Six killed after vintage aircraft collide at Dallas air show

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Six people were killed when two historic military planes collided and crashed during a Dallas air show on Saturday, officials said.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted: “According to our Dallas County Medical Examiner, there are a total of six fatalities from yesterday’s Wings Over Dallas air show incident.”

He said authorities were continuing to work to identify the victims.

The scene during the airshow at Dallas Executive Airport on Saturday
The scene during the airshow at Dallas Executive Airport on Saturday (Nathaniel Ross Photography via AP)

Emergency crews raced to the crash scene at the Dallas Executive Airport, about 10 miles (16km) from the city centre.

News footage from the scene showed crumpled wreckage of the planes in a grassy area inside the airport perimeter.

Dallas Fire-Rescue told The Dallas Morning News that there were no reported 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 Mr Montoya, 27, who attended the air show with a friend.

Dallas Air Show Crash
Emergency responders at the scene (LM Otero/AP)

Officials did not specify how many people were inside each plane but Hank Coates, president of the company that put on the airshow, said one of the planes – a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber – typically had a crew of four to five people. The other, a P-63 Kingcobra fighter plane, had a single pilot.

No paying customers were on the aircraft, Mr Coates, of Commemorative Air Force, which also owned the planes, said.

Their aircraft were flown by highly trained volunteers, often retired pilots, he said.

Dallas mayor Eric Johnson said the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had taken control of the crash scene, with local police and fire providing support.

“The videos are heartbreaking,” Mr Johnson said on Twitter.

People leave Dallas Executive Airport where planes collided
People leave Dallas Executive Airport following the incident (LM Otero/AP)

The B-17, a cornerstone of US air power during the Second World War, is an immense four-engine bomber which was used in daylight raids against Germany. The Kingcobra, a US fighter plane, was used mostly by Soviet forces during the war.

Most B-17s were scrapped at the end of the Second World War and only a handful remain today, largely featured at museums and air shows, according to Boeing.

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.

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 Second World War-era bombers, resulting in 23 deaths.

A damaged plane at the Dallas Executive Airport
The National Transportation Safety Board had taken control of the crash scene, the Dallas mayor said (Liesbeth Powers/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Arthur Alan Wolk, a Philadelphia aviation lawyer who flew in air shows for 12 years, said – after watching the air show video and hearing the manoeuvres described as “bombers on parade” – that the P-63 pilot had violated the basic rule of formation flying.

“He went belly up to the leader,” Mr Wolk said.

“That prevents him from gauging distance and position. The risk of collision is very high when you cannot see who you are supposed to be in formation with and that kind of join-up is not permitted.”

He added: “I am not blaming anyone and to the greatest extent possible, air shows, the pilots and the aircraft that fly in them are safe. Air shows are one of the largest spectator events in America and it is rare that a tragedy like this occurs.”

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