Pilot Jimmy Leeward of Ocala, Florida was a skilled airman and not a risk-taker said friends according to MSNBC news service. Leeward`s pilot medical records were current and he was ” a very qualified, very experienced pilot ” said Mike Houghton, CEO and President of Reno Air Races. “Everybody knows him. It`s a tight-knit family ” Houghton said.” He`s been here a long, long time”.
Leeward was the owner of the Leeward Air Ranch Racing Team who was a stunt pilot in some Hollywood movies. Of all the planes he operated, his affection for the P-51 Mustang was described in an interview with the Ocala Star-Banner of Florida. ” They`re more fun. More speed, more challenge. Speed, speed and more speed”, Leeward said. His 40 year career was a remarkable life that was probably coming to an end ?
I think most people agree that Leeward was an expert in his field. Experts are not infallible. There comes a tipping point that is a problem for all of us. Pilot Leeward`s age of 74 is not the problem as long as the guy passes his flight physical every year. What kind of mental check is there for this exciting and challenging endeavor. Ego and a competitive drive is part of the air racing community. That dopamine rush is what motivates them to participate in this risky yet rewarding air racing industry. Most pilots have a love of flying and have been a major contributor to our country`s growth and history.
My speculation arises that Leeward came out of the third turn too fast in third position. He then drifted towards the out of bounds marker pylon towards the spectators on the right. He could have pulled too quickly on the stick to the left trying to get back toward the race track to avoid being disqualified in perhaps his last race.
The jerk on the stick to the left at high speed caused the plane to go out of control. It went straight up, shuttered and then went straight down. Those poor people in the box seats out in front of the bleachers could not run fast enough. The amazing part is there was not fire spreading from the combustion. The crash was so powerful that the plane just disintegrated showering everybody with shrapnel. Many people lost limbs aside from the tragic loss of life.
There will be a difficult investigation piecing together any semblance of evidence of fault. Conjecture and speculation are a part of any catastrophe when lives are lost. Our lives are full of surprises —- some good and some not so good. We move on from any mis-fortune which gives us another day to be grateful and alive.
Prayers and condolences are a part of our human pain and does help all of us in our time of need. The families and loved ones of those killed and injured will survive their loss by helping others as the American way of life endures for all of us. Let the dead rest in peace and the survivors cry in silence.
Bruce J Fraser, Associated Content from Yahoo
msnbc.msn.com, ” A wonderful pilot, not a risk taker “, MSNBC News Service