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday September 17, 2011 @03:19AM (#37427378)
      It's not uncommon to have a vehicle accident with 5 patients and also declare that an MCI. That just means the first responders were overwhelmed by the amount of patients and injuries and they need to declare an MCI, which prompts a number of things: additional emergency personnel, overhead to manage the incident, notifies local hospitals so they can start taking action prior to patient arrival, etc.
    • Knowledable answer (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've been attending the Reno Races for over 20 years, know many of the Unlimited pilots. I've illegally flown backseat several times in Unlimited class races. I knew Jimmy. He was probably the most liked and experienced pilot there. I wasn't there this time, but I understand he had turned outer #8 pylon (a 50 ft high pole with a barrel on the top) and was headd toward the pit area preparing to turn again and go down the straight in front of the stands. The FAA mandates no aircraft can fly closer than 1500 f

  • Video (Score:5, Informative)

    by kid_wonder ( 21480 ) < minus pi> on Saturday September 17, 2011 @01:06AM (#37427026) Homepage []
    about the 3:30 mark []
    about the :30 second mark

    Horrible looking, but amazingly not an explosion.

    • by seyyah ( 986027 )

      Horrible looking, but amazingly not an explosion.

      Serious questions here: should we expect a plane like this to explode on impact?

      • Horrible looking, but amazingly not an explosion.

        Serious questions here: should we expect a plane like this to explode on impact?

        Only if you've ever seen a movie.

        BTW, condolences to the injured & bereaved.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      accident is around 38mins in but be warned its very graphic/gorey :(

      • Is this the PG-13 version? There is no shot of the impact and maybe one shot with two people lying on the ground, not quite the bloody mess with 30+ dead Gosling describes.
    • Re:Video (Score:5, Informative)

      by statusbar ( 314703 ) <> on Saturday September 17, 2011 @04:08AM (#37427490) Homepage Journal

      Also relevant photos showing the airplane was damaged before impact: missing elevator []

      Another photo series: impact []


    • Horrible looking, but amazingly not an explosion.

      If your experience with vehicle crashes is limited to the movies, you should know that explosions are actually much rarer in real life.

  • The air races have always been risky. Everyone knew that very well. Think about what would happen if every auto racing mishap resulted in sharp acceleration until collision with some other solid object. There have been crashes and deaths in the past, but this is really tragic as most mishaps happen far away from the grandstands.

    It may be insensitive, but I'm actually most sad over losing another plane. For years there's been speculation that unlimited class racing's days were numbered. Not enough planes a

  • by drwho ( 4190 )

    yeah, I could wait for but I'd rather people posted links to videos here. I am really annoyed that youtobe/google takes it upon themselves to decide what is fit for me to see, or not see. I am sure it was horrible. I've seen horrible. I just want the truth.

  • Maybe sitting a few feet from steel objects traveling roughly 600 mph wasn't very wise. Maybe sitting a few feet from steel object traveling 600 mph wasn't EVER very wise.
    I don't think we should continue to do something in the future that's stupid and reckless because we've been doing that stupid and reckless thing for a long time. We used to smoke and played football and hockey without helmets. We got a little less stupid and stopped.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      People do it because it's unwise. The thrill comes from being in danger. As it turns out, a placid life pushing paper does not provide sufficient opportunity for adrenalin release, and most people are about as exciting as a turtle on valium, so they need to expose themself to risk while sitting on their ass because they certainly won't get out and do anything themselves.

      25% of American men still smoke, so we didn't get that much less stupid. In fact, I think we're only stopping smoking because we're being t

  • by KingRobot ( 703860 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @03:48AM (#37427458) Homepage
    He was 74, not 80, and he held a current 2nd class medical certification from the FAA. Most private pilots only have a 3rd class; his health was fine and almost certainly had nothing to do with it. You can read more about his credentials here: [] Also, photos are circulating that show control surfaces missing from the aircraft before the crash. Something went wrong mechanically - please do your research before making mindless assumptions. []
    • by zyzko ( 6739 )

      Maybe - maybe not. 2nd class medical is not that hard to get and keep even at an older age - If you don't have conditions that may lead to incapacitation, are not on "banned" medication and your hearing and eysight is within limits you are good to go. I would imagine when aging most lose their medical for age-related eyesgiht-issuses, a small stroke at the brain which affects vision or when the have to go on permanent medication.

      The important point is that medical 2 is not a proof a competency to enter an a

  • by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @04:13AM (#37427500)

    YouTube is censoring the videos as fast as they pop up. You can post movies of your dog picking its own nose, but factual, on-site amateur reporting is apparently forbidden.

  • Anyone got a backup of that video?

  • "... which he describes as "better than most of what is being reported in mainstream media so far."

    Well, duh. He was there. Eyewitness reports always have an advantage that way.

  • Sad to say, but there will now be a massive investigation into this incident, and regardless of the outcome of that investigation I can't see where public officials will allow an event like this to occur in the United States ever again.
  • From the videos I've seen it looked like a control surface failure, most likely the elevator.

    Won't know for sure until the FAA releases their reports.

  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @09:28AM (#37428338) Journal
    The reason Gosling's is better is because the mainstream media articles are written for specific audiences ("Plane Crashes Because of Poor Visibility Due to Lax Environmental Controls" or "Plane Crashes Because Overzealous EPA Regulations Forced Pilot to Replace Perfectly Good WWII Part with Less-Polluting Part from China"), while his was truly written to be platform independent. He could write one report that anyone with a Web browser could read anywhere, regardless of their leanings.
    • He also claimed that "at least 30 people died." Turns out there are 3 deaths (including the pilot) the next morning.

      This is why you have to be careful listening to first hand blog reports without discretion- people involved in tragic events are rarely capable of making an accurate assessment of the situation.

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.