The NTSB has released its preliminary report on the fatal crash at the 2023 Reno Air Races.
On the final day of the races, Sept. 17, 2023, veteran T-6 racing pilots Nick Macy and Chris Rushing died in a collision following the T-6 Gold Race shortly after 2 p.m.
According to the recently released NTSB report, several witnesses reported observing both Race 14 and Race 6 collide while in the airport traffic pattern for Runway 8.
One witness reported that Rushing in Race 14, “Baron’s Revenge,” was on base leg (southerly heading) for Runway 8, oriented along the airport perimeter fence line about 300 feet above ground level (AGL), and Macy in Race 6, “Six-Cat,” was on downwind on a west-southwest heading about 300 feet AGL. The witness stated that at the time of the collision, Race 6 was at about a 75° angle in relation to the flight path of Race 14.
Another witness, Vic McMann, the pilot of Race 66, “Gunslinger,” was in the third position to land. He told NTSB investigators that after he completed the race, he began a slow left turn to downwind. As he was about to complete the turn onto downwind, he heard the pilots of Race 14 and Race 6 both transmit “downwind, abeam.”
McMann continued to slow his airplane to “create some space and time to see them,” he told investigators.
He heard Race 14 transmit “base with gear.” As he got close to turning onto the base leg for the runway, he spotted Race 6, and transmitted downwind abeam.
McMann said he “finally spotted” Race 14 below his position to the right and on the base leg, and saw Race 6 in level flight, to his left, noting both airplanes were not where he expected them to be.
He added that Race 14 was on a “wider base” than the previous two flights, and Race 6 was “tighter” than his position.
Race 14 crossed in front of Race 66 from right to left and disappeared (from view) on the right side of the engine cowling, while Race 6 disappeared under McMann’s left wing.
McMann transmitted base with gear and began a left turn to the base leg for Runway 8. Shortly after, he observed Race 14 where he expected him to be in level flight, with “nothing behind the passenger seat” briefly before it began to roll to the right and descend in a nose low attitude.
Review of recorded radio transmissions after the completion of the race revealed that the pilot of Race 14 reported downwind abeam. About 30 seconds later, the pilot of Race 6 reported downwind abeam, followed by another transmission from the pilot of Race 14 reporting base with gear four seconds later.
Several transmissions were heard from pilots of other aircraft reporting downwind abeam until the announcement of a red flag about 1 minute, 11 seconds after Race 14’s initial transmission.
Examination of the accident site revealed a debris path originated about 7,881 feet northwest of the approach end of Runway 8 and extended south to the main wreckage of Race 14. It was about 1,366 feet in length, the NTSB report noted.
Identified pieces of Race 14 in the debris field included segments of the left aileron, segments of the left flap, right horizontal stabilizer, right elevator, sections of aft fuselage skin, and a plastic pouch with the airplane documents. Small pieces of black painted skin and plexiglass from Race 6 were identified in the debris field.
The wreckage of Race 6 came to rest in an open field. The wing structure was separated from the fuselage and the outboard left wing was separated at the attach joint. The wing sections were located about 30 feet south of the main wreckage. The fuselage was compressed aft significantly.
The vertical stabilizer, rudder, tailwheel, left horizontal stabilizer, left elevator, and portions of fuselage skin from Race 14 were found co-mingled with the wreckage of Race 6, the NTSB report stated.
All major structural components of Race 6 were located within about 50 feet of the main wreckage.
The wreckage of Race 14 came to rest in an open sagebrush field. The entire wing section was compressed aft, separated from the fuselage, and located about 10 feet from the main fuselage wreckage.
A full report on the accident will take months to complete. NTSB accident investigations typically take 18 months to two years to complete.
To read the preliminary report yourself, go to NTSB.gov and search for WPR23FA345. Clicking on the PDF icon will initiate a download of the report to your desktop or device.