Two World War II planes collide mid-air in Dallas Air Show

The aircraft did not carry black boxes, and it might be months before the cause of the crash is known.
Ameya Paleja
Dallas Air Show crash
Dallas Air Show crash

Interesting Engineering 

The scene at the Veterans Day weekend in Dallas suddenly turned horrific on Saturday, when two World War II era aircraft collided mid-air killing six people onboard, The New York Times reported.

The two planes collided at 1:20 pm local time as they flew over Dallas Executive Airport as part of the Wings of Dallas air show. As seen in the video above, the two aircraft involved are a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra, both belonging to the World War II era.

What happened at the Dallas air show?

Footage that has appeared since the crash shows both aircraft flying at low altitudes. Although not seen in the video, there were multiple other aircraft, a mix of bombers and fighters, flying simultaneously, the NYT report said.

The occasion was to commemorate Veterans Day, and a narrator at the airshow was describing the significance of each aircraft as they flew past the gathered crowd of 4,000-6,000 people. The low-flying maneuvers are meant for the people at the air show to have a good look at the World War relics, but things took a tragic turn when the fighter aircraft slammed into the B-17.

A preliminary report of the crash is expected in four to six weeks while a full investigation report could take up to 18 months, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) told the NYT. Neither aircraft carried cockpit voice recorders or flight data recorders since they were not required to be equipped with them.

A mid-air collision of aircraft is usually rare, and the B-17 is a large aircraft that cannot be missed during flight.

B-17 Flying Fortress

Developed by Boeing in the 1930s, the B-17 Fly Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber that served the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). The 74 feet (22.66 m) long aircraft has a 103 feet (31.62 m) wingspan and can cruise at the speed of 182 miles (293 km) an hour.

Capable of carrying a 6,000-pound (2,700 kg) payload of over 2,000 miles (3,219 km) and 13 guns, the aircraft was the primary component of U.S. strategy against German installations during World War II and was also a participant in the Pacific War.

Once built in thousands, the B-17 is now down to less than ten aircraft that are still airborne, although none of the planes flying today were involved in combat. B-17 flights today are carried out with a crew of five members, and the NTSB has confirmed that the entire crew of the B-17 and the pilot of the single-seater KingCobra, a Soviet-made aircraft, died in the crash.

In 2019, another B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft crashed soon after taking off from Bradley International Airport near Hartford, Connecticut, killing seven people. Pilot error and inadequate maintenance contributed to the crash, the NYT report said.

In the case of the Dallas crash, the pilots were well-trained and licensed volunteers with previous experience flying commercial or military planes.

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