Reno air races had history of safety issues, troubles
The Associated Press reported that four pilots were killed in 2007 and 2008, and local officials were at one point so concerned about safety that they considered banning student field trips. The Reno Gazette-Journal said that before Friday, 19 people had been killed at the races in their 48-year history.
Asked about the safety of the event Friday evening, spokesman Mike Draper said: "I can tell you we work year-round on safety. At this time, we've thought through every emergency protocol. Without knowing the cause of the accident, I can't tell you if there is anything else we could have done."
The event, which is held north of Reno's commercial airport, is like a cross between a race in the sky and an air show. The races themselves feature three types of planes, which race around pylons in the air like runners on a track.
The event was created in the 1960s to draw tourists during the slow month of September, and has grown into a huge event that draws some 200,000 flying enthusiasts and local dignitaries. The event was estimated by the Northern Nevada Business Weekly to generate nearly $70 million for a state that has been walloped by the bad economy.
-- Ashley Powers
Photo: Medics wheel a man into Renown Medical Center after a plane crashed into the crowd at the Reno National Championship Air Races on Friday. Credit: Liz Margerum / Reno Gazette-Journal