Six dead after crash at Dallas air show

Six people died on Saturday when two planes collided in Dallas, USA. Now there are many speculations about the background of the accident.

A Boeing B-17 (symbol image) collided with another plane in Dallas.

Scott M. Lieberman / AP

It was a terrible shock to the many thousands of spectators at the “Wings over Dallas” air show in Dallas, Texas, when two planes suddenly collided during their demonstration on Saturday. A former 1940s propeller-driven fighter, the P-63 Kingcobra, collided with a four-engine bomber of the era, the Boeing B-17. It immediately broke in two and the P-63 was completely destroyed by the impact.

Neither the five crew members of the B-17 nor the pilot in the cockpit of the P-63 had a chance of survival. The B-17 burst into flames after hitting the ground. The air show was canceled immediately after the accident.

Dubbed the “flying fortress” for its ruggedness, the Boeing B-17 is typically manned by a five-man flight crew. The single-engine P-63 Kingcobra always has room for only the pilot.

At airshows featuring WWII aircraft, these are often presented in a formation of several machines at the same time to give the audience a realistic impression of the era of their missions. Former bombers are therefore often presented in the sky with at least one accompanying fighter from the same era, as was the custom at the time. The pilots of these valuable classics are all professionals with many thousands of flight hours in total and a lot of experience with their respective veterans.

Accurate instruction is critical

Nevertheless, it is extremely important that all pilots involved are always thoroughly briefed before these training flights to minimize risks. There is discussion about how and on what route the flight should take place, at what speed it is flown, where exactly which pilot must fly in the respective phase of the formation flight, and when and how the formation will break up to then hover after the flight. another for landing.

This is so important because pilots cannot always see each other equally clearly from the cockpit due to the design of their aircraft. Therefore, each pilot must trust that others always follow the agreed procedures and formation positions in order to fly safely. In addition, all pilots in the formation are always in radio contact during the demonstration so that they can react quickly if necessary.

Why the pilot of the single-engine fighter jet, seen in several eyewitness and plane spotter videos, approached at high speed from the side of the B-17 and then crashed is unclear. Maybe he couldn’t see the Boeing from his position. A medical emergency for the pilot would be equally conceivable. A technical defect on the P-63 cannot be ruled out either.

Difficulty determining the cause of the accident

Since both machines were largely destroyed by impact and ground impact, as well as the subsequent fire, it is difficult for accident investigators to draw conclusions from the wreckage of the aircraft involved. Investigators are likely to review numerous videos that were taken in the seconds leading up to the crash to filter out a possible cause of the crash. These so-called warbirds do not have the onboard data recording equipment found in modern airliners.

Collisions between former military aircraft from the Second World War occur at air shows despite all preventive measures. A few years ago, at an air show in Duxford, England, two 1940s propeller-driven fighters collided after breaking up on landing. One of the pilots managed to save himself by parachute. The other managed to make an emergency landing on his badly damaged plane. There have also been past airshow crashes at the world’s largest airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and other North American airshows.

Between 1936 and 1945, Boeing produced more than 12,000 B-17 bombers, which crashed in Dallas. Despite this large number, today airworthy examples of aircraft equipped with four 1200 hp radial engines are extremely rare. A crashed single engine Bell Aircraft P-63 Kingcobra is also a very rare aircraft.

Between 1943 and 1945, more than 3,000 of these American propeller-driven fighters were produced. Its peculiarity: A 1,400-hp V-12 engine was installed in the fuselage behind the pilot and drove a propeller at the front via a remote shaft. Most of the approximately 600 km/h fast P-63s were delivered to the Russian Armed Forces under the “Lend-Lease” program during World War II. However, in the mid-1940s, the newly emerging French air force also received dozens of aircraft of this type. There are probably only a handful of P-63s in the world today.

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