A Texas Air Show Collision Between Two Vintage Military Aircraft Killed Six
The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office reported Sunday that six individuals were killed after two World War II-era military planes collided in midair and crashed at Dallas Executive Airport during an airshow Saturday afternoon, killing everyone on board.
“We can confirm that there are six (fatalities),” a Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office spokeswoman told CNN over the phone.
After two antique planes, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra, collided during the Wings Over Dallas airshow, more than 40 fire and rescue units rushed to the site.
The jets are seen breaking apart in midair following the accident, then hitting the ground within seconds before bursting into flames in video footage described as “heartbreaking” by Dallas’ mayor.
Here are the most recent developments as National Transportation Safety Board investigators prepare to arrive on the scene on Sunday.
What We Know So Far About the Crew Members Who Were Killed
The collision occurred around 1:20 p.m. Saturday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Allied Pilots Association, the labor union that represents American Airlines pilots, has identified two pilot retirees and former union members as victims of the crash.
The APA reported on social media that former members Terry Barker and Len Root were crew on the B-17 Flying Fortress during the airshow.
“Our hearts go out to their families, friends, and former and present colleagues,” the union said. Following the event, the APA is providing professional counseling services at their Fort Worth offices.
Keller Mayor Armin Mizani also revealed Barker’s death, a former city council member in Keller, Texas, in a Facebook post on Sunday morning.
“Keller is in mourning as we have learned that husband, father, Army veteran, and former Keller City Councilman Terry Barker was among those killed in the sad crash at the Dallas Air Show,” Mizani said.
“Many people adored Terry Barker.” He was a buddy and someone I frequently sought advice from. Even after he retired from the City Council and American Airlines, his love for the city was palpable.”
Maj. Curtis J. Rowe, a 30-year veteran of the Civil Air Patrol’s Ohio Wing, was also killed in the crash, the agency’s commander, Col. Pete Bowden, said on Sunday.
Rowe held a variety of jobs with the Civil Air Patrol, including safety officer, operations officer, and most recently, Ohio Wing maintenance officer, according to Bowden. Rowe’s family was informed of his death Saturday evening, according to the commander.
“I try to find solace in the fact that when great aviators like Curt die, they die doing what they loved.”
Curt touched the lives of hundreds of his fellow CAP members, particularly the cadets he flew during orientation flights or taught at Flight Academies, and for that, we will be eternally thankful,” Bowden wrote on Facebook.
“Farewell to a terrific aviator, comrade, and Auxiliary Airman,” he said.
Hank Coates, president and CEO of the Commemorative Air Force, an organization that preserves and maintains antique military aircraft, told reporters at a Saturday news conference that the B-17 “usually has a crew of four to five.” The P-63 is a “single-piloted fighter-type aircraft.”
Both aircraft were recognized as being based in Houston by the Commemorative Air Force.
Although no spectators or onlookers were harmed, the debris field from the crash included the Dallas Executive Airport grounds, Highway 67, and an adjacent strip mall.
A Rare Aircraft is Involved
The B-17 was part of the Commemorative Air Force’s collection, called “Texas Raiders,” and was maintained in a hangar in Conroe, Texas, near Houston.
It was one of approximately 45 complete surviving specimens of the aircraft, just nine of which were flyable.
The P-63 was considerably more unusual. There are 14 known survivors, four of which were airworthy in the United States, including one held by the Commemorative Air Force.
Between 1936 and 1945, Boeing, Douglas Aircraft, and Lockheed produced over 12,000 B-17s, with approximately 5,000 lost during the war and the majority of the rest scrapped by the early 1960s.
Between 1943 and 1945, Bell Aircraft produced around 3,300 P-63s, which were mostly employed by the Soviet Air Force during WWII.
NTSB Establishes a Go-team
The FAA was leading the investigation into the air show disaster on Saturday, but the NTSB took control after its team arrived on the scene, according to a news conference held on Sunday.
According to the NTSB, the team assigned consisted of technical experts who are often dispatched to plane crash sites to investigate the collision.
“To identify the probable cause, our staff slowly and systematically evaluates all information and considers all conceivable causes,” NTSB member Michael Graham stated.
According to Graham, investigators have begun obtaining audio recordings from the air traffic control tower and conducting interviews with other formation crews and air show operations.
Neither plane had a flight data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder, sometimes known as a “black box,” he noted.
According to Graham, investigators investigated the accident site using an NTSB drone and a photograph of the scene from the ground to document the area before moving the wreckage to a secure location.
A preliminary accident report is due in four to six weeks, but a thorough investigation might take 12 to 18 months before releasing a final report.
Graham appealed to witnesses, asking them to submit any images or recordings of the incident with the NTSB.
“They’ll actually be quite significant,” Graham added, “since we don’t have any flight data recorder data or cockpit voice recorders or anything like [those devices].”
“They’ll be very important to analyze the collision and also tie that in with the aircraft control recordings to determine why the two aircraft collided and to determine, basically, how and why this accident happened and then, hopefully, maybe make some safety recommendations to prevent it from happening again.”
According to Coates, the people who fly the planes in CAF airshows are volunteers who go through a rigorous training process. Many are airline pilots, retired airline pilots, or military pilots.
“The movements they (the aircraft) were performing were not dynamic at all,” Coates observed. “We called it ‘Bombers on Parade.'”
“This isn’t about the plane. “It’s just not,” Coates explained. “I can assure you that the aircraft is excellent and safe. They are extremely well-kept. The pilots have had extensive training.
So it’s difficult for me to talk about it because I know all of these individuals; they’re family and good friends of mine.”
“As many of you have now seen, we had a tragic tragedy in our city today during an airshow,” Mayor Johnson stated in a tweet following the crash. Many details are now unknown or unconfirmed.”
“The footage is heartbreaking. Please pray for the souls who took to the skies today to entertain and educate our families,” Johnson added in a separate tweet.
According to the organizer’s website, the Wings Over Dallas event, which was planned to run through Sunday, has been canceled.