SACRAMENTO- Several local experienced pilots suspect a faulty elevator trim tab may be to blame for the horrific crash at Friday's Reno air race.
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An email circulating among pilots includes several photographs highlighting a broken component on the back of the P-51 that crashed.
Tim Pinkney, an experienced Navy pilot, and several other veteran flyers are now reviewing the pictures in the email, which have led them to suspect a faulty elevator trim tab may have been to blame. "The trim tab helps a plane maintain its horizontal stability," explained Pinkney.
"That's the scariest shot in my life," said Pinkney. He was referring to the photo of the P-51 just seconds before it crashed. "That's like a charging elephant coming toward you, a couple thousand pounds, 450 horse power traveling about 500 miles per hour."
Pinkney, who is a regular at the National Championship Air Races, estimated the crash happened just 80 feet from him.
"I saw it (the plane) coming toward me at which point I ducked down into the bleachers. A piece of something him me in the face. It wasn't metal. Thank goodness."
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Certified flight instructor and retired United Airlines captain and U.S. Air Force colonel, Jerry Blalock, also received the email with the pictures of the elevator trim tab.
"The trim tab in the top picture has broken loose on one side and its dragging behind," said Blalock of the first photograph.
The second picture -- it looks to me that the trim tab has broken lose completely and fluttered loose to the ground. In the third picture, I don't see a pilot's head in that cockpit. That's a very small plexiglass canopy. It looks to me that he has pitched forward and possibly passed out," said Blalock.
"It appears from the pictures at least, that it was the malfunction of the trim tab and that would cause the plane to be uncontrollable, perhaps cause the pilot to lose unconsciousness because of G force," said Pinkney.
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By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org