After fatal plane crashes at two different air shows within a 24-hour-period, critics are now questioning air show safety in the United States. The first plane crashed in Reno at the National Championship Air Races, killing nine people, including its 74-year-old pilot, and seriously injuring 69 bystanders. Just one day after this accident, another plane crashed at an air show in West Virginia, killing the pilot.
Investigators believe a mechanical error caused the missile-like impact of the Reno crash. Bystanders at the Reno air race reported hearing an unusual gurgling engine noise before the plane plunged into the crowd. The cause of the West Virginia plane crash remains unknown. The pilot attempted to begin an air routine but the plane crashed prior to his completion of the maneuver. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators are now at the scene to determine the cause of the accident.
Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a substantial role in ensuring spectator safety at U.S. air shows. Prior to an air show, the FAA reviews the show’s plans and inspects participants’ planes and courses to ensure spectator safety in the event of a crash. The FAA also requires pilots to obtain medical certificates prior to participating in an air show and to prove that they are competent to participate in the show.