Planes crash during air show at Dallas Executive Airport

Two vintage fighter jets collided in the air Saturday afternoon during the Air Force Wings Over Dallas Commemorative Show at Dallas Executive Airport.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and one Bell P-63 Kingcobra crashed at approximately 1:20 p.m. Dozens of Dallas Fire and Rescue vehicles responded to the airport in the 5300 block of Challenger Drive off U.S. Highway 67 in Red Bird.

The Commemorative Air Force said both planes were based in Houston.

It was unclear how many people were on board the plane, but Commemorative Air Force CEO Hank Coates said a B-17 typically had a crew of four to five, while a P- 63 was a single-pilot aircraft. According to Dallas Fire-Rescue, the number of casualties was unknown as of 4:15 p.m., but the department confirmed no injuries were reported among those on the ground.

In videos shared on social media, the P-63 was seen colliding with the rear of the B-17 as it circled. The front of the B-17 broke off and the aircraft’s wings caught fire upon hitting the ground.

A viewer said “Oh my god!” in Spanish, and a large cloud of black smoke could be seen from the field where dozens of people stood to watch the spectacle overhead. In another video, a child could be heard asking, “Was that supposed to happen? »

At a press conference, Coates said the organization has more than 180 aircraft. Coates said the people who fly them for the shows are volunteers — but not novice pilots, many of whom are retired military pilots and airline pilots.

“It’s not about the plane – it just isn’t,” Coates said. “The planes are great planes; they are safe, they are very well maintained, the pilots are very well trained.

Coates said around 4,000 to 6,000 people were present when the planes crashed.

Dallas Fire-Rescue said debris from the crash was strewn across airport property, a nearby shopping mall and Highway 67. A section of the freeway in south Dallas was closed to traffic Saturday night.

Upon entering the airport in the early afternoon, police were directing traffic and advising drivers that the facility was closed. A long line of cars was coming out of the airport.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the collision.

Firefighters and police respond to a mid-air collision between two planes at Dallas Executive Airport.(Liesbeth Powers/Staff Photographer)

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson called the accident a “terrible tragedy in our city” in a tweet, adding that many details about the incident were still unknown.

“The videos are heartbreaking,” he wrote. “Please say a prayer for the souls who have taken to heaven to entertain and educate our families today.”

Sen. Ted Cruz said he and his wife, Heidi, are praying for those involved. “The images of this collision are incredibly upsetting and we pray for the safety of everyone at the scene,” he wrote on Twitter.

‘Wow, this is real’

Christopher Kratovil attended the air show with his 12-year-old daughter Kelsey, who shares his interest in airplanes and WWII history. They were among thousands of people who witnessed the crash.

When Kratovil saw the planes collide, he initially thought it might have been part of the show.

“Then it occurred to me, wait, they don’t have the ability to create a fireball in flight or a crash in flight,” he said. “They can’t fake something like that, and it just hit me – wow, this is real, and I can’t believe I’m witnessing a B-17 exploding in the air.”

Brandi Crawford and Bob Kerr, who hadn’t heard of the crash, arrived at the airport for a show that was due to start at 2:30 p.m., only to find the airport was closed.

“We saw a lot of traffic on the way here,” Kerr said. “We didn’t realize it was because of an accident.

Crawford, an Air Force veteran, said Saturday was an important time to remember veterans — especially their contributions to the Air Force and World War II.

“There aren’t many World War II veterans left to tell us the stories and learn from,” Crawford said. “I’m really worried about the drivers and hope they’re okay.”

“They were the greatest generation,” Kerr said. “Any chance I have to see what they’ve done for us is something I think is worth it.”

Firefighters and police respond to a mid-air collision Saturday at Dallas Executive Airport.
Firefighters and police respond to a mid-air collision Saturday at Dallas Executive Airport.(Liesbeth Powers/Staff Photographer)

Veterans Day Show

Wings Over Dallas is an air show hosted by CAF, an organization dedicated to preserving World War II aircraft based at the airport, formerly known as Redbird Airport.

Saturday was supposed to be the second day of a three-day show held over Veterans Day weekend, but Friday’s events were canceled due to bad weather. Saturday’s schedule of events included a parade of bomber planes, including the B-17, followed by fighter escorts, including the P-63.

The organization website showed that events scheduled for Sunday had been canceled.

CAF was founded as a non-profit group in 1961, and the weekend show was part of the CAF Air Power History Tour, advertised as a national WWII aircraft tour. The tour advertises its shows to include one or both of FIFI, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, or Diamond Lil, a B-24 Liberator – an extremely rare aircraft – among a number of other aircraft.

“It’s truly tragic to lose one of the world’s last operational B-17s,” Kratovil said. “It’s an important part of American history, it’s an important part of world history.”

A logo on the nose of the B-17 identified it as the famous texas raiders plane. According to the CAF, the Texas Raiders were one of only five B-17s that could still fly out of the 12,731 originally built.

The CAF called the Texas Raiders “one of the most recognized and popular warbirds”.

Persistent concern

Air show safety has been a concern for years. Since 1982, the NTSB has investigated 21 accidents and 23 fatalities related to World War II bombers, such as the B-17.

In 2011, a race plane in Reno, Nevada, crashed into spectators, killing 11 people, including the pilot. At the Shoreham Airshow in England in 2015, a plane crashed into the road, killing 11 people and injuring 16.

In 2019, seven people died when a bomber crashed in Hartford, Connecticut.

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