Dallas air show crash: investigation begins after Second World War planes collide

Six dead after fighter plane flew into bomber in skies above Texas

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A midair crash between two historic military planes at a Dallas air show that killed six people and left investigators asking on Sunday why the aircraft were sharing the same air space just before impact.

A Second World War-era bomber and a fighter plane collided before crashing to the ground in a ball of flames on Saturday, leaving crumpled wreckage in a grassy area inside the Dallas Executive Airport perimeter, 16 kilometres from the city’s downtown.

Several videos posted on social media showed the fighter plane flying into the bomber.

“One of the things we would probably most likely be trying to determine is why those aircraft were co-altitude in the same air space at the same time,” Michael Graham, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference.

The incident came three years after the crash of a bomber in Connecticut that killed seven.

Concerns have been raised over the safety of air shows involving older warplanes.

The company that owned the planes flying in the Wings Over Dallas show has had other crashes in its more than 60-year history.

The crash claimed six lives, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted Sunday, citing the county medical examiner. Authorities are continuing work to identify the victims, he said. Dallas Fire-Rescue said there were no reports of injuries on the ground.

Armin Mizani, the mayor of Keller, Texas, said Terry Barker, a retired pilot who lived in Keller, was in the B-17 bomber that crashed. Mr Mizani said he learnt of Barker’s death from his family.

Mr Mizani said Barker’s death has been difficult for his town of 50,000, where many of the residents know each other.

“It’s definitely a big loss in our community,” he said. “We’re grieving.”

Barker was an Army veteran who flew helicopters during his military service. He later worked for American Airlines for 36 years before retiring in 2020, Mr Mizani said.

Maj Curtis J Rowe, a member of the Ohio Wing Civil Air Patrol, was a crew chief on the B-17, his brother-in-law Andy Keller told AP on Sunday. Mr Rowe, of Hilliard, Ohio, did air shows several times a year because he fell in love with Second World War aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration also was going to investigate, officials said. The planes collided and crashed at 1.20pm local time, the FAA said.

Mr Graham said five people were in the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and a pilot was the only person in the P-63 Kingcobra fighter plane. The aircraft are owned by Commemorative Air Force, the company that put on the air show.

The aircraft are flown by highly trained volunteers, often retired pilots, said Hank Coates, president of Commemorative Air Force.

John Cudahy is president of the International Council of Air Shows, a trade group that sets the standards air shows follow and oversees the training of pilots and “air bosses”, who serve as the flight controller for an event.

Mr Cudahy said that typically at air shows there is a Friday rehearsal where the pilots fly through the entire show to practice, so the Saturday show is actually the second time the pilots have flown the show. There are also detailed briefings each day to go over the plan for the air show and cover exactly where each pilot will be and their roles in the show.

“It’s still too early to figure out what happened yesterday. I’ve watched the tape several times and I can’t figure it out and I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” Mr Cudahy said.

Investigators will examine the wreckage from both aircraft, conduct interviews of crews present at the air show and obtain pilot training and aircraft maintenance records.

Updated: November 14, 2022, 6:19 AM