Six people were killed Saturday after two historic aircraft collided mid-air at a Dallas air show and plummeted to the ground in a fireball, stunning onlookers, first responders and city officials.
The Saturday crash is being investigated by several agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
The identities of the victims have not been released by the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office, though a union representing American Airlines pilots said two of those killed were former members. Curtis Rowe of Hilliard, Ohio, also died in the crash, according to the Ohio Civil Air Patrol. An executive officer with the Commemorative Air Force airbase in Georgia identified a fourth person who died as former United Airlines pilot Craig Hutain, 63, of Montgomery, Tex.
Here’s what we know so far about the crash:
Thousands gathered at air show for historic planes
The show, Wings Over Dallas, advertised itself as North Texas’ largest air show featuring World War II aircraft. The fact that very few planes from the war remain in flying shape made the show a special draw for those interested in the history of World War II and the American military.
The air show was supposed to run Friday to Sunday, but was canceled after the crash. Video and pictures posted to social media showed thousands of people gathered at Dallas Executive Airport and nearby businesses to watch the show. The two planes involved in the collision were a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra.
The collision was reported about 1:20 p.m., more than two hours after the start of the main flight demonstration portion of Saturday’s show. According to the schedule, the B-17 was to take part in a parade with other historic bombers, including B-24s, B-25s and A-26s. The P-63 was scheduled to take part in an escort.
While both events are listed next to each other in the schedule, it’s unclear what time either started, or whether they were meant to take place at the same time.
Video captured quick crash, stunned onlookers
Several of the collision were posted online shortly after the crash. At least four different videos posted to social media show the bomber flying straight, while the P-63 banked directly into the B-17′s fuselage.
The P-63 disintegrated immediately, while the B-17 was sheared in half, according to videos posted by onlookers. The tail half of the B-17 dropped immediately to the ground several hundred feet below, while the first half of the fuselage continued gliding, eventually flipping over before crashing to the ground in a ball of flames.
Stunned onlookers cursed and prayed, the videos showed.
First responders had trained for plane crashes
Emergency workers responded to the crash site immediately, including several members of Dallas Fire-Rescue stationed at the airfield for the show who had been trained for plane crashes.
Last week, firefighters participated in a joint exercise at Dallas Love Field Airport “that mirrored some of the circumstances present at [Saturday’s] event,” DFR spokesman Jason Evans said in an email.
“Firefighters were able to quickly arrive at the crash site, at the South end of the airport, and extinguish the flames where most of the debris came to rest,” Evans said. “Though debris stretched from the airport, across Highway 67 to a strip mall on the opposite side, there were no spectators, or anyone else on the ground, impacted by the crash.”
‘We will not jump to any conclusions’
At a news conference Sunday afternoon, Michael Graham, a National Transportation Safety Board member, said the federal agency will “methodically and systematically” review all evidence and consider “all potential factors to determine probable cause.”
“This is the beginning of a long process,” Graham said. “We will not jump to any conclusions.”
The preliminary report of the accident can be expected in 4 to 6 weeks, Graham said, but the full investigation will last 12 to 18 months before the final report can be released.
Thus far, Graham said his agency has started securing audio recordings from the air traffic control tower, surveyed and photographed the scene, and conducted interviews with formation crews and airshow operations.
The plane wreckage will be soon be removed to a “secure location” to lay out both aircraft and examine the air frame and engines, as part of their standard process, according to Graham. When asked if there was any indication whether the crash was caused by a mechanical or pilot-induced error, Graham said it was “too early to tell.”
The agency will also examine airworthiness, operations, air traffic control and aircraft performance.
Graham asked anyone with videos or photos of the crash to share them with email@example.com.
“They will actually be very critical … to determine how and why this accident happened and eventually, hopefully, make some safety recommendations to prevent it from happening in the future,” Graham said.
Terry Barker and Len Root
While the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office had not identified those killed by Sunday morning, a union representing former American Airlines pilots identified two of those killed in the B-17 as former members.
The union identified them as Terry Barker and Len Root.
“Our hearts go out to their families, friends, and colleagues past and present,” the union said in a tweet, adding counseling services will be available to members Sunday and Monday.
Curtis Rowe also died in the crash, according to the Ohio Civil Air Patrol.
Rowe, who was a major in the Ohio Civil Air Patrol, spent more than 30 years with the organization and “held every crew rating possible and earned his Command Pilot Rating,” Col. Pete Bowden, commander of the Air Patrol, said in a statement.
“Curt touched the lives of thousands of his fellow Civil Air Patrol members, especially when flying cadets during hundreds of orientation flights over the course of his service,” Bowden said.
An executive officer with the Commemorative Air Force airbase in Georgia identified a fourth person who died as former United Airlines pilot Craig Hutain, 63, of Montgomery, Tex.
In his staff page for Tora Tora Tora airshows, a re-enactment of the Dec. 7, 1941, invasion of Pearl Harbor, Hutain said he first started flying with his father at just 10 years old. He flew solo for the first time at 17.
Hutain graduated from California Polytechnic State University in 1982, with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering.
He promptly started flying for the airlines, starting with Rocky Mountain Airways and then United Airlines. Hutain began flying with both Tora and the Commemorative Air Force in 2009, according to the airshow’s website.
“It’s really a lifelong obsession for me,” Hutain said in a video interview with the Vintage Aviation News in July, standing in front of a P-63F.
Courtesy of Michael Williams and Jamie Landers at https://www.aviationpros.com/aircraft/news/21286947/what-we-know-about-the-dallas-midair-collision-that-killed-6?utm_source=AMT+E-Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=AVVDB221114004&o_eid=3004E0597089G9X&rdx.ident[pull]=omeda|3004E0597089G9X&oly_enc_id=3004E0597089G9X