RENO (CBS SF) – The annual Reno air races are going to take place this September, despite a deadly crash that marred last year’s event.

The 2011 National Championship Air Races in Reno were abruptly canceled after 74-year-old pilot Jimmy Leeward lost control of his World War II-era P-51 Mustang and crashed into the crowd. 11 people were killed and more than 70 were injured.

“I thought, oh God this is bad,” said one witness to last year’s crash. “I knew he was gone and I was just hoping it was outside of the pits or the grandstand area.”

KCBS’ Chris Filippi Reports:

Organizers said after much soul-searching, they want to go ahead with the 49th annual races in mid-September.

Reno Air Race Association President Mike Houghton said a blue ribbon panel has been set up to study safety procedures at the event.

“We take every ounce of safety very seriously and focus on every element to ensure safety for our fans and for our racers,” said Houghton.

Organizers still have to obtain permits from the city of Reno and the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority as well as a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Houghton said the five-day event generates more than $80 million for Reno’s economy. The event is scheduled for September 12-16 at Reno-Stead Airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board has scheduled a hearing for next week to examine the safety of air shows and air races in general. The agency is still investigating what caused the Reno crash, although findings aren’t expected to be released until later this year.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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