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Reno air races crash: NTSB investigates elevator trim tab

September 17, 2011 |  2:23 pm

Reno

The modified P-51 Mustang that crashed at the Reno air races on Friday was in a qualifying heat, flying at low altitude and high speed when it pitched up, climbed briefly and then went nose down, hitting the tarmac, federal authorities said Saturday.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are looking into whether a metal component of the aircraft's tail known as an elevator trim tab -- which appeared to be missing in photographs and video of the aircraft taken Friday -- played any role.

"We're aware of that, and a component has been recovered in the area where that was observed," NTSB board member Mark Rosekind told reporters in a news conference at the Reno-Stead airport.

Photos: Reno air race crash

The crash killed at least nine people, including the pilot, and injured scores of others, some critically.

Three NTSB investigators were on site at the time of the crash, Rosekind said, saying that was "common practice" for the event.  The rest of the investigative team arrived at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, he said.

The team isolated the accident site and walked through the wreckage while police and highway patrol mapped the scene and crews swept the runway to prepare it to resume operations.

"This is just the beginning," Rosekind said. The investigation, he said, is "not just about that piece of metal" and determining the cause of the crash -- the team also seeks to make safety and oversight recommendations so that such a crash never happens again. 

The probe could take up to a year, NTSB officials said.

Reno Mayor Bob Cashell on Saturday praised emergency personnel for a quick response, saying, "If you look at some of those videos, you'll see the emergency vehicles rolling in while the dust was still in the air."

Cashell expressed sympathy for the victims' families, saying it was the first time in about 40 years spectators have died at the air show.

"We've lost some pilots, but we've never had a major catastrophe," he said.

Reno Deputy Police Chief Dave Evans said in a news conference Saturday that 54 people were taken to hospitals and two of them were later pronounced dead. Seven people, including the pilot, died at the airfield.

Asked if there were still people missing in connection with the crash, Evans said, "We're still working on that."

RELATED:

FULL COVERAGE: Deadly crash at Reno air show

Reno air races had history of safety issues, troubles

Reno air races have claimed 19 other pilots since 1972

--Tony Barboza in Reno, Nev.

Photo: A P-51 Mustang airplane is shown upside down right before crashing Friday at the Reno air show. Credit: Tim O'Brien / Grass Valley Union

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