Two vintage warplanes collided in midair Saturday afternoon during the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Dallas show at Dallas Executive Airport.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra crashed about 1:20 p.m. Dozens of Dallas Fire-Rescue vehicles responded to the airport in the 5300 block of Challenger Drive, near U.S. Highway 67 in Red Bird.
The Commemorative Air Force said both planes were based out of Houston.
It was unclear how many people were aboard the aircraft, but Hank Coates, CEO of Commemorative Air Force, said a B-17 usually has a crew of four to five people, while a P-63 is a single-pilot aircraft. According to Dallas Fire-Rescue, the number of causalities was unknown as of 4:15 p.m., but the department confirmed that no injuries were reported among people on the ground.
In videos shared on social media, the P-63 was seen colliding into the back of the B-17 as it made a turn. The front of the B-17 broke off, and the plane’s wings erupted into flames as they hit the ground.
An onlooker said “Oh my god!” in Spanish, and a large cloud of black smoke could be seen from the field where dozens of people were standing to watch the show overhead. In another video, a child could be heard asking, “Was that supposed to happen?”
At a news conference, Coates said the organization has more than 180 aircraft. Coates said the people who fly them for shows are volunteers — but not novice pilots, with many being retired military and airline pilots.
“This is not about the aircraft — it’s just not,” Coates said. “The aircraft are great aircraft; they’re safe, they’re very well maintained, the pilots are very well trained.”
Coates said about 4,000 to 6,000 people were in attendance when the planes crashed.
Dallas Fire-Rescue said debris from the collision was strewn across the airport grounds, a nearby strip mall and Highway 67. A section of the highway in southern Dallas was closed to traffic into Saturday evening.
At the airport’s entrance in the early afternoon, police were directing traffic and letting drivers know the facility was closed. A long line of cars could be seen exiting the airport.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the collision.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson called the crash a “terrible tragedy in our city” in a tweet, adding that many details about the incident were still unknown.
“The videos are heartbreaking,” he wrote. “Please, say a prayer for the souls who took to the sky to entertain and educate our families today.”
Sen. Ted Cruz said he and his wife, Heidi, were praying for the people involved. “The images of this collision are incredibly distressing and we pray for the safety of everyone on the scene,” he wrote on Twitter.
Wings Over Dallas is an aircraft show hosted by the CAF, an organization dedicated to preserving World War II aircraft that’s based at the airport, which was formerly known as Redbird Airport.
Saturday was scheduled to be the second day of a three-day show held over Veterans Day weekend, but Friday’s events were canceled because of inclement weather. The schedule for Saturday’s events included a parade of bomber planes, including the B-17, followed by fighter escorts including the P-63.
The organization’s website showed the events scheduled for Sunday had been canceled.
The CAF was founded as a nonprofit group in 1961, and the weekend show was part of the CAF’s Air Power History Tour, advertised as a national tour of WWII aircraft. The tour advertises that its shows include one or both of FIFI, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, or Diamond Lil, a B-24 Liberator — extremely rare aircraft — among a number of other planes.
“It’s really tragic to lose one of the last operational B-17s in the world,” Kratovil said. “It’s an important part of American history, it’s an important part of world history.”
A logo on the nose of the B-17 identified it as the well-known Texas Raiders aircraft. According to the CAF, the Texas Raiders was one of only five B-17s that could still fly out of the 12,731 that were initially built.
The CAF has called the Texas Raiders “one of the most recognized and popular warbirds.”
Safety at air shows has been a concern for years. Since 1982, the NTSB has investigated 21 accidents and 23 deaths related to WWII-era bombers, such as the B-17.
In 2011, a racing aircraft in Reno, Nev., crashed into spectators, killing 11 people, including the pilot. During England’s Shoreham Airshow in 2015, an aircraft crashed onto the road, killing 11 people and injuring 16.
In 2019, seven people died when a bomber crashed in Hartford, Conn.