Texas air show: 6 dead after pair of vintage military planes collide in Dallas
Six people have died after two World War II military planes collided mid-air and crashed at Dallas Executive Airport during an air show on Saturday afternoon, killing all on board, the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office said Sunday.
“We can confirm there are six (deaths),” a spokesperson for the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office told CNN in a phone call.
More than 40 fire units responded to the scene after the two vintage planes – a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra – crashed during the Wings Over Dallas air show.
In video footage of the crash described by the mayor of Dallas as “heartbreaking”, the planes are seen shattering in mid-air after the collision, then hitting the ground within seconds, before bursting into flames.
Here are the latest developments as National Transportation Safety Board investigators are due to arrive at the scene on Sunday.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the crash happened around 1:20 p.m. Saturday.
The Allied Pilots Association – the union representing American Airlines pilots – identified two retired pilots and former union members among those killed in the collision.
Former members Terry Barker and Len Root were part of the B-17 Flying Fortress crew during the airshow, the APA said on social media.
“Our hearts go out to their families, friends and colleagues past and present,” the union said. The APA is offering professional counseling services at its headquarters in Fort Worth following the incident.
The death of Barker, a former member of the Keller, Texas city council, was also announced by Keller Mayor Armin Mizani on Sunday morning in a Facebook post.
“Keller is in mourning as we learned that her husband, father, Army veteran and former Keller Councilman Terry Barker was one of the victims of the tragic Dallas Airshow crash,” wrote Mizani.
“Terry Barker was loved by many. He was a friend and someone whose advice I often sought. Even after retiring from City Council and flying for American Airlines, his love for the community was unmistakable.
A more than 30-year veteran of the Civil Air Patrol’s Ohio Wing, Maj. Curtis J. Rowe, was also among those killed in the crash, agency commander Col. Pete Bowden said Sunday.
Rowe held several positions throughout his tenure with the Civil Air Patrol, from security officer to operations officer, and most recently as a maintenance officer with the Ohio Wing, Bowden said. Rowe’s family was notified of his death on Saturday evening, the commander added.
“I come to find comfort in the fact that when great Airmen like Curt perish, they do so doing what they love. Curt touched the lives of thousands of his fellow CAP members, especially the cadets who ‘he’s flown orientation flights or taught flight academies and for that we should be eternally grateful,’ Bowden wrote in a Facebook post.
“To a great airman, colleague and auxiliary airman, farewell,” he said.
At a press conference Saturday, Hank Coates, president and CEO of Commemorative Air Force, an organization that preserves and maintains vintage military aircraft, told reporters that the B-17 “normally has a crew of four to five. That was what was on the plane”, while the P-63 is a “single-pilot fighter type aircraft”.
The Commemorative Air Force identified both planes as being based in Houston.
No bystanders or anyone on the ground were injured, although the crash’s debris field includes the grounds of Dallas Executive Airport, Highway 67 and a nearby shopping mall.
The B-17 was part of the Commemorative Air Force collection, nicknamed “Texas Raiders”, and had been kept in a hangar in Conroe, Texas, near Houston.
It was one of approximately 45 surviving complete examples of the design, of which only nine were airworthy.
The P-63 was even rarer. It is known that 14 examples survived, of which four in the United States were airworthy, including one belonging to the Commemorative Air Force.
More than 12,000 B-17s were produced by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft and Lockheed between 1936 and 1945, with nearly 5,000 lost during the war, and most of the remainder scrapped by the early 1960s. About 3,300 P -63 were produced by Bell Aircraft between 1943 and 1945 and were used primarily by the Soviet Air Force during World War II.
The FAA was leading the investigation into the air show crash on Saturday, but it was to be turned over to the NTSB once its team arrived on scene, Coates said.
On Saturday evening, the NTSB announced that it was sending a team to investigate the collision. The team, made up of technical experts regularly dispatched to plane crash sites, is expected to arrive on Sunday, the agency said.
According to Coates, the people who fly the plane at CAF air shows are volunteers and go through a strict training process. Many of them are airline pilots, retired airline pilots or retired military pilots.
“The maneuvers they (the aircraft) were performing were not dynamic at all,” Coates noted. “It was what we call ‘Bombers on Parade’.”
“It’s not about the plane. It just isn’t,” Coates said. “I can tell you the planes are great planes, they’re safe. They’re very well maintained. The drivers are very well trained, so it’s hard for me to talk about it, because I know all these people, they’re family, and they’re good friends.
Mayor Johnson said in a tweet after the crash“As many of you have seen, we had a terrible tragedy in our city today during an airshow. Many details remain unknown or unconfirmed at this time.
“The videos are heartbreaking. Please say a prayer for the souls who soared to entertain and educate our families today,” Johnson said in a separate tweet.
The Wings Over Dallas event, which was scheduled to run through Sunday, has been canceled, according to the organizer’s website.