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Danger in air again at Reno National Air Races

Published September 11, 2012 2:56 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Reno, Nev. • Danger is in the air again on Nevada's high desert where vintage Word War II fighters are roaring out of the Valley of Speed as loud as ever, their paint jobs just as bright and the enthusiasm of loyal aviation buffs never stronger.

But it's not exactly business as usual at the 49th annual National Championship Air Races a year after Jimmy Leeward lost control of his P-51 Mustang and it slammed into box seats on the edge of the grandstand, killing the pilot, 10 others on the ground and injuring more than 70.

Some changes are more obvious: Concrete barriers have been added in front of the grandstand and there's a wider safety buffer between racers and fans.

But some things don't change, like the inherent risk to pilots in souped-up muscle planes racing at speeds that sometimes exceed 500 mph.