For Want Of A Nail

Deteriorated parts (and too many modifications) blamed for the Reno Air Races crash

by John on September 14, 2012

With the Reno Air Races underway, its worth mentioning that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had recently determined that the official cause of the September 16, 2011 crash of “The Galloping Ghost” (which killed the pilot along with 10 spectators plus injured more than sixty others) were deteriorated locknut inserts which allowed the trim ( attachment screws to become loose and initiated fatigue cracking in one screw. With the reduced stiffness in the elevator trim system, aerodynamic flutter (at racing speed) broke the trim tab linkages and caused a loss of control.





Working on aircraft over the years there have been many times I’ve removed locknuts with plastic inserts and then reused them.  Most of the time I look at them and wonder if their integrity has been compromised and if they will still stay in place like they’re supposed to, if I question it at all I get a new one.  I also ask myself what will happen if the the nut fails and comes loose or falls off.  If the answer is “something bad” I don’t even think about it. I get a new one.  If the crash of “The Galloping Ghost” is due to a reused locknut then someones decision to save twenty cents was a poor one.

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