On November 12, 2022, two World War II-era aircraft crashed mid-flight during the Wings Over Dallas air event. As of the report, six people had been confirmed killed as a result of the accident, which Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson described as a “Terrible tragedy.”
The two aircraft, a B-17G Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63F Kingcobra, were flying at a low altitude when the crash happened at the Dallas air show at 1:20 PM local time. Social media videos show the front of the B-17 breaking off and both planes collapsing. The big bomber’s wings burst into flames upon contact. While no one on the ground was hurt, the pilots and the crewmembers all tragically died.
Dozens of Dallas Fire-Rescue vehicles and law enforcement personnel responded to the air show at Dallas Executive Airport. An assessment of the surrounding region revealed that debris was spread not just across the airport grounds but also across an adjacent strip mall and US Route 67.
According to the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents American Airlines pilots, two former members, Len Root and Terry Barker, were among those killed in the accident. While the specific configurations of who was flying on which aircraft are unknown at this time, the P-63 is a single-pilot vehicle, whereas the B-17 can hold a crew of ten.
The Dallas-based non-profit Commemorative Air Force (CAF) was hosting the air show where the disaster happened in commemoration of Veterans Day. The organization is committed to conserving antique airplanes and displaying them at events throughout the United States and Canada.
The CAF’s Air Power History Tour included Wings Over Dallas. Other historical aircraft featured alongside the B-17 and P-63 included a Consolidated B-24 Liberator and a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, among many more. According to Hank Coates, CEO of the CAF, the volunteers who flew the planes at the air show were mostly retired airline and military pilots.
“This is not about the aircraft. It’s just not,” Coates told CNN. “I can tell you the aircraft are great aircraft; they’re safe. They’re very well-maintained. The pilots are very well-trained. So it’s difficult for me to talk about it because I know all these people, these are family, and they’re good friends.”
When the crash occurred, between 4,000 and 6,000 spectators were present at the Dallas air show. One of the guests, Christopher Kratovil, told the BBC how quickly the gravity of the situation hit those there.
“It went from being a fairly excited, energetic crowd… to complete silence and stillness, and a lot of people, including myself, turned their children towards them and away from the airfield because there was burning wreckage in the middle of the airfield,” he said.
During WWII, the B-17 heavy bomber was critical to the Allies’ triumph over the Germans. Between 1936 and 1945, an estimated 12,731 were built, with 5,000 lost in combat. By the early 1960s, the majority of those that survived had been scrapped. Based on the emblem on its nose, the plane involved in the mid-air collision was identified as a Texas Raiders.