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Federal Eye
Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 09/17/2011

Air shows require weeks of planning with the FAA

Updated 4:30 p.m. ET

Interested in organizing an air show? It won’t happen unless you call the FAA.

Organizers of the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nev., where at least nine people were killed when a plane crashed into the grandstands Friday night, spent months preparing for the event by meeting strict Federal Aviation Administration safety guidelines.

The FAA said Saturday that it approved all race plans in advance of Friday’s events and has issued similar approval for the event for several decades.

In advance of any type of air show or race, organizers must complete several pieces of paperwork including forms that account for any potential disruption of airline flights, what, if any aircraft rescue or emergency equipment might be needed on site, maps showing where spectators will be located and whether the show will use fireworks.

The FAA, which employs at least eight FAA officials across the country who are responsible for air show arrangements, also must thoroughly vet pilots in advance. Organizers must submit aircraft inspection records must be submitted before final approval and can apply for temporary flight restrictions on other aircraft in the general vicinity, if necessary.

In response to the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board has deployed investigators from its regional offices and Washington to the scene. In an agency video, NTSB Board Member Mark Rosekind explains that the agency is deploying staffers “with expertise in air worthiness, operations and power plants” and members of the Office of Transportation Disaster Assistance (TDA).

TDA’s former director, Sharon Bryson, was the subject of a Washington Post profile published last Wednesday.

The five-member office arranges briefings for the family members of victims of transportation accidents and remains on call for them 24 hours a day, ensuring that victim identification moves along smoothly and that a victim’s personal items are properly collected.

“We have to stay focused on providing [family members] information, mitigating any trauma, being that organization that they can look to for the things they need at that a very difficult time for them,” Bryson said.

“The first question they want to know is what happened and why,” she told The Post’s Ashley Halsey III. “Waiting is a really, really difficult thing for family members. What they want is their loved ones to be returned home. We can’t say anybody is deceased until the medical examiner says so.”

“One of the things that’s really important for people who work in this business is to have your own space, to just quiet yourself after dealing with people who, in some cases, have lost everything,” Bryson added. “You try really hard not to take it home with you. It’s about having those boundaries, being able to be empathic and helpful and supportive but maintaining yourself as a person.”

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Related:

Vintage plane crashes into grandstands at Nevada air race

The bearer of bad news — and hopefully comfort

For more news, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.

By  |  12:30 PM ET, 09/17/2011

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