DALLAS – Six people were killed after two historic military plane crashes crashed and fell to the ground on Saturday afternoon during an air show in Dallas, officials said.
“According to our Dallas County Medical Examiner there are a total of 6 deaths from yesterday’s Wings air show accident over Dallas,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted on Sunday. He said authorities were still working to identify the victims.
Emergency crews rushed to the crash site at Dallas Executive Airport, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from downtown. News footage from the scene showed crumpled wreckage of the planes in a grassy area on the airport’s perimeter. Dallas Fire and Rescue told The Dallas Morning News that there were no reports of injuries among people on the ground.
Anthony Montoya saw the two planes collide.
“I just stood there. I was in complete shock and disbelief,” said Montoya, 27, who attended the air show with a friend. “Everyone around gasped. Everyone burst into tears. Everyone was in shock.”
Officials did not say how many people were in each plane, but Hank Coates, president of the company that organized the air show, said one of the planes, a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, usually had a crew of four to five. The other, a P-63 Kingcobra fighter, has one pilot.
There were no paying customers on the plane, said Coates of the Commemorative Air Force, which also owned the planes. Their planes are flown by well-trained volunteers, often retired pilots, he said.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the National Transportation Safety Board has taken control of the crash scene, with local police and fire departments assisting.
“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 occurred during the Air Force Memorial Show over Dallas.
Victoria Yeager, the widow of famed Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager and a pilot herself, was also on the show. She didn’t see the collision, but she did see the burning wreckage.
“It was pulverized,” said Yeager, 64, who lives in Fort Worth.
“We were just hoping everyone got out, but we knew they didn’t,” she said of the people on board.
The B-17, a cornerstone of US air power during World War II, was a huge four-engine bomber used in daylight raids against Germany. The Kingcobra, an American combat aircraft, was primarily used 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 on display in museums and air shows, according to Boeing.
Several videos posted on social media showed the fighter jet seeming to fly into the bomber, causing them to quickly crash to the ground and shoot out a large ball of fire and smoke.
“It was really terrifying to see,” Aubrey Ann Young, 37, of Leander. Texas, which has seen the crash. Her children were inside the hangar 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.
Air show safety — especially with older military aircraft — has been an issue for years. In 2011, 11 people were killed in Reno, Nevada when a P-51 Mustang crashed into spectators. in 2019 bomber crashed in Hartford, Connecticut, killing seven people. At the time, the NTSB said it had investigated 21 accidents since 1982 involving World War II-era bombers that resulted in 23 deaths.
Wings Over Dallas bills itself as “America’s premier World War II air show,” according to a website promoting the event. The show was scheduled for November 11-13, the weekend of Veterans Day, and guests got to see more than 40 aircraft from the World War II era. Its Saturday afternoon flight display schedule included a “bomber parade” and a “fighter escort” that included B-17s and P-63s.
Arthur Alan Wolk is an aviation attorney in Philadelphia who has been involved in air shows for 12 years. After watching video of the air show and hearing the maneuvers described as “parade bombers,” Wolk told The Associated Press on Sunday that the P-63 pilot had violated the basic rule of formation flight.
“He went belly up to the leader,” Volk said. “It prevents him from judging distance and position. Collision risk is very high when you can’t see who you should be in formation with and this kind of joining is not allowed.
He added: “I am not blaming anyone and as much as possible the air shows, the pilots and the aircraft that fly them are safe. Air shows are one of the biggest spectator events in America and it’s rare for a tragedy like this to happen.”
Wolk said it takes extensive training and discipline to fly in an air show environment. The P-63’s air show pilot qualifications are unknown.
The FAA is also launching an investigation, officials said.
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