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Broken Tail Trim in Nevada Air Crash Doubled Plane's 'G-Load,' Caused Pilot to Black Out, Expert Says

Expert: Broken tail trim likely caused Reno disaster

 

The deadly Nevada air racing disaster that killed 11 people may have been caused by a missing tail trim that doubled the plane's "G-load" and made the pilot pass out, an aviation expert tells Fox News.

The WWII-era P-51 Mustang fighter plane -- named the Galloping Ghost -- crashed in Reno during an air race Friday, killing 11 people and injuring at least 70 others. The National Transportation Safety Board is examining photographs taken before and after the disaster for any clues into the crash.

Pilot and aviation expert Blake Mathis told Fox News Wednesday that a broken tail trim seen in one of the photos likely caused the plane to speed upwards into the sky, creating a "tremendous G-load" that made pilot Jimmy Leeward pass out.

"For anyone, not just a man of Mr. Leeward’s age, it could have caused him to black out or pass out," Mathis said. "It could even snap someone’s neck if they’re not prepared for that."

Mathis' theory comes a day after an aviation mechanic said another photo suggests the pilot became dislodged in the cockpit as a result of a broken seat

Aviation mechanic J.R. Walker told Fox News that Leeward would have been seen in the photo even if he had passed out and was slumped in his seat.

Walker, who has worked on similar planes, suggested that Leeward’s seat may have slipped back, causing him to lose control of the plane.

Fox News' Trace Gallagher contributed to this report.