Plane In NV Crash Had `Radical' Changes To Compete

RENO, Nev. (AP) - The World War II-era plane that plummeted into an air-race crowd in Reno, Nev., like a missile bore little resemblance to its original self. It was rebuilt for speed, if not for stability.

The 65-year-old "Galloping Ghost" underwent years of massive overhauls that took a full 10 feet off its wingspan. The ailerons - the back edges of the main wings used to control balance - were cut from about 60 inches to 32.

Pilot Jimmy Leeward, who died in the crash, had said the changes made the P-51 Mustang faster and more maneuverable. But in the months before Friday's crash even he wasn't certain exactly how it would perform.

Investigators don't yet know what caused the plane to pitch sharply into the crowd at the National Championship Air Races, killing nine people, including Leeward, and injuring dozens. They have focused on the "elevator trim tab" - a piece of the tail that helps the aircraft maintain lift and appeared to break off before the crash.

The plane had a video camera facing outward, and memory cards were found at the scene of the crash. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board say the cards will be analyzed to see if there is any footage of the crash.