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.


This is some really great formation flying, notice that neither plane has any flaps down and you can tell from the jets exhaust that Jetman doesn’t have to stay at full power to keep in position.   I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  The second this guy starts selling his jet powered wing commercially I’ll be the first one in line.  I’m pretty sure you could fit one in a Twin Otter, well, close anyway.



Some days being a DZO (drop zone owner) can be the best job in the world and some days it can be a never ending series of frustrations.  Saturday and Sunday will go down in the latter category.  The promise of a really profitable Saturday was blown away, literally, by strong ground winds, shutting down operations and causing the Twin Otter to abort 2 landing attempts due to the strong cross winds.  At $15.00 a minute watching the pilot struggle to get the plane down is particularly painful.  The weather was better on Sunday but my luck was not.  The 8 way competition/camp I was running produced lackluster results and was capped off with an inexperienced jumper deploying his parachute underneath the formation causing a potentially disastrous situation.  I thought my day was getting better when another jumper showed up with a fully automatic 9mm handgun and a backpack full of loaded 30 round magazines.   I had a few minutes to kill so we ran over to the range, yes we have a shooting range at my airport, to shred some targets but just before we started shooting I was called back to video a tandem who changed his mind at the last minute.  I ran back to the building scrambled to get everything needed to film a tandem and jumped on the Otter, only to discover that the battery on my still camera was dead shortly after takeoff.  My day just got better and better after that.  A student I was radioing down didn’t listen to my directions and hit one of my instructors car on landing putting a big dent in the door but thankfully not injuring him.  The instructor threw a small fit, jumped into his dented ride and stormed off tearing up some grass and generally making an ass of himself.  Then to cap off a truly wonderful day my aircraft loader/fueler came up and informed me that one of the fuel caps on the Otter was missing.  That was just great.  We’d lost that same fuel cap just last month and had to ask the owner to send us a new one and now it was also missing.  Those caps are expensive and I was sure the owner was going to make me pay for it this time, I wasn’t looking forward to making that call.  Apparently the loader hadn’t put the cap on correctly after fueling the plane and it fell off in flight landing who knows where.  For rest of the day we had to fly the Otter with a bunch of duct tape covering the fuel tank opening, that was classy.  The day finally ended and whilst trying to forget it over a few adult beverages with some of the staff and regular jumpers I got a text from one of my Jump masters who lives about three miles south of the airport and is also one of my Otter pilots.  The text read “Here is what I found on my wood pile when I got home tonight.  I didn’t move it.”

    Here was the picture he sent. 

Yep, the missing fuel cap, what are the odds?  Finally,  a little luck.

Be Quiet

Got to do a little flying with Claire the last two days in the mighty Cessna 150 because yesterday morning my little lead foot had a date with the judge  to explain just why she was always in such a hurry.  The reason for flying was that the courthouse opened at 8:00 and Claire had to be back at college for a 10:00 class and the drive time between the two was well over an hour, unless you speed which was what got her into this little fix in the first place.  The solution?  FLY!   The night before I picked her up in a Cessna 150 instead of the Queen Air so Claire could log the time.  Despite a thunderstorm flashing it’s power in the distance, it was a beautiful night for flying and Claire’s landing back home was nothing short of perfect, OK a little left of the center line but still pretty dang good.

After taking care business, Claire met me at the airport where I had the 150 pulled out, warmed up, and ready to go.  We pulled onto the runway and when Claire advanced the throttle I couldn’t help being the over-controlling dad.

Me: “Give it full throttle!”

Claire: “That is full throttle.”  Pushing on the throttle to show me that it was all the way in. “That’s all it’s got.”

Me: “Humph”

Claire: “Maybe you should sit back and let me fly.”


We flew as fast as our underpowered steed would go but Claire was still late for class.  Maybe we should have taken the Queen Air instead.

9 Aginst 400

High on the rooftop of the old mud building, the two SAS soldiers peered out into the desert.

For six desperate hours, they and seven comrades had been under siege, desperately fighting off an army of Arab insurrectionists intent on sweeping them from the face of the earth.

They were surrounded, outnumbered by at least 25 to one.

Read more: How-British-heroes-entered-SAS-legend-fighting-400-bloodthirsty