Before assuming age was a the cause of the Reno crash today...

8:38 PM

People who know zero about aviation are reacting all over the media and Twitter tonight that Pilot Jimmy Leeward's age was the cause of the terrible crash in Reno today. So to educate those who are tweeting without knowing facts, here is a breakdown of Leeward's FAA information from their database (my emphasis in red):

JAMES LEEWARD

Medical Class: Second
Medical Date: 3/2010 (this means he had a valid 2nd class medical, which is even harder to maintain than the usual third class medical most private pilots hold. To keep a FAA 2nd class medical, you need to have passed a rigorous medical examination by an MD who has been authorized by FAA to conduct these exams. Nutshell: Feeble old men do not hold this level of medical. Leeward's health had been signed off by the FAA, and he was legal to fly).

Certificates (Anyone with this many certificates issued by the FAA is a very VERY capable pilot.)

COMMERCIAL PILOT
AIRPLANE SINGLE ENGINE LAND
AIRPLANE SINGLE ENGINE SEA
AIRPLANE MULTIENGINE LAND
INSTRUMENT AIRPLANE
ROTORCRAFT-HELICOPTER
GLIDER

Type Ratings (In each of these cases, Leeward had to prove to an Designated FAA Examiner that he was capable of piloting these various makes/models in normal and emergency situations)

C/AD-4N
C/B-17
C/CE-500
C/CV-LB30
C/CW-46
C/DC-3
C/DC-4
C/DC-B26
C/G-159
C/G-TBM
C/HW-500
C/L-18
C/L-B34
C/N-B25

Limits

B-17, G-TBM (VFR ONLY).
ALL MAKES AND MODELS OF SINGLE AND MULTI ENGINE PISTON POWERED AUTHORIZED AIRCRAFT. (This is the big one. If the FAA gives you this type rating, to fly ANYTHING that has one or two piston engines, you are in a very elite class of pilot. Very few pilots get this rating. There might be more guys playing quarterback in the NFL than pilots that have this rating.)
AUTHORIZED EXPERIMENTAL AIRCRAFT: AV-L39 BF-109 BL-P63 CHV-F4U CU-P40 G-F3F G-F4F G-F6F G-F8F HE-111 L-P38 MIG-15 MIG-17 N-P51 N-P64 R-P47 SPITFIR WSK-TS11 YAK-3.

Bottom Line: It is far too early to know what happened at Reno, but early speculation from eyewitnesses report seeing Leeward's plane go out of control as if something broke. But as far as the FAA is concerned in regards to the pilot's age, their medical requirements are strict and there is zero wiggle room...you either are safe to fly or you are grounded...age is not a deciding factor, only the pilot's overall health. So to the non-pilots who want to bash this well-loved, highly experienced pilot because of his age, you don't know what you're talking about.

Oh, and he was 74 and not 80. The people tweeting that he was 80 look like complete fools.

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