Two WWII-era planes collide in Dallas, resulting in a tragic air show accident that claims six lives

Tragedy struck the skies over the Wings Over Dallas air show on November 12, 2022, when two vintage World War II aircraft collided in a devastating mid-air crash. The incident, which occurred during the Dallas air show’s proceedings, claimed the lives of six individuals, casting a shadow of sorrow over the event and the community as a whole.

The ill-fated aircraft were identified as a Douglas B-17G Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63F Kingcobra. The two planes were flying at a relatively low altitude around 1:20 PM local time when the collision took place. Shocking videos shared across social media platforms captured the horrifying moment the B-17’s front section separated, leading to both aircraft plummeting to the ground. Tragically, all six occupants on board the planes lost their lives, leaving behind a scene of destruction and despair.

Photo Credit: 1. Balon Greyjoy / Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0 2. National Museum of the U.S. Air Force / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Emergency responders from the Dallas Fire-Rescue department swiftly converged on the scene at Dallas Executive Airport, the venue for the air show. The impact of the crash scattered debris not only across the airport grounds but also onto a nearby strip mall and even onto US Route 67.

Among the victims were former members of the Allied Pilots Association, Len Root and Terry Barker. The exact flight configurations of the individuals at the controls of each aircraft are still being determined, but the P-63 Kingcobra typically accommodated a single pilot, while the B-17 Flying Fortress could carry a crew of up to ten.

Douglas B-17G Flying Fortress in flight

The tragic incident unfolded during the Wings Over Dallas air show, an event organized by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), a Dallas-based nonprofit organization. Dedicated to preserving historical aircraft and commemorating veterans, the CAF had organized the air show as part of its Air Power History Tour. This event was especially poignant as it coincided with Veterans Day, underscoring the event’s significance in honoring the sacrifices of the past.

The aircraft involved in the crash were among a collection of historical planes showcased at the event. The B-17 and the P-63 were joined by other iconic World War II planes like the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Piloted by volunteers, many of whom were retired military and airline pilots, these aircraft were not just machines; they were symbols of history and shared memories.

Hank Coates, the CEO of the CAF, emphasized that the accident shouldn’t cast doubt on the safety of these vintage planes. In a statement to CNN, he said, “This is not about the aircraft. It’s just not. I can tell you the aircraft are great aircraft, they’re safe. They’re very well-maintained. The pilots are very well-trained.” The crash, he insisted, was a deeply personal loss affecting a close-knit community.

The tragedy reverberated through the hearts of those who witnessed it. Christopher Kratovil, an attendee at the air show, described the sudden shift in atmosphere from excitement to silence and shock. He recounted the moment of realization when attendees turned their children away from the wreckage-strewn airfield. The crash not only claimed lives but also a piece of living history—the B-17, which played a pivotal role in World War II, was one of the few remaining operational aircraft of its kind.

Bell P-63F Kingcobra in flight

The crash also ended the long and storied careers of the aircraft involved. The B-17, known as Texas Raiders, had served in the US Navy after its delivery to the US Army Air Forces in 1945. With just 20 of its kind produced, Texas Raiders had a unique history and had been in service for decades before joining the CAF’s fleet. The P-63 Kingcobra, one of only two “F” variants ever built, was a rare example of a plane that had retained its airworthiness over the years.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) launched a joint investigation into the incident. The painstaking process of determining the causes and factors contributing to the crash is expected to take up to two years. As a result of this tragedy, the events scheduled for the following day were canceled by the CAF.

The collision of these historic aircraft serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the powerful stories carried by the artifacts of our past. As the aviation community mourns the loss of lives and history, the investigations will hopefully shed light on what led to this devastating event, ensuring that lessons are learned to prevent such tragedies in the future.

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