Air Race and Air Show Safety

On September 16th 2011 a disaster occurred at the Reno Air Races involving the pilot of a highly modified P-51 Mustang aircraft and the crowd of spectators. In addition to the pilot 10 others died along with dozens more injured.

The question becomes as to whether or not air races and air shows should be allowed to continue, and if so with what additional restrictions and regulations to make them safer for both the air crews and spectators alike. Promoters have always taken into account air show safety and safety at air races, but no matter how hard everyone tries to anticipate every eventuality accidents still occur.

The problem is that aviation, in and of itself, is a dangerous business – period. While air show safety has certainly improved over the years, there still remains some danger to both performers and spectators. Further, many advances in technology have come about as the result of mankind’s desire to push the envelope, to develop new products to conquer new frontiers and advance our civilization.

Take for example the X-Prize. The Ansari X Prize was a $ 10M prize to be awarded for the first civilians to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space and return completing 2 round trips within a 2 week time frame. Early on in the 20th century many such aviation prizes were offered designed to spur advancements in aviation and technology.

A recent article in a Seattle publication talked about this issue in “Safety is My Co-Priority”. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Let’s be honest, safety is not the number one priority or all those souped-up planes and hot-shot pilots would be safely on the ground. Thrill seeking is the number one priority for the performers and for the spectators. The question is; can safety be the co-priority in sport aviation?

Bob Hoover's P-51 Mustang In Flight

Bob Hoover's P-51 Mustang In Flight

I have attended a lot of air shows and air races over the years and have to tell you that I really enjoy them very much. I recognize that there is danger associated with attending these events and accept that as a fact when I attend one. They are certainly exciting and draw large crowds who enjoy them very much. They are among the most well attended events in the country.

Somehow some people believe that you can regulate everything so that no one will ever be injured or die in an accident. To my way of thinking this is impossible – the very nature of accidents is that they occur by accident – in other words, they are not planned nor anticipated.

The truth is you can’t prevent people from hurting themselves no matter how many safety laws and devices are in place. Accidents always have occurred, and will continue to occur in the future.

What is your opinion about aviation safety at air shows and air races?

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!

JetAviator7+

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