Jimmy Leeward

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Jimmy Leeward
Jimmy Leeward's P-51, Cloud Dancer.jpg
Born James Kent Leeward
(1936-10-21)October 21, 1936
Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died September 16, 2011(2011-09-16) (aged 74)
Reno, Nevada, U.S.
Occupation Real estate developer
Years active 1964–2011
Organization EAA member

James Kent "Jimmy" Leeward (October 21, 1936[1] – September 16, 2011) was an American air racer, owner of the Leeward Air Ranch in Ocala, Florida, and the pilot of the heavily modified North American P-51 Mustang racing aircraft, The Galloping Ghost.[2] He died at the 2011 Reno Air Races in a crash that also killed 10 others; an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board blamed Leeward for "'operating at the edge of the envelope' without fully reporting and testing modifications to his plane."[3]


Leeward grew up around airplanes and at age 11 or 12 often flew a Piper Cub with his father. At age 14, his father allowed him to fly solo in a North American T-6 Texan trainer aircraft. By age 18, he was flying charters in a Beechcraft Model 18. While still in college, he flew a Formula One racer in the Fort Wayne air races.[4] in 1964, he crewed on an airplane at the very first Reno Air Races and in 1976, he first flew his P-51D Mustang "Cloud Dancer" in the Unlimited Class at Reno. In 1983, he purchased the P-51D racer "Jeannie" from Wiley Sanders.[5] This airplane had a racing history going back to the Thompson Trophy races of the 1940s. Leeward raced this airplane at the Reno Air Races from 1983 to 1990. After a number of years of storage and then modifications, he returned to Reno with this aircraft, now returned to its original name The Galloping Ghost in 2010. In the interim years, he raced at Reno in his other Mustang, "Cloud Dancer".[4]

Besides the Mustangs, Leeward also owned a 1937 Ryan SCW, a Piper J-3 Cub and a 1932 Aeronca C-3 his father had owned and flown in the 1930s.[4] Active in aviation, in the 1970s he became a board member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).[6]

In 1982, Leeward began creating plans to build what would be the community of Leeward Air Ranch. He finished developing the community in 1983 and then worked as the developer for the Ocala Business Center, using a runway in the Leeward Air Ranch for air services.[7][8]

Apart from being an experienced air racer, Leeward also had several film credits[9] mainly as a stunt pilot.

Leeward began to drive in car races in the mid-1980s, driving at the Sunbank 24 Hour in 1986 at Daytona International Speedway[10] and injuring himself during qualifying in the Grand Prix of Miami of the same year.[11]


Leeward died on September 16, 2011,[2] when his aircraft lost its trim tab, leading to loss of control, and it crashed into the crowd at the National Championship Air Races at Reno Stead Airport, northwest of Reno, Nevada, killing 10 spectators, and injuring another 69 on the ground.[3]

He was survived by his wife and four children.



Year Film Role Notes
1980 Cloud Dancer Mustang pilot
1983 Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 Stunt pilot Uncredited
1995 The Tuskegee Airmen Stunt pilot Credited as James K. Leeward
2002 Dragonfly Stunt pilot Uncredited
2006 Loney Hearts Pilot
2008 Thunder Over Reno Himself
2009 Amelia Stunt pilot Uncredited

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Florida Public Records
  2. ^ a b Speed and flying were Leeward's lifelong passions, Ocala Star-Banner, September 16, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Ritter, Ken (August 27, 2012). "Trim tab failure caused 2011 Reno race crash". Fox News. Associated Press. Retrieved February 7, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Davison, Budd (May 2011). "Reviving a Ghost". Sport Aviation (Experimental Aircraft Association) 60 (5): 34–39. Retrieved September 17, 2011. 
  5. ^ History of Jeannie by Denver Kissinger Retrieved September 18, 2011.
  6. ^ Sport Aviation, May 2011
  7. ^ Ocala Star-Banner, October 21, 1988.
  8. ^ Ocala Star-Banner, May 27, 1983.
  9. ^ "IMDb". Retrieved September 16, 2011. 
  10. ^ Ocala Star-Banner, February 2, 1986.
  11. ^ The Miami News, March 3, 1986.

External links[edit]