During a Dallas air show on Saturday, two vintage military aircraft collided, plummeted to the ground, burst into flames, and sent columns of black smoke into the air. It wasn’t known how many people were in the plane or whether there were any casualties on the ground. There were reportedly six crew members on the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and one on the P-63 Kingcobra fighter plane, according to Leah Block, a spokeswoman for the Commemorative Air Force, which organized the Veterans Day weekend event and owned the downed aircraft. She claimed that at the time, the Houston-based aircraft were not providing rides to paying passengers.
Emergency crews raced to the crash scene at the Dallas Executive Airport, about 16 kilometers from the city’s downtown. Live TV news footage from the scene showed people setting up orange cones around the crumpled wreckage of the bomber, which was in a grassy area.
Anthony Montoya saw the two planes collide.
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“I just stood there. I was in complete shock and disbelief,” said Montoya, 27, who attended the air show with a friend. “Everybody around was gasping. Everybody was bursting into tears. Everybody was in shock.”
#BREAKING: New angle of the mid-air collision obtained by @WFAA shows B-17 and other aircraft flying formations at #WingsOverDallas at 1:21p today, when it was hit by a P-63 and fell to the ground over the airfield at Dallas Executive Airport (RBD). pic.twitter.com/6NAS93b3re— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) November 12, 2022
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the National Transportation Safety Board had taken control of the crash scene with local police and fire providing support. “The videos are heartbreaking,” Johnson said on Twitter.
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra collided and crashed around 1.20 pm, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. The collision occurred during the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Dallas show.
Victoria Yeager, the widow of famed Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager and a pilot herself, was also at the show. She didn’t see the collision, but did see the burning wreckage. “It was pulverized,” said Yeager, 64, who lives in Fort Worth. “We were just hoping they had all gotten out, but we knew they didn’t? she said of those on board.
The B-17, an immense four-engine bomber, was a cornerstone of US Air power during World War II and is one of the most celebrated warplanes in US History. The Kingcobra, a US fighter plane, was used mostly by Soviet forces during the war. Most B-17s were scrapped at the end of World War II and only a handful remain today, largely featured at museums and air shows, according to Boeing.
Several videos posted on social media showed the fighter plane appearing to fly into the bomber, causing them to quickly crash to the ground and setting off a large ball of fire and smoke.
“It was really terrifying to see,” Aubrey Anne Young, 37, of Leander. Texas, who saw the crash. Her children were inside the hangar with their father when it occurred. ?I’m still trying to make sense of it.” A woman next to Young can be heard crying and screaming hysterically on a video that Young uploaded to her Facebook page.
Air show safety – particularly with older military aircraft – has been a concern for years. In 2011, 11 people were killed in Reno, Nevada, when a P-51 Mustang crashed into spectators. In 2019, a bomber crashed in Hartford, Connecticut, killing seven people. The NTSB said then that it had investigated 21 accidents since 1982 involving World War II-era bombers, resulting in 23 deaths.
Wings Over Dallas bills itself as “America’s Premier World War II Airshow,” according to a website advertising the event. The show was scheduled for November 11-13, Veterans Day weekend, and guests were to see more than 40 World War II-era aircraft. Its Saturday afternoon schedule included flying demonstrations including a “bomber parade” and “fighter escorts” featured the B-17 and P-63.
Videos of previous Wings Over Dallas events depict vintage warplanes flying low, sometimes in close formation, on simulated strafing or bombing runs. The videos also show the planes performing aerobatic stunts.
With inputs from PTI