Some theorizing

Some of my pilot friends have been doing some theorizing based on a couple of photos:

This shows the plane inverted (which it shouldn't be) the left elevator trim tab is clearly gone. This would mess up control of the plane.

In the words of Jim Mitchell: "In the one going straight down you can see no part of Jimmy Leeward's helmet in the cockpit. This lends credence to it being the trim tab failure/departure that caused the pull up and over and that he was pushed down so hard by the G forces that he could not control the aircraft."

In the words of Rob Gingell: "Was thinking more about that 2nd picture, and regardless of my curiosity about its provenance, I think Jim's comment about lots of G's pushing Leeward down makes sense. Given that they're pulling 3-5 G's making the turns anyway, if something suddenly increased the G loading chances are the pilot's going to black out. He may have been unconscious from that point on or even if not, sufficiently disoriented to not be able to exert any control over the plane."

Update: Another comment from Jim Mitchell: "I have also noted one other thing on the picture of the GG upside down. Look at the cockpit and you will see Leeward's white helmet at the very front right up against the instrument panel. I think that's why you see nothing in the vertical picture. Look at the picture of GG taxiing and you can see the same helmet and Leeward's head is easily visible under the canopy.

"Finally, the NTSB say they have found the trim tab near where the pullup began, so I suspect he felt vibration from it, straightened out and began to pull up when it came off, which resulted in the GG pulling up at high G's. After that I don't think he played any part in the aircraft's flight path."

September 17, 2011