Investigation underway over midair crash at Dallas air show

Juan A. Lozano, Josh Funk and Lm Otero, The Associated Press

Posted Sunday, November 13, 2022 7:45 PM EST

DALLAS (AP) — A national transportation official investigating the cause of a mid-air crash of two historic military aircraft at an air show that killed six people said Sunday that one of the key questions for investigators is to find out why the plane was apparently sharing the same space just before impact.

A World War II bomber and fighter jet collided and crashed to the ground in a ball of flame on Saturday, leaving crumpled wreckage in a grassy area inside the perimeter of Dallas Executive Airport , about 16 kilometers from the city center. . Several videos posted on social media showed the fighter jet hitting the bomber.

“One of the things we would probably try to figure out is why these planes were at the same altitude in the same airspace at the same time,” National Transportation Safety Board member Michael Graham said at a press conference. . .

The crash came three years after a bomber crash in Connecticut that killed seven people, and amid lingering concerns over the safety of air shows involving older fighter jets. 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 killed six, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted Sunday, citing the county medical examiner. Authorities are continuing their 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 downed B-17 bomber. Mizani said he learned of Barker’s death from his family.

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

“It’s definitely a great loss for our community,” he said. “We are in mourning.”

Barker was an Army veteran who flew helicopters during his military service. He then worked for American Airlines for 36 years before retiring in 2020, 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 The Associated Press on Sunday. Rowe, of Hilliard, Ohio, did air shows several times a year because he fell in love with World War II planes, Keller said.

The Federal Aviation Administration would also investigate, officials said. The planes collided and crashed around 1:20 p.m., the FAA said.

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 jet. The planes belong to Commemorative Air Force, the company that organized the air show. The planes are flown by highly trained volunteers, often retired pilots, said Hank Coates, president of the Commemorative Air Force.

John Cudahy is president of the International Council of Air Shows, a trade group that sets the standards followed by air shows and oversees the training of pilots and “air bosses”, who serve as flight controllers for an event. . Cudahy said that usually at air shows there is a rehearsal on Fridays where the pilots fly over the whole show to practice, so the Saturday show is actually the second time the pilots have taken part in the show. . There are also detailed briefings each day to go over the air show plan and cover exactly where each pilot will be and their roles in the show.

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

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

“We will examine everything we can and we will let the evidence lead us to the appropriate conclusions essentially. At this point, we will not speculate” on the cause, Graham said.

A preliminary report from the NTSB is expected in four to six weeks, while a final report will take up to 18 months.

Air shows must obtain special waivers from the FAA and all pilots must demonstrate proficiency in low-level flying and other maneuvers used in air shows, said John Cox, a former airline captain with more than 50 years of experience. ‘experience. Cox is also the founder of Safety Operating Systems, a company that helps small airlines and corporate flight services around the world plan for their safety.

Each air show is overseen by an air chief, Cox said.

“If there are adjustments to be made, the air chief makes those calls and the pilots comply,” he said. Additionally, any pilot with a mechanical problem would report it to the air boss, he said.

Air shows usually rely on extremely detailed plans, including emergency contingencies, Cox said. For example, any pilot who encountered problems could break out of formation and fly to a designated area free of other aircraft that is identified by some landmark.

The B-17, the cornerstone of American air power during World War II, was a huge four-engined bomber used in daylight raids against Germany. The Kingcobra, an American fighter aircraft, was used primarily by Soviet forces during the war. Most B-17s were scrapped at the end of World War II and only a handful remain today, widely displayed in museums and air shows, according to Boeing.

The Commemorative Air Force has had accidents in its more than 60-year history, including a 1995 fatal accident near Odessa, Texas, involving a B-26 bomber that killed five aircrew. , according to an NTSB report. The plane crashed while training for an air show. The NTSB determined that the probable cause was the pilot’s inability to maintain a minimum airspeed for the flight.

In 2001, two separate crashes in West Texas involving planes belonging to the group – one in April and one in May – killed three people. In June 2005, two people were killed when a single-engine plane belonging to the group crashed in Williamson, Georgia.

The Commemorative Air Force, formerly called the Confederate Air Force until members changed their name in 2001 to avoid association with the Civil War, was headquartered in Midland, Texas, but moved to Dallas in 2014.

Wings Over Dallas bills itself as “America’s premier WWII airshow,” according to a website advertising the event. The show was scheduled for November 11-13, Veterans Day weekend, and guests were expected to see more than 40 World War II aircraft. Its Saturday afternoon flight demonstration program included the “Bomber Parade” and “Fighter Escorts” which featured the B-17 and P-63.


Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska, and Lozano reported from Houston.

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