Reno Report – Blue Thunder Emergency Landing

Calm Under Pressure


Things don’t always go the way we want them to in aviation, and at the Reno Races, with metal pushed to the limit, it is unusual to go a week without a few untoward events. Such was the case for previous Champion John Parker in his Thunder Mustang “Blue Thunder” on qualifying day. The engine apparently threw a connecting rod on take-off after an overspeed event, but Parker demonstrated his experience and cool professionalism as he gained enough altitude for a turn-around and executed a safe landing on the runway. He carried the power he had as long as he could to provide as many options as possible. We looked a at the motor afterwards, and the damage is impressive – holes on both sides of the crankcase even with the offending rod, and signs of of fire (notice the smoke in the video) in the same area.

We’re sorry not to see Blue Thunder flying to compete for the title, but happy to see Parker safe and determined to fly again. Good job Mr. Parker!

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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