By Melissa Koenig and Ronny Reyes For Dailymail.Com
A B-17 bomber appeared to stray into the blindspot of a P-63 Kingcorbra as the historic World War II-era planes collided in midair outside of Dallas on Saturday.
Six people are feared dead at the Wings Over Dallas event when the P-63, seemingly unable to spot the B-17 below it, crashed into the large bomber, sending debris flying and igniting a fire nearby.
Jason Evans, a Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman, told the Dallas Morning News that the crash occurred at around 1.30pm above the Dallas Executive Airport.
Video posted online shows a P-63 Kingcobra approaching the flight path of a Boeing B17 Flying Fortress bomber. The bomber appears to fly by the P-63’s blindspot and the planes collide, ripping each other to shreds.
A second video from a different angle shows how the B-17 approach the blindspot as the Kingcobra was banking right, so it would not have been able to prepare for the impending crash.
The front of the B-17 split off from its rears as its wings caught on fire and it spiraled to the ground nearby.
The exact number of casualties has yet to be confirmed by officials, however, the Allied Pilots Association identified former members Terry Barker and Len Root, who are both part of the B-17 crew, among the deceased.
ABC News producer Jeffrey Cook said six people, all crew members, are feared to be dead.
The incident involving the rare World War II-era planes hearkens back to the deadly 2019 crash where a B-17 performing a ‘heritage flight’ tour slammed into a Connecticut airport that left seven dead.
#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
Video posted online shows a B17 bomber quickly approaching the flight path of a Bell P-63 Kingcobra
The larger plane slammed into the Kingcobra at around 1.30pm Saturday, tearing it to shreds
The bomber split in two, as its wings caught fire and it crashed to the ground off Highway 67 in Texas
Pictured: The fiery explosion that followed the devastating crash at the airshow on Saturday
The Allied Pilots Association identified former members Terry Barker (left) and Len Root (right), who are both part of the B-17 crew, among the deceased
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The Flying Fortress is like a ‘tractor-trailer truck,’ big enough to carry a crew of 10 or 11 people, while the Kingcobra is a single-pilot fighter plane.
Around 40 Fire-Rescue crews immediately responded to the scene.
Responding to the crash, the Allied Pilots Association tweeted: ‘We are saddened to report that former APA members CA Terry Barker and CA Len Root were among the crew members lost on B-17 Flying Fortress during the Wings Over Dallas airshow today. Our hearts go out to their families, friends, and colleagues past and present.’
Both men were members of the B-17 crew, operating and maintaining the historic Texas Raiders aircraft, one of only five B-17s cleared for flying.
Root, of Roanoke, Texas, was a married man with three adult daughters. Barker, of Keller, Texas, was also married.
Hank Coates, president and CEO of the Commemorative Air Force, which hosted the air show, would not comment on the casualties, but told reporters on Saturday afternoon that the B-17 involved ‘normally has a crew of four to five,’ while the P-63 is a ‘single-piloted fighter type aircraft.’
During the news conference, Coates refused to lay any blame for the accident, but noted that the aircrafts were not at fault.
‘This is not about the aircraft. It’s just not,’ Coates said. ‘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.’
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 horrific 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.
While one plane completely erupted on fire, the piece of another landed just a few feet away (above)
Black smoke from the crash bellowed upwards as spectators looked on in horror over the crash
The B17 raider was apparently being flown by a member of the Gulf Coast Wings Texas Raiders. They are pictured here
Root, of Roanoke, Texas, was a married man with three adult daughters
Along with Root, Barker (pictured) was a member of the Gulf Coast Wings Texas Raiders
Those on social media were also quick to point out that the B-17 had approached the smaller plane from its blindspot, which resulted in the crash.
One Twitter user wrote: ‘The P-63 definitely had the B-17 in its blindspot via the control panels. Neither plane could have saw each other in time and the face it was a direct hit just makes it worse.’
Another user with the handle Omphile, agreed, tweeting: ‘Yeses, he never saw it coming. That B-17 fell straight into a big blindspot.’
HW Helser, another Twitter user, echoed the claims. He tweeted: It appears a P63 Kingcobra crashed in to a B-17 while banking left. The B-17 was probably in the P63’s blindspot and didn’t see the B-17 ahead. God bless the families of lost air crew members.’
The consensus appeared to be widespread as Jake Hagen, another Twitter user, wrote: ‘P-63 couldn’t see below his nose or below his wings and he failed to check his blindspot before going into a banking turn to the left with the b-17 coming from the right crossing paths. p-63 pilot would not have seen him but it is his fault.’
Those on social media were also quick to point out that the B-17 had approached the smaller plane from its blindspot, which resulted in the crash
Victoria Yeager, the widow of famed Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager and herself a pilot, 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.
Witnesses say debris was strewn over Highway 67 in Texas, where Fire Rescue authorities said an active fire has broken out. The highway was closed off and traffic was being diverted.
Footage from the aftermath showed smoke billowing above tents at the Dallas festival. Sources say the event was part of the Commemorative Air Force’s show for the Veterans Day weekend.
A Dallas resident took another video showing the crash from a nearby McDonald’s
The front of the B17 bomber was completely destroyed after it burst into flames and landed near the airport
The front of the B17 split off from its rears as its wings caught on fire and it spiraled to the ground nearby
B-17 bomber collides with light aircraft at US airshow
The incident happened during the “Wings Over Dallas” event. Airplanes of the Second World War collided in the air, none of the crews survived. pic.twitter.com/16GL5y2MeG
The bomber was apparently being flown by a member of the Gulf Coast Wings Texas Raiders.
In a statement following the crash, Mayor Eric Johnson called the crash a ‘terrible tragedy in our city.’
‘The videos are heartbreaking,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘Please say a prayer for the souls who took to the sky to entertain and educate our families today.’
Anthony Montoya saw the two planes collide, saying he was in complete shock at the horror.
‘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.’
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
Dallas Fire-Rescue squads are responding to the scene where the B17 bomber crashed down
Spectators said they were completely shocked and burst into tears when the planes collided and crashed
Smoke was seen billowing into the sky above the Wings Over Dallas festival after two planes crashed mid-air
The crash occurred right over the Dallas Executive Airport, and debris was strewn along Highway 67 in Texas
DEVELOPING: Mid-air collision reported at Wings Over Dallas Airshow in Texas; number of injuries unknown pic.twitter.com/oOPHU2KjL1
Wings Over Dallas is an annual airshow hosted by Commemorative Air Force, an organization dedicated to preserving World War II-era aircraft.
Saturday was scheduled to be the second-day of the three-day show, but Friday’s events were canceled due to inclement weather.
The schedule for Saturday’s event included a parade of bomber planes, like the B17, followed by fighter escorts, like the 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.
In a statement, Mayor Eric Johnson called the crash a ‘terrible tragedy in our city’ as he asked residents to ‘say a prayer for the souls who took to the sky to entertain and educate our families today’
The two plans were flying over the Dallas Executive Airport when the crash occurred
The CAF was founded as a nonprofit in 1961 and the weekend show was part of its Air Power History Tour, advertised as a national tour of World War II-era planes.
The group advertises that all of its shows include at least one extremely rare plane like a Boeing B-29 Superfortrss or a B-24 Liberator.
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.
Both planes involved in Saturday’s crash were historic World War II-ear bombers, with only a handful of each still cleared for flying.
The B-17 was the Texas Raiders, one of five of its kind deemed airworthy, and the P-63 Kingcobra is even rarer, with only four located in the US, including the one owned by the Commemorative Air Force used in Saturday’s incident.
THE B-17 FLYING FORTRESS
The Texas Raiders is one of the few remaining World War II-era B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft deemed airworthy in the United States.
The aircraft was assembled in Long Beach, California, in 1944 and delivered to the US Air Force the following year.
It was one of the last planes built in the California factory and among 20 to be shipped to the Navy to be used in the Pacific.
The B-17s in the fleet were used for anti-submarine warfare, establishing the Airborne Warning and Command System, and for additional reconnaissance.
By 1945, the planes were phased out of the Navy, and the Texas Raiders was placed in storage with an accrued flying time of 3,257 hours.
The Texas Raiders B-17 aircraft (above) was one of five of its type deemed airworthy. The historic World War II planes were used in daytime raids over Germany and to attack shipping fleets in the Pacific
The aircraft was then saved from being scrapped after the Aero Service Corporation bought it for $17,500 in 1957 for use as a survey plane.
It was then purchased by ACS Inc. in 1961 for use as an aerial photographic plane.
It wasn’t until 1967 that the plane came into the ownership of the Commemorative Air Force for $50,000.
The CAF officially gave the aircraft the name Texas Raiders during its first restoration in the 60s.
The group maintained the plane in top condition throughout the decades, and the plane returned to the skies in 2009 at that year’s Wings Over Houston airshow.
The Texas Raiders participated in several air shows in Texas, and in 2015, it traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in the Arsenal of Democracy airshow, which commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Allies victory in Europe in World War II.
B-17s were most commonly used in daytime raids over Germany in WWII as well as causing havoc on enemy shipping in the Pacific.
The most popular of the B-17 bombers, the famed B-17F Memphis Belle, was the first heavy bomber to return to the US after flying 25 missions over Europe.
The Memphis Belle became one of the most iconic symbols of WWII and was portrayed in the 1990s film of the same name, which is a fictionalized account of its last mission in 1943.
Memphis Belle gunners were credited with shooting down eight German fighters – and another five probable kills.
Paul Martin, a member of the Army Air Forces Historical Association, described the B-17 as a ‘tractor-trailer truck,’ large enough to carry a crew of 10 or 11 people.
According to US records, there are about 40 surviving B-17 bombers in the nation, with only five deemed ‘airworthy.’ The Texas Raiders plan involved in Saturday’s crash was among the five.
The rest of the B-17 bombers are either on display across the country or are in storage or undergoing restoration.
THE BELL P-63 KINGCOBRA
The Bell P-63 Kingcobra was an American fighter aircraft developed by the Bell Aircraft company during World War II.
About 3,305 P-63s were built by Bell, but it was not accepted for combat use by the US Air Force, who instead gave about two-thirds of the planes away to the Soviet Air Force.
The plane type saw success in the Soviet Union due to its excellent performance at low altitudes, which was where most aerial battles in Eastern Europe were taking place.
Originally, the Kingcobras were delivered to the Soviets with the understanding that they would only be used in the fight out east against Japan.
The Soviet Union, however, opted to use the fighters out West to battle Germany due to the P-63s excellence in low-altitude flying to take out Nazi tanks.
The planes have a maximum speed of 410 mph at 25,000 ft.
Pictured: A Bell P-63 Kingcobra, the same model of the plane involved in Saturday’s crash
Although primarily used by the Soviets, 300 P-63s were used by France in the closing days of World War II, and the planes also saw operations in Honduras.
Due to the fact that there were already superior fighters capable of flying faster at higher altitudes, the P-63s that remained in America were not widely used.
The P-63 planes are rare, with only 14 aircraft known to have survived around the world.
Four are located in the US, including the one owned by the Commemorative Air Force used in Saturday’s incident.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group