Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Papa 51 Thunder Mustang, N352BT: Fatal accident occurred May 01, 2018 and Incident occurred September 18, 2016 at Reno-Stead Airport (KRTS), Reno, Nevada

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Reno, Nevada
Hartzell Propeller / Hartzell Engine Technologies; Montgomery, Alabama
51 Aero; Reno, Nevada 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Reno, NV
Accident Number: WPR18FA131
Date & Time: 05/01/2018, 1930 PDT
Registration: N352BT
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On May 1, 2018, about 1930 Pacific daylight time, an experimental amateur-built, American Air Racing Thunder Mustang (Blue Thunder II), N352BT sustained substantial damage during a forced landing at Reno/Stead Airport, Reno, Nevada. The airplane was registered to TM-1 Ltd. and operated by the airline transport pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. The pilot was fatally injured. The local flight departed Reno about 1815. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The airplane was taking part in an in-flight photography mission with another Thunder Mustang, with the photographs being taken from a Beechcraft Bonanza. After about one hour of flight, which included multiple north-south passes north of the airport, the group agreed to end the mission and return to Reno.

As the airplane's approached within about 2 miles of the airport from the north, the accident pilot transmitted a "mayday" call over the common traffic advisory frequency. The pilot of the other Thunder Mustang replied, asking for a confirmation, and the pilot responded again with a mayday call adding that he intended to land on runway 14. The other pilot watched as the accident airplane began to descend towards the airport. He observed it overshoot the runway 14 centerline to the south, and then begin a sweeping 180° left turn followed by a right turn to rejoin the centerline. By this time the airplane was midfield and low over the runway, flying at what he judged to be a high speed. He could not tell if the airplane had touched down or was still floating, and as it approached the end of the runway, it veered off the right side and nosed over.

The airplane came to rest inverted in a gravel area about 20 ft right of the runway edge, and 80 ft short of the runways paved end. The runway surface exhibited a 1,200-ft-long series of intermittent black rubber transfer marks, and propeller blade gouges leading from the runway centerline to the airplane.

A runway construction crew, along with the other pilots from the photography mission, all arrived at the accident site within about 3 minutes, followed a few minutes later by the local fire department. They observed that the vertical stabilizer had folded right against the horizontal stabilizer, and that the canopy was shattered by ground impact. The pilot remained in his seat within the airplane and his helmet appeared to be impinged against the gravel surface. After multiple attempts to move and lift the airplane, he was extracted about 45 minutes later.

The airplane was equipped with a liquid-cooled, fuel injected, 12-cylinder engine manufactured by Ryan Falconer Racing Engines, and a three-blade constant-speed propeller manufactured by Hartzell Propellers. The engine's fuel pump, water pump, propeller governor, auxiliary alternator, and both the scavenge and pressure oil pumps, were driven by the engine crankshaft via pulleys and two parallel serpentine belts. Post-accident examination revealed that the water pump pulley had separated from the pump drive flange. The pulley mounting bolt heads had detached, leaving their threaded stud ends still in the flange. Both serpentine belts had also detached, along with the top of the engine coolant outlet hose, which was adjacent to the pulley (Photo 1). No other mechanical anomalies were noted, and the pump assembly was retained for further examination.

Photo 1: Water Pump Pulley Assembly 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: AMERICAN AIR RACING LTD
Registration: N352BT
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KRTS, 5053 ft msl
Observation Time: 1435 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 4°C / 1°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots, 320°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.91 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Reno, NV (RTS)
Destination: Reno, NV (RTS)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 39.661389, -119.867778

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

John Gano Parker

The Washoe County Medical Examiner has released the name of the pilot who died in an overturned plane at the Reno-Stead Airport Tuesday night. 

The ME says 80-year-old John Gano Parker of Reno was found in plane wreckage around 7:45 p.m. on the south end of one of the runways. 

"This was a very experienced pilot, someone well known in the aviation community. Definitely, someone who had the experience to take off and land very well," says Brian Kulpin with Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority.

Before he died, first responders tried to resuscitate Parker on the runway after he crashed and the plane flipped over.   

Crews towed the plane to where they can examine it.

The tower doesn't operate outside of the air races. Pilots communicate with other pilots, so no word on any emergency communications as the pilot tried to land.  

The cause of death will be released pending an autopsy.

Parker and his wife Jan founded Blue Thunder Air Racing in 1998 and he won Formula One Air Race Championships in the 1970s and 1980 and was well known to the local aviation community.

Story and video ➤

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -- The Washoe County Medical Examiner's Office has released the name of a Reno man found dead after a single-engine plane crash at the Reno Stead Airport Monday evening.

80-year-old John Gano Parker was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of his death has not been determined.

First responders say they found the plane flipped over in gravel at the end of runway 14/32 about 7:45PM May 1, 2018.

The NTSB and FAA are investigating the crash. The Reno Stead Airport will remain operational during the the investigation.

Original article can be found here ➤

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Reno, Nevada

Aircraft, experimental American Air Racing Papa 51 Thunder Mustang, on landing sustained minor damage. 

Date: 18-SEP-16
Time: 23:00:00Z
Regis#: N352BT
Aircraft Model: P51
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Minor
Activity: Other
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
City: RENO
State: Nevada


  1. I had the pleasure of visiting as busy John Parker at his hangar during the Air races. He treated us as if we belong there and offered my wife a place to sit and brought her some cold water. He then took the time to answer any questions with patience. He also was helping another pilot who was racing in his own Thunder Mustang for the first time from Europe. I will miss his presence, watching him race, his friendliness, and the the beautiful aircraft he built and flew. I hope his successors can continue with this amazing business.

  2. Terrible that a water pump pulley problem resulted in a fatality. That aft-end serpentine system is more than just water pump drive:

    The engine's fuel pump, water pump, propeller governor, auxiliary alternator, and both the scavenge and pressure oil pumps, were driven by the engine crankshaft via pulleys and two parallel serpentine belts.

    There is one socket head cap screw visible in post crash photo of the displaced pulley. It will be interesting to see what the final NTSB report evaluation of the socket head cap screw usage finds for:
    - basic strength (socket head vs solid head)
    - certified NAS/MS parts?
    - over/under torqued? (fracture analysis)
    - lack of safety wire?
    - owner team parts substitution?

    Another engine-out Thunder Mustang accident January 04, 2020: