No injuries in Reno air race plane collision

RENO, Nev. — One of two Czech-built military training jets that collided in midair while practicing for this fall’s National Championship Air Races in Reno had to make a belly landing on the runway with no wheels, but neither pilot was hurt at the airport where 11 people were killed during the finals competition in 2011.

One of the L39-C Albatros manufactured in 1974 suffered tail damage and had to set down with the landing gear retracted at Reno Stead Airport about 5 p.m. on Thursday, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The other one built in 1980 landed without incident on another runway, he said.

The former military planes used to train fighter pilots touched while practicing maneuvers on the race course during a pylon racing seminar that teaches air safety to pilots who want to fly Sept. 11-15 at the 50th annual national championships.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the incident, Gregor said Friday.

Mike Houghton, president and CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association, said emergency crews and volunteers responded quickly to the accident.

“All systems and emergency response were exactly as planned and trained,” he said in a statement. “These pilots did an outstanding job of managing their aircraft after the incident.”

Houghton said the pilot pulled out of his first approach after the collision and circled before coming in a second time without the landing gear.

“When he landed wheels up, it (the plane) sustained quite a bit of damage to the undercarriage,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The airport 15 miles north of Reno is the site of a September 2011 race crash that killed a pilot and 10 others on the ground and injured scores more when a World War II-era, P-51 Mustang going in excess of 500 mph crashed near the grandstand.

During the competition, pilots fly wingtip-to-wingtip as low as 50 feet off the sagebrush on an oval path around pylons, with distances and speeds depending on the class of aircraft.

Both planes involved in Thursday’s mishap were manufactured by the Prague-based Aero Vodochody, an aircraft company established in 1919, a year after the independent Czechoslovak Republic was formed. The company built MiG-15 aircraft during the Cold War era and later the supersonic MiG-19 and MiG-21.

The names of the pilots were not released. The plane built in 1974 is registered to CSC Enterprises Inc. based in Wilmington, Del., and the one in 1980 to Darryl K. Christen of Houma, La., FAA records show.

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