DALLAS — Six people were killed after two historic military planes collided and crashed into the ground Saturday afternoon during an air show in Dallas, officials said.
“According to our Dallas County Medical Examiner, there were a total of 6 deaths during yesterday’s Wings over Dallas air show incident,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. tweeted sunday. He said authorities were continuing to work to identify the victims.
Emergency crews rushed to the scene of the crash at Dallas Executive Airport, about 10 miles from downtown. Newsreel footage from the scene showed the crumpled wreckage of planes in a grassy area inside the airport perimeter. Dallas Fire-Rescue told the Dallas Morning News that no injuries were reported among those on the ground.
Anthony Montoya saw the two planes collide.
“I just stayed there. I was completely shocked and in disbelief,” said Montoya, 27, who attended the air show with a friend. “Everyone around was panting. Everyone was bursting into tears. Everyone was in shock. »
Officials did not say how many people were inside each plane, but Hank Coates, president of the company that organized the air show, said one of the planes, a B-17 Flying bomber Fortress, usually had a crew of four to five. The other, a P-63 Kingcobra fighter jet, has a single pilot.
No paying customers were on the plane, said Coates of Commemorative Air Force, which also owned the planes. Their planes are flown by highly trained volunteers, often retired pilots, he said.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the National Transportation Safety Board took control of the crash scene, with local police and firefighters in support.
“The videos are heartbreaking,” Johnson said on Twitter.
The planes collided and crashed around 1:20 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. The collision happened 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 present at the show. She did not see the collision, but did see the burning wreckage.
“He was pulverized,” said Yeager, 64, who lives in Fort Worth.
“We just hoped they were all out, but we knew they weren’t,” she said of those on board.
The B-17, the cornerstone of American air power during World War II, was a huge four-engined bomber used in daylight raids against Germany. The Kingcobra, an American fighter aircraft, was used primarily by Soviet forces during the war. Most B-17s were scrapped at the end of World War II and only a handful remain today, widely displayed in museums and air shows, according to Boeing.
Multiple videos posted on social media showed the fighter jet appearing to fly into the bomber, causing it to quickly crash to the ground and unleash a large ball of fire and smoke.
“It was really horrible to see,” Aubrey Anne Young, 37, of Leander. Texas, who saw the crash. His children were inside the shed with their father when it happened. “I’m still trying to make sense of it.”
A woman next to Young can be heard crying and screaming hysterically in a video Young uploaded to her Facebook page.
Airshow safety – especially 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 onlookers. In 2019, a bomber crashed in Hartford, Connecticut, killing seven people. The NTSB then said it had investigated 21 crashes since 1982 involving World War II bombers, resulting in the deaths of 23 people.
Wings Over Dallas bills itself as “America’s premier WWII airshow,” according to a website advertising the event. The show was scheduled for November 11-13, Veterans Day weekend, and guests were expected to see more than 40 World War II aircraft. Its Saturday afternoon flight demonstration program included the “Bomber Parade” and “Fighter Escorts” which featured the B-17 and P-63.
Arthur Alan Wolk is an aviation attorney from Philadelphia who has been in air shows for 12 years. After watching video of the air show and hearing the maneuvers described as “bombers on parade,” Wolk told The Associated Press on Sunday that the P-63 pilot violated the basic rule of formation flying.
“He went belly to the leader,” Wolk said. “It prevents him from judging distance and position. The risk of collision is very high when you cannot see who you are supposed to be training with and this type of closeness is not allowed.
He added: “I don’t blame anyone and as far as possible the air shows, the pilots and the planes who fly there are safe. Air shows are one of the biggest spectator events in America and it is rare for a tragedy like this to occur.
Wolk said it takes extensive training and discipline to fly in an air show setting. The P-63 pilot’s air show qualifications are not known.
The FAA has also launched an investigation, officials said.
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